Four Steps To Create A Truly Inclusive Culture

Four Steps To Create A Truly Inclusive Culture

Diversity and inclusion are hot topics in executive agendas, media and conference programs. Executives are prioritizing the need for diverse teams and leadership, which has translated into a surge in demand for “Diversity and Inclusion Lead” roles. According to data from Indeed, demand for the roles has increased significantly—between 2017 and 2018, Indeed postings for diversity and inclusion positions had increased by nearly 20%. With these roles, a primary responsibility will be to understand the organization’s current employee makeup, what culture is underpinning every employee’s day-to-day work and how to potentially change that culture to work for everyone in the organization.

What is an organization’s culture?

By definition, culture is “the ideas, customs, and social behavior of a particular people or society.” An organization’s culture is the culmination of the priorities, values and behaviors, which support their employees in how they work singularly, in teams and with clients. Culture plays a huge role in shifting the diversity needle and forming truly inclusive environments.

A positive company culture should be committed to professional values, which supports all employees, of all backgrounds, genders, ethnicity, sexuality, and allow them to work with leaders of the organization, versus feeling like they are simply working for them. A strong, positive culture will ensure all employees are aware of their importance to the organization. A weak, negative culture will do the opposite, and potentially cause increased company turnover, disengaged employees and poor work ethic.

Creating an inclusive culture

Four steps to form inclusive cultures, where all employees are heard, can succeed and are actively engaged with leadership are:

1. Listen

To improve an organization’s culture, understanding of the current state of the culture should be gathered. To do this, spend time understanding what is working for employees, what could improve, and what is required that is currently lacking. Listening can be done in many forms–facilitated workshops, one-to-one meetings, anonymous employee surveys or utilizing crowd-sourcing. Be prepared to be comfortable being uncomfortable as the goal of these sessions should be to get a clear, honest and transparent view of what working at the organization is like from those on the ground—whether positive, indifferent or negative.

When hearing from employees, listen to people from all levels. A culture will feel different to C-suite and Partners versus those in junior/mid-tier roles. Sessions should ensure all are heard and prioritized regardless of level. Retention of junior and mid-tier employees is likely to increase if the culture is positive and supportive of junior/mid-tier people seeing to see a clear path to progression, alongside feeling as valued as senior leadership.

When listening, genuinely listen. Superficial listening is a sign of a poor culture, meaning people are sharing thoughts and the “listener” is not truly understanding or empathizing with what is being shared–which can be a personal, emotionally exhaustive task.

2. Provide action

Post “listening” phase, form a plan of how to tackle what you have heard. This step is crucial, otherwise employee engagement will decrease due to “all talk, no action.” Action can take many forms.

For example:

  • If organizational data shows people from certain demographics are not progressing or have a high attrition rate, investigate how to tackle that through dedicated sponsorship schemes, pairing those from underrepresented demographics with a senior leader to aid visibility, help with getting constructive feedback and giving credit, when appropriate. Additionally, review internal promotion processes to determine if these are working for everyone and make active changes, if necessary.
  • If the culture is supporting an environment of long working hours, discuss with senior leaders how to form an appropriate way of working which allows people to work flexibly and meet deadlines. Regular long working hours may be a sign of an understaffed project, and conversations will need to be had to ensure work is fairly distributed.

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