Leading and leaving an inclusion legacy in 6 steps
Monday, July 09, 2018
Everyone’s success in your organization is predicated on how you include employees in the mission of the organization, and how you instill the mindset that their work makes a difference.
This is important, as you hire new people in your organization that may be different than the majority of your employees in some way; culture, race, age, gender, etc. Hiring a visibly diverse workforce is not enough.
If people don’t interact in meaningful ways with each other, if there are no opportunities to solve problems with people from different backgrounds, departments and functions, your employees will stay stuck in silos. All of your good work to increase diversity could potentially go to waste.
Culture change has to be driven by your vision and leadership along with the rest of the senior management team and HR.
Too often, organizations rely on quarterly lunch and learns, off-the-shelf training or one-time, off-sites to affect change or build inclusion. All of those are useful, but in order to get results, you need to think of inclusion and culture as a whole ecosystem with many parts that are aligned and driven by the need to create and sustain the best workplace.
It is a continuous process. Based on sharing best practices with diversity and inclusion thought leaders, twenty-five years of work in the diversity and inclusion field, and interviews with executives, managers, and employees, I’ve synthesized this process into six steps that I call the "Six I Steps."
The "Six I Steps" are insight, inclusive work culture, implementation of culture change, individualized convenience perks, immersion, and integration.
Step 1: Insight
Keith Chapman, the former vice president of Diageo, says that an organization built on employee insights will be inclusive and productive. “Insight can be only be gained by taking time with one’s team members -- and also giving them an insight on you!”
An insightful diversity and inclusionist leader is willing to participate in an organizational assessment that includes customers, and that measures the impact executive leadership, and overall organizational culture have on employees and their motivation to do their best work. That means you have to pay attention to, trust employee responses, and be prepared to take action for change.
Don’t take analysis of the date personally. In order to get honest participation and objective results, don’t try to conduct your own assessment, or give it to human resources. Use an outside source.
Does the following example sound like your organization?
A global manufacturing company in the U.S. was concerned that the most talented female and nonwhite managers were leaving the organization, and being recruited by their main competitor.
An outside firm conducted an assessment throughout the organization that included former employees, using written surveys, focus groups and interviews.
Results showed that women and people of color perceived that they were passed up for promotion without any reason or feedback as to what they could do better, other than being told they didn’t think like executives in the organization.
Excellent recommendations for improvement were made, which would take minimum investment.
Instead of paying attention, the president called the participants whiners, claimed their issues were personal, not work-related, and did nothing. As a result, many talented people got discouraged and left.
Don’t take the first step, and waste the organization’s money, if you’re not going to use the data for change.
Step 2: Inclusive Work Culture
After you’ve assessed the current state, define your desired state for diversity, and create a clear picture or what the organization will look like, including how people will behave.
This is the crucial time to enlist your whole leadership team.
The key to your first meeting with your team is to be clear, focus on the business case, and how moving towards an inclusive culture will benefit them individually, and as an organization.
Identify fellow champions by the passion they display, either in words, or action. Also, identify anyone who may be a potential obstacle, and/or will try to undermine you.
Once there is a shared vision, you’ll be ready to develop a plan for implementation at every level of your organization.
Step 3: Implementation
Inclusive culture initiatives often get stuck between the CEO and the third level down, because leadership hasn’t developed an accountability and action process to reach the first level; the employees that interact with customers.
Policies and procedural guidelines may be in place, but no change is happening.
Strategy with no implementation is like planning a vacation, buying airline tickets, reserving the hotel, packing, and then never leaving your house.
Posters with slogans, and pictures of diverse employees do not constitute culture change. They might just be an example of “looks good in the company photo.”
Inclusive leaders hold managers accountable for their own behavior, as well as the behavior of their employees. This means that there are benchmarks and milestones such as: employees are able to articulate how their work relates to the organization’s mission, decisions are made regarding employee resource groups, there are increased opportunities for employees to be innovative, and leadership listens and take action on employee ideas, when appropriate.
It’s important for leadership to stay involved, model inclusive behavior, and engage in conversation with employees beyond the executive team.
Step 4: Individual Convenience Perks
These are the programs, policies, and added benefits that make an employee’s life easier so they can be more present, productive, and participatory at work.
From free home maid service for employees at the Omni Group, to eldercare counseling, and running clubs, organizations have seen a good return on individualized convenience perks (ROICP).
Not only do the perks lower employee stress levels, but they also create a culture of community, which reduces turnover, and makes employees feel good about coming to work.
If employees are feeling sluggish from lack of exercise, worried about a sick child, or burned out from trying to do too much, they can’t give 100 percent of their talent to your organization, no matter how hard they try.
Some other examples of individualized perks are; subsidized dining rooms, pre-cooked dinners at very reduced prices so employees don’t always have to worry about cooking, on-site gyms or employee discounts at off-site fitness centers, game rooms, meditation and quiet rooms, book clubs, and concierge services.
Step 5: Immersion
During this step, everyone in the organization is involved, and invested in their individual success and everyone else’s collective success.
Recruiters and other people involved in the hiring process are trained in interviewing skills to expand the candidate pool, and hire and leverage the talents of people from diverse backgrounds.
Anyone can have a mentor who wants one. New employees are integrated into the work culture quickly, and are comfortable contributing ideas.
Managers are more comfortable with sharing problems and employees are invested in achieving mission. They are not just doing "their job."
There are opportunities for people to share their knowledge, and learn from each other. The organization is now known for innovation, and as a place where people are recognized and rewarded for their contributions. Employees make customers feel welcome and included.
Step 6: Integration
CEOs and other executives join the organization because their values are aligned with the culture. It’s not the other way around, where every time there is a change in leadership, there is a change in culture and productivity suffers because employees don’t know what to expect, or what the new unwritten rules are.
Inclusive culture is now integrated into every aspect of the business, and in the organization’s DNA. There is a newfound pride in working for the organization, as being a customer.
Even if employees don’t like what they do, they like coming to work, and look for opportunities to grow within the organization. Employees and customers feel like they are part of an exclusive club where everyone is included.
Even years after you leave, the legacy of inclusive culture change and leveraging diversity will live on.
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