They found in these organizations who were inclusive that they had higher innovation, better decision making, they had a variety of perspectives, it increased their profit, they solved problems faster, and people were more creative. One of the things that they found was that organizations with inclusive cultures are six times more likely to be innovative, six times more likely
to anticipate change and respond effectively, and twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets. Now, why do all these great things happen when you have an inclusive environment? When we’re all the same, we all see the world from the same perspective, which is limiting, we only see what we see. But when we have more people with the variety of life experiences and unique skill sets, then it allows us to expand our perspective and we can see more. And when we’re able to see more, we’re able to be more creative. We’re able to solve problems faster. We’re able to make better decisions and create things. And as a result of all of that, our profits increased. So, that’s why having more perspectives, more life experiences, more skill sets creates more money.
So, what specifically can we do to create an inclusive workplace? Well, first of all, is education. Now, as I said, I’m in California and we have a law that requires employers with five or more employees to provide sexual harassment prevention training to all employees. What does that do with an inclusive workplace? Well, in that training, we are allowed to talk about not only sexual harassment but also other forms of harassment and discrimination. And I frequently provide this training and I talk about discrimination and I talk about all the protected classes that we have in California and we currently have 17. Now, what I tell people in this training is that they may not discriminate against people because of having these 17 protected classes. But, educating leaders like this does not help them want to create an inclusive workplace. We’ve got to move from complying with the law to utilizing diversity in order to gain better profits. So, instead of being told they better not discriminate against people, leaders need to be told about the benefits of diversity and inclusion. Remember, just because we have diversity doesn’t mean we have an inclusive workplace. HR professionals need to present the business case for taking action to create an inclusive workplace. And the business case always includes how any action is going to affect the bottom line. So, remember, inclusiveness creates innovation, creativity, better decision-making, problem-solving. But the bottom line is that the organizations that have an inclusive workforce make more money and that’s what business leaders usually want to know. And additionally, because our daily interactions are the most telling sign of whether a company is inclusive or not, everyone, or at least people in supervisory positions, should receive training on how to be inclusive. Now, in our daily interactions, how do we be inclusive? Well, I go back to the example that I told you about earlier. I’m sitting at a table, someone is having a conversation who refuses to look at me or talk to me. That is not an inclusive behavior, and so pointing things out like that to people are important. These are behaviors to engage in in order to make people feel included, make eye contact with them, say hello to everyone, make sure you include everyone in on the email, just behaviors like that. People are frequently promoted into supervisory positions because of their technical competence. However, being a good supervisor requires a different skill set. Just because you’re good at the job doesn’t mean you’ll be a good supervisor. People in supervisory positions need to have people skills, and I spend the majority of my time training supervisors on their communication skills. Everything we do is through communication and we communicate to get results from the people that we supervise over. Lots of supervisors never get any training on how to supervise or how to communicate effectively and are left on their own to try to figure out how to do it. So, mandatory training is key. And while I’m not a fan of making people attend training, they don’t want to attend if it’s not mandatory, the people who really need it don’t show up. Also, people usually don’t change their behavior unless there are consequences for not doing so. So, supervisors especially need to be held accountable for demonstrating inclusive behavior on a daily basis. Next is an inclusion committee. And you’re probably thinking, oh, great, another committee. Here is the reason for the suggestion. You’ve got to have a dedicated group of people who really want an inclusive workplace in order to make it happen. And the committee should be as diverse as possible with members not only coming from different ethnicities, genders, et cetera, but also different levels of an organization, different departments, even different locations. If you’ve got them. It’s important for people to be at all different levels and different departments so that you have representation throughout the entire organization. If it’s the same people who are volunteering for all the committees that they always volunteer for, you’re not going to be as effective as possible. So, it takes strategizing in order to determine who is going to be on that committee. So, you have the greatest amount of representation by diverse people. So, what will the committee do? Well, ideally, it should be involved in goal setting around hiring, retaining, and