According to our diversity and inclusion research at CEB, now Gartner, creating an inclusive team climate is just as important as improving diversity. However, organizations still struggle to determine what inclusion looks like for them. For many of us, the concept of diversity is concrete, but inclusion feels a lot less defined. D&I budgets are increasingly focused on leadership development and D&I leaders are making inclusive leadership a priority, but most employees don’t agree that their manager fosters an inclusive environment, and perceptions of inclusivity are lower further down the organization chart than they are among senior leaders.
In a session on building inclusive leaders at our ReimagineHR conference on Wednesday, we heard from Bob Lennon, VP of Industrial Components Business at Rockwell Automation; Aida Sabo, VP of Diversity and Inclusion at Parexel; and Celeste Warren, VP of HR and the Global D&I Center of Excellence at Merck, about how they are defining inclusion for their organizations and implementing it in their organizational cultures. Here are some key ideas that came up in Wednesday’s conversation for how to encourage inclusiveness among leaders and the entire workforce:
Create a Common Language of Inclusion
The definitions of “diversity” and “inclusion” can vary across organizations and each leader and employee also may have a different interpretation of how these live within the company. The most successful organizations, however, define the D&I narrative for all their leaders and employees globally. By using a common vocabulary to communicate D&I efforts to the workforce, the organization can have a clear understanding of what inclusion means. Storytelling also can be an essential tool for communicating the success of inclusion initiatives, as it is important to know what metrics and success stories to share with leaders, employees, and external stakeholders to create transparency and accountability.
Make Inclusion About the Entire Workforce
Oftentimes employees who do not identify as a part of a marginalized talent segment feel excluded by D&I efforts, but according to our panelists, it is not only important to get these employees to buy into inclusion, they are in fact an essential part of these initiatives. Some employees get stuck because they don’t know where they are in their own journey of inclusion or recognize the significance of supporting D&I as an ally.
HR leaders have a role in communicating that all employees and leaders have different lenses and blind spots that affect their ability to be inclusive. It benefits all employees to be open and inclusive toward peers and coworkers. Additionally, we continue to hear from heads of D&I and other HR leaders how important the psychological safety of all employees is to the success of the business. If we can’t create a space for all employees to bring their true selves to work, we will not be able to reach full inclusion.
Build Inclusion Into Business Processes
Inclusion cannot have a significant impact on the organization if it is not implemented through employee and leader actions. Organizations should not only focus on compliance issues or defensive responses to inclusion, but also integrate inclusion into day-to-day processes. Some organizations do this by surveying employees every few years on the inclusivity of their leaders and then holding leaders accountable for creating an action plan to improve it. Other organizations use action planning to leverage allies to mentor and sponsor colleagues who are different from them. This helps people break out of their silos and be part of the inclusion solution at their organizations.
CEB Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Council members can read more about telling the inclusion story, integrating inclusion into the entire workforce, and creating actionable solutions to gaps in inclusion in our recent study, Creating Inclusive Leaders.