How Can You Foster Inclusion at Work?

Multiple colored hands from all directions pointing towards the center

In today’s rapidly changing fast paced world what does inclusion mean?  Whether this be ethnic, racial, cultural, class, religious, disability, sexual orientation, gender or generational there is a clear focus on diversity in the workplace, but diversity by itself does not mean inclusion.  This article looks at how to go from simply hiring for diversity to inclusion where everyone feels valued.  The proof is in the data. More inclusive firms have better metrics across the board with business results, customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction.

 

Technology impacts

 

With technology virtual meetings are now the norm in many work environments.  This may be by phone, skype, zoom, go to meeting or some other form. 

 

Technological advances continue, and these are now the norm in business. 

 

We are becoming a borderless world.  Since we are in essence in a borderless world consider the impacts, the need to listen more and to understand differences. A look at the facts indicates that those firms that indeed value diversity and that promote inclusion are the fastest growing and most successful in this ever more connected diverse world.

 

Promoting diversity does not necessarily mean inclusion

 

Many employers recognize this, and take positive actions to promote diversity in hiring.  The facts again indicate that unfortunately,

 

the result are not what was hoped by the employers. 

 

Diversity programs are often feel good about having made an effort, but unless they are integrated into the culture of the firm time and time again they prove to be unsuccessful. The facts point out that

 

active recruitment of targeted groups, mentoring programs, working towards common goals as equals, and working side by side engages employees is what makes inclusion successful.

 

This process of engagement promotes inclusion.  Cross training, has consistently fostered inclusion when individuals and teams gain additional understanding of how various roles support one another.  Make sure to make this effort regarding diversity as well.

 

Social Interactions

 

We are all social beings.  As social beings we like to be connected with others. With that having been said,

 

setting aside time for team building, having fun at work and outside of work, and looking for ways to connect with each other goes a long way towards team development.  

 

As the team grows and seems themselves as a team, the sense of engagement and inclusion is fostered.  These are not soft skills, these are the critical skills for success. What steps can you take to foster this environment?

 

Transparency and data

 

Transparency matters. Data matters. 

 

In a study from MIT’s Sloan School of Management it was found that minorities were consistently given smaller raises than whites even with identical jobs and ratings. This information was shared with everyone.  What was the result?  The situation changed.   This is why it is important to get behind the data.  By sharing the data, the firm demonstrated transparency and was able to take constructive action.

 

A personal story

 

As an executive I was brought into a situation that had 10 times the number of unfair labor practices, grievances and Equal Employment and Opportunity (EEO) complaints compared with other locations. After a couple of weeks, I went to the Director as the Assistant Director and offered to explore and address this issue.  It did not take long to discover facts similar to the MIT study.   Addressing the issue changes were made. 

 

                Impact on my life

 

When I left that location, they had a coffee for me.  Normally after being in a location for 4 or 5 months like this, 10 to 20 people show up.  About half are there to schmooze with the Director and Assistant Director and about half are there, because you do make some friends in 4 or 5 months. The coffee is usually about an hour.  In this instance 400 people showed up and it lasted 6 hours.

 

Their feedback to me on making a difference changed my life forever. 

 

I learned that showing kindness, analyzing the data, getting the facts right, educating others, taking appropriate actions and fostering an environment of inclusion is not only good for business it is the right thing to do.  I left with a passion to help others with conflict resolution.

               

Recognizing your background

 

Coming from our own backgrounds,

 

we have expectations regarding diversity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicities and our openness to diversity. 

 

Often are backgrounds are from areas where others were very much ourselves. It takes effort to expand upon your horizons and reach out to others beyond comfort zone.  The positive implications can be enormous. In our rapidly changing world the question to ask ourselves is how receptive am I to this changing diversity?  Do a self-examination and realize where you stand.

Managing change, diversity and inclusion

The following is offered from excerpts from chapter 10, How to Lead Workgroups Through Change from The Servant Manager: 203 tips from the best places to work in America. With managing change realize there are three phases of transition.  These are endings, neutral zone and beginnings.

 

Realize where you are coming from first and then explore with others where they are coming from.

 

 

Endings include:

  • Realization that things will change
  • Letting go
  • Old realities
  • Old identities
  • Old beliefs
  • Recognize and deal with the loss

Neutral Zone include:

  • Uncertainty
  • Letting go
  • Rules
  • Expectations
  • Roles
  • Chaos
  • Creativity

Beginnings include:

  • New
  • Understandings
  • Values
  • Attitudes
  • Identities
  • Productivity

These appear as three distinct headings, but these three areas all interact with one another. 

 

In general, there is no clear ending, neutral zone and beginning. Rather it is a process. It is ongoing.

 

Recognizing this, it is important that for some grieving may be very significant. They very well may have liked it the way it was.

Items that may be lost include:

  • Turf
  • Status
  • Power
  • Influence
  • Relationships
  • Future
  • Meaningful work
  • Control of destiny
  • Personal identity
  • Friendships

This can be real or perceived. Either way

 

it feels real to those having these feelings. 

 

Acknowledging your own reactions my help you move into the neutral zone and be better able to help yourself and others to initiate new beginnings. It is up to you to model the change and recognize why it is important to work together to embrace the change.

 

Neuroscience insights

 

The “us versus them” mentality is deeply embedded in our brains.  We like what we know and what we are familiar with. 

 

We all have an unconscious bias.

 

This has been with us from the time we were infants. No matter how much we may believe we are tolerant, understanding and inclusive, our unconscious bias is still there.  We like people like us.  That is normal.

 

So what should we do in business?

 

Being self-aware of our own bias is a great starting point. 

 

By engaging ourselves and others in uncomfortable conversations this can challenge our brains and create new neural transmitter pathways in our brains. 

 

Facilitators can help with this process. With practice we can continually make improvements in these areas.  We need to acknowledge our own bias first.  We next need to look for ways to appreciate the differences in others. Finally, we need to realize that we are on a journey or an adventure and venture into the next turn over the next hill and see what it is on the other side.  This will likely be uncomfortable at first.  That’s ok.

 

Conclusion

 

We have come a long way in a short blog.  This blog started with diversity and inclusion and worked it is way into managing change.  Clearly, this is a 30,000-foot overview.

 

Hopefully this can spur you on to learn more and keep an open mind

 

 with respect to how to help yourself and others to engage others at work to promote a more diverse workforce engaging everyone so that you, others and the firm can thrive.

 

Are you looking for some help?

 

Mike Gregory is an expert on conflict resolution as a negotiator and mediator. He focuses on conflict resolution business to business, business to government (IRS)and within businesses. Mike is an international speaker and he has written 11 books including Business Valuations and the IRS: Five Books in One, The Servant Manager and Peaceful Resolutions. Mike may be contacted directly at mg@mikegreg.com and at (651) 633-5311. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, NSA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]