advancing a diverse workforce, and especially, and addressing any engagement problems among underrepresented employee groups. So, what committee members do basically is they let everybody know what people are saying around the organization. And a lot of times people won’t talk to their supervisor about how they’re feeling or certainly somebody in the C suite, the CEO, the CFO, the COO, they won’t talk to those people, but they will talk to their coworkers. And those coworkers should bring information back about people feeling like maybe there are clinics in the workplace or that people are talking about certain things. And so, basically, this inclusion committee brings back data to share with the committee members in order to determine what needs to be fixed. Now, once upon a time, I was an HR manager of a law firm in the town I live in. And one of the things that an attorney told me is that I needed to shut down the gossiping that was going on. I disagreed. I wanted people to gossip. And eventually, the gossip comes to me and the gossip I’m talking about, it’s not who’s dating who it is, what they’re complaining about, and when they frequently wouldn’t come to me to complain, especially if they were complaining about me, but somebody would tell somebody who would tell somebody who would eventually come to me. And that’s exactly what I wanted because that let me know what people were unhappy about and what needed to be fixed even when it was me. So, that’s a great deal of what the Inclusion Committee does. What are people saying that is the problem and how do we fix it? Now, one of the things that are important is that the committee needs to meet on a regular basis, perhaps quarterly, to review this organizational feedback, to address issues, and most importantly, to relay the information to the business leaders, because something’s got to be done about all of that talk. And if there’s no follow-up to that, then that will be a problem. Now, the responsibility for inclusiveness shouldn’t fall on the underrepresented members of your workforce. It’s everybody’s responsibility to be inclusive. It’s just the inclusion committee’s responsibility to try to do something with that information. Next is holding more effective meetings. And wouldn’t that be great to hold more effective meetings? A lot of our time is wasted in meetings and there is a definite lifecycle to meetings in order to make them more effective. But in our case, when we’re talking about an inclusive workforce, how do we make people feel included in meetings? Well, first of all, distribute material in advance. Now, that’s just a best practice of more effective meetings. But, how does that affect inclusively? Well, one of the things is that you might have people whose English is their second language. And so, if they have information before the meeting, then they can spend time with it, making sure that they fully understand it so that they are prepared to comment on it when they go to a meeting. Another thing is that you have people who are introverts and introverts are people who usually need to think before they speak, which is a good idea for everybody to have, but introverts especially want to think about things before they voice them aloud. And so, distributing information early not only helps people maybe of certain ethnicities but also people of different personality styles, because that is diversity as well. Another thing that people can do is to include people working from home. Now there’s a whole bunch of us working from home. I’m working from home right now. But when things get back to normal, and they will eventually, there are some people who are still going to work from home, and sometimes they are forgotten when we’re discussing things. Sometimes the technology isn’t set up for them to be able to voice their opinions during meetings, and you should definitely make sure that that is taken care of. Rotate meeting times, if you have people in different locations, as we do at Vensure, then maybe you want to start meetings at different times in order to accommodate different time zones. Another thing is that sometimes people work on the night shift and some people work very early morning. And so, keeping that in mind, when you’re having your live meetings, making sure that you are adjusting time in order to suit them. Another thing is that when people ask questions that don’t seem to be helpful or relevant, that you don’t indicate that that’s what you’re thinking. So, we have the phrase, “There are no stupid questions.” And even though we have that phrase, sometimes when we’re in meetings, the people who are leading the meetings communicate that they really didn’t appreciate what somebody had to say or that kind of thing. So, when you’re letting people know that you don’t appreciate their contribution, then they won’t contribute anymore. And so, that’s why it’s really important. And make sure that people are courteous, set some guidelines. One person talks at a time. No side conversations. Don’t be on your phones during meetings. Don’t interrupt people. And so, these are really important ground rules to have because if we don’t have them, then people end up accidentally disrespecting other people and people don’t work together, and check out. Next on the list is listen. And by listening, that means soliciting feedback. And so, you’ve got to get people to talk to you in order to listen. And you want to check in with your crew and see if they feel included or not. Usually, surveys are a good thing for them. Focus groups are a good