Leaders play a significant role when it comes to setting the tone for an organizational shift toward more open, effective communication, as well as clear channels for honest feedback, no matter at what level of an organization someone might be.
When an organization can have complete alignment this increases competitive advantage, increases revenue, reduces costs and increases profits.
Transparent communication helps alleviate the possibility of division, discrimination, and unconscious bias. It recognizes that there is always room for improvement, that nothing is taken for granted, and that organizational culture is not assumed but expressly discussed.
A leader is uniquely equipped to discuss and implement inclusivity practices and model the standards and expectations for appropriate, respectful behavior in the workplace. Creating a more inclusive environment—in which differences in learning levels, skill sets, race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, title, and other qualities that team members bring to the table—is not about getting it perfect. In fact, inclusion is nurtured in a communicative workplace where mistakes are not used to penalize or shame team members, but instead, are held up as valuable lessons for learning. Therefore, it is important for both genders to recognize each of these when they are working together. Moreover, we must consider using a gender-neutral image to avoid distinguishing roles according to people’s sex or gender, in order to avoid gender discrimination.
Because the typical workplace, in the United States and around the world, is changing all the time, we must be aware of the trends that might be affecting the possibility of inclusivity. Generational turnover, immigration and changing demographics, emerging markets, and advances in technology all create an ecosystem that might serve to create new possibilities, as well as perpetuate barriers to recruiting and developing a diverse pool of talent.
Increasing the hiring of different ages, races, sexes and beyond can diversify your organization and business. An inclusive language in the workplace is important in welcoming people of different backgrounds to feel more at home to express themselves openly. When employees feel welcomed they can be themselves and in turn an organization’s operational efficiency and operational excellence can increase people’s productivity. When people, process and productivity align this can create operational efficiency and operational excellence within an organization.
The bottom line is this: Inclusivity helps us create a more collaborative, respectful, and creative work environment that values a mixture of individual and organizational characteristics, values, beliefs, experiences, backgrounds, and behaviors.
Inclusivity can certainly be a tricky principle to cultivate because it entails navigating both visible traits (such as race, gender, age, body type, physical abilities) and invisible traits (such as socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, religion, skills, education). Inclusivity ensures that all individuals in a work environment, regardless of their differences, are treated with fairness and respect, and have equal access to the same opportunities and resources. Inclusivity means that everyone’s unique talents and skills are being recognized, tapped, and accessed to contribute to an organization’s success.
Inclusivity can be challenging, even if you place a priority on it and recognize its benefits, because it may require the kind of deep inquiry and recognition of our differences that can result in dissent or discomfort. However, as a leader, you can see these as opportunities for a more communicative workplace rather than a cause for conflict. You can evaluate your own inclusivity practices from a vantage point of choosing to improve rather than being hindered or discouraged by the places where you might fall short.
Inclusivity is tricky to start implementing in your organization, but ways to build an inclusive workplace consists of a few different steps.
1. Educating your leaders is instrumental in your diversity, equity and awareness efforts. Companies found that as the Human Resource department was telling leaders that they need to start being inclusive, that they knew what that meant, but some leaders weren’t understanding the great lengths of acceptance and inclusivity they needed to go. Employees, leaders and department heads all need to see that inclusive behavior is a core competency and value within their company.
2. Forming an Inclusion Council that is a dedicated group of how many influential leaders are appropriate to your size organization can be transformational to the business. This group of officials will be involved with setting goals around hiring, recruiting, retaining and advancing a diverse workforce and address any employee problems among underrepresented employee groups. These councils would frequently meet to review organizational feedback or troubleshoot.
3. When an organization celebrates employee differences this shows that you respect their backgrounds and traditions which invites them to share those with the workplace. Some companies are promoting inclusivity in different ways such as a meditation or prayer room for employees of different religions.
4. Holding more-effective meetings can really benefit an organization and its employees. This reduces the waste of time and production by having one long and effective meeting rather than a few, short meetings where it’s the same topic of discussion. In order for these meetings to reach full potential, an organization should distribute meeting materials in advance and share questions to be discussed. Communicating goals and measuring progress can help your organization speak the language of inclusivity into the workplace.
You may want to ask yourself the following questions in considering the extent to which you and your organization practice and model inclusivity:
Are job advertisements and applications accessible for people with disabilities?
Is the language (print or spoken) in your workplace inclusive (e.g., partner vs. husband/wife, which assumes heterosexuality)?
Is your application process fair for all applicants?
Is your staff educated about cultural differences?
Does your staff reflect diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, education, learning ability, age, etc.?
Does your workplace meet occupational health and safety regulations for persons with disabilities?
Are resources and information provided in accessible formats?
Is every individual who works in, visits, or is served in your workplace treated with respect and equity?
There are substantial outcomes your organization can have once the only language your business speaks is inclusivity. Inclusion in the workplace is important because it can make employees of different age, gender or race feel more accepted and capable to perform better and go to greater lengths for their organization. Once your organization is diverse, offers equality and is inclusive, operational efficiency and operational excellence can align.
Applying the right tools to the right processes can successfully lead to an ideal culture where employees are provided for and makes them feel welcomed and want to stay empowered and motivated. When this level of operational excellence is achieved it unlocks value by understanding what customers want and driving internal efficiencies to meet those expectations.
Leadership requires a firm belief in one’s capacity to make good decisions and fuel lasting transformational change. It requires knowing yourself inside and out and capitalizing on your strengths, while acknowledging that there are places you may need to grow and stretch in order to fulfill your vision. Leaders must have the confidence to make strong, spontaneous decisions that allow them to conduct meetings with influence and power, communicate candidly, and foster employees’ faith in them and the organization.