About the Alliance
Leadership Matters Blog
LEAD. GROW. INSPIRE.
With each passing year, it might seem like expectations grow for employers to recognize, encourage and improve inclusivity. And, more than likely, you’d be hard-pressed to find any leader who doesn’t support the idea of an inclusive workplace. But how do you get there? Or perhaps the better question is: How do you keep getting better at inclusivity? It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the terminology and issues involved. Let’s look at some of the fundamentals of inclusivity.
Defining The Term
Perhaps the most obvious place to begin addressing inclusivity is by defining it. The Society for Human Resource Management, now known simply as SHRM, defines it as: “The achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization’s success.”
An important distinction to bear in mind: Inclusivity isn’t the same as diversity. The two terms are often lumped together and, indeed, they do relate to one another. In fact, you’ve probably encountered the abbreviation “D&I” used to categorize “diversity and inclusion” content. But, in an HR context, diversity refers to recognizing and embracing the many differences that employees bring to the table. These include various cultural attributes, spoken and written languages, educational achievements and work and life experiences. Inclusivity, on the other hand, is a conscious effort by an employer to integrate diversity into the workplace by involving and giving access to all people to achieve the work environment described in SHRM’s definition.
Distinguishing “Equity” From “Equality”
And here’s where we run into another important distinction. That is, “equity” isn’t the same as “equality.” Every employer should strive to treat employees equally in the sense that policies and rules should be applied and enforced consistently. You need to ensure processes for hiring, promotion and termination are free of implicit or explicit biases.
Equity means that you acknowledge the diverse aspects of your workforce and then take steps to level the playing field so every employee can feel included and valued and is provided with an optimal environment in which to do their best work.
So, for example, if you hire an employee with a limited educational background, perhaps you could offer that person additional coursework or training to put the individual on equal footing with coworkers who have college degrees. Another common example is helping workers with physical disabilities perform their jobs by providing special equipment or allowing them to work from home.
Broad Steps To Success
When and where should inclusivity efforts begin? Of course, there are many granular moves your organization could take to expand and strengthen inclusivity. But here are three broad steps that put most employers in a prime position to succeed:
1. Start with onboarding.
The moment a new hire walks in the door—or logs in to your organization’s network, as the case may be these days—set the tone from the beginning by:
2. Focus on resources and support.
For employees who are settled in, keep a close and constant eye on their ability to use the same technology, information sources, benefits and support as everyone else. Doing so can be particularly challenging now that many people are working from home. Be prepared for questions such as:
3. Set up a system of feedback and accountability.
Among the most important traits of an inclusive workplace is that every employee has a voice in discussing the topic and improving conditions on the ground. A well-crafted inclusivity survey issued once or twice a year can give you a substantial number of data points. Occasional inclusivity meetings can also be useful and even fun.
Lastly, particularly if yours is a larger organization, consider establishing a platform that allows for the tracking and reporting of inappropriate behavior related to inclusivity, diversity and harassment in general. It should allow employees to provide detailed information (date, time, individuals involved, etc.) about incidents. Today’s artificial-intelligence-based software solutions, such as Spot, are worth a look for this purpose.
All About Community
At the end of the day, winning at inclusivity boils down to looking at your workforce not so much as regimented departments or teams but more as a united, close-knit community. After all, communities are, by definition, inclusive. And if you can build a good one, you’ll not only have a better working environment, but also a more productive organization.
Lynda Silsbee is Founder and President of the Alliance for Leadership Acceleration. She has spent more than 30 years creating and leading high performance teams. Along with the other LEAP Certified Coaches, she reports that helping managers make the LEAP to leader is one of the most fulfilling aspects of her work.