thing for that. Now, I was asked by a client to conduct some focus groups. Lots of people were leading the organization and they wanted to find out why people were leaving from the people who were still there. And so, I met with focus groups and asked them particular questions. And in order to try to find out why there was such a high turnover. And one of the things that I kept saying to the client is after these focus groups, you’ve got to do something with this information because if you don’t, or it appears that you don’t, then the people who spent their time and these focus groups are going to be disillusioned and that disillusioned is going to carry over into the rest of the organization. And so, listen and do something with the information. Next, just communicating goals and measure progress in order to make things happen, we usually need to set goals. And if we don’t set specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based goals, things have a way of not happening. So, setting specific goals on making the environment more inclusive and measuring progress and communicating that progress to people. So, again, if you don’t, it feels like nothing’s happening and if nothing’s happening, people get disillusioned. Communicate on a regular basis what these goals are, such as your meetings and celebrate differences. So, when we have an inclusive workforce, as I said before, we tend to have people who are different. And how do we celebrate those differences? By making people feel included. So, what would that mean? What specific steps again, could we do here to celebrate differences? Well, one is to tell people to share their differences in the workplace, and part of that is celebrating holidays. And so, people are invited to celebrate whatever holidays they celebrate based upon their background, their religion, their what have you. And so, when we’re celebrating people’s holidays with them, it makes them feel included. When we celebrate only one holiday, it makes some people feel excluded. Another way, if we ever get to get together and have potlucks again, is to invite people to bring food from their background, food that is important to them to share the story behind it. Now, in celebrating differences, here’s one of the things that helps me feel included in my workplace. I’m a vegetarian and most people who I work with know that I’m a vegetarian. I’ve been in the organization for eight years, and so people pretty much know that at this point. Whenever we would have a potluck, people always made it a point to bring something vegetarian for me. And so, that really meant a lot to me because for the most part, when I go to things, meat is in just about everything, even the salad, but people making a point to make something vegetarian just for me made me feel included. And so, that’s something that you can do. Another thing when you have people who have a religion that requires them to pray throughout the day, perhaps you establish a room that they can do that in, or a meditation room, or something so that people don’t have to go into a closet, or a break room, or something to do it, that there’s a room just for them to do those types of things. So, when you are inviting people to be who they are at the workplace and not have to hide who they are, that makes them feel included. Now, you might not be in a position where you can take these steps. You might not be able to educate your leaders. You might not have the influence to have an inclusion committee put together. You may not lead the meetings, etc. What can you do to make people feel included? Well, personally, ensure that the people you work with are included in your good mornings. I mediated a conflict once upon a time between two staff members, and the main source of conflict between them was the fact that one of the members would go into the workplace and tell everyone good morning except the other person in the conflict. And she felt tremendously excluded. On top of that, she was gay and she felt that that’s the reason he was excluding her. Well, that’s not the reason he was excluding her. Unbeknownst to her, he felt slighted by her at some point earlier in the relationship. And he felt if he said anything to her, it would make the matters worse. So, you see how these little perceptibly little slights end up being much bigger than that and affect productivity in the workplace. And so, what you can do personally is to make sure that you are trying to include all of your coworkers in your hellos and your goodbyes, in your joking around, in your birthday celebration, and whatever it is that you do. You can’t do anything else, at least do that. And I want to leave you with one more thing that I think would help you in your effort to be more inclusive. I highly suggest reading a book called “Caste.” C-a-s-t-e, “Caste,” just like our caste system. And the rest of the book is called The Origins of Our Discontents. So, the full title is “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” and the author is Isabel Wilkerson. And what this book is about is how people have been excluded in our country’s history because of their race. And while it’s a difficult book to read again, I finish where I started. It’s important for us to know our history in our country, and how people have been deliberately excluded, and the deliberate steps that had to be taken in order for people to have the same opportunity. We still have a lot more work to do to make everyone feel included. Hopefully, these are some tips that you can take. And now I’m open for questions.