Building an Inclusive Culture…

Article written by Monica Mwanje

“Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” Vernā Myers

“Inclusion – The action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure.” Oxford Dictionary definition of the word inclusion.

Why Be Inclusive?

When considering the need for working on inclusion in your business, I’d like you to ask yourself if you would remain in a situation where you feel unwanted or ignored? If you have ever felt that you didn’t belong somewhere, chances are you probably left the situation and found somewhere that felt better.

On the flip side when you feel you belong somewhere, it lifts your spirits and increases your engagement with the scenario you are facing. It makes you more likely to stay.

An inclusive working culture can challenge you, push you to develop new skills and expand your comfort zone, because you feel safe, supported, valued and respected. Simply put, inclusion is good for business as it creates the conditions for team members to thrive. It can bring the best out of people.

Research by Deloitte identifies that Diversity + inclusion = better business outcomes. With the following points illustrating the positive impact an inclusive culture can have on your bottom line.

Organisations with inclusive work cultures are:

  • TWICE as likely to meet or exceed financial targets
  • THREE TIMES as likely to be high-performing
  • SIX TIMES more likely to be innovative and agile
  • EIGHT TIMES more likely to acheive better business outcomes

Statistics taken from: Deloitte Review: The diversity and inclusion revolution: Eight powerful truths.

So, it’s been established that inclusion is good for business. How do you go about making your business more inclusive? What do you actually need to do, so you too can have a happier workforce and an improved bottom line?

The Writing’s on The Wall – Policies for the win?

Your business may already have a plethora of policies that in theory should mean your organisation should be a beacon of inclusiveness and joy. Yet, the reality is that it might not be. So, what’s happening, why is there a disconnect?

Check and audit?

Simply writing and issuing a policy isn’t enough. It needs to be implemented and be an integral part of the culture moving forward.

Have you ever watched a football (or soccer depending on where you are located) match, where the referee has not had to speak with any players, or book someone or send a player off from the field of play? Some decisions you clearly agree with because it is obvious, but there are other decisions that sometimes you question because they were not visible to you or perhaps you were unaware of the particular rule that has been infringed. If you’re watching from home, sometimes the pundits share knowledge as to why the decision went the way it did, or perhaps the video replay images are shared and you are informed via that route. Or maybe the referee has made a mistake and the wrong decision has been made in the heat of the moment.

My point is on the football pitch you have the referee, linespeople and video replay support, to help draw attention to rule breaking/infringement.

Who is doing this oversight and intervention for the culture of your business? Who is checking the policies/rules are being fairly applied and followed?

It’s not enough to just stick some policies on the wall, they need to be lived and breathed. Problems need to be called out and solved.

Talk to your team

What are the barriers? Why are they not engaging with the policies you’ve issued? Has someone asked for flexible working but faced an unsupportive manager? Or is their desired shift pattern not compatible with the area of the business they are in, and there’s a lack of clarity/information about what alternative options there might be?

A possible solution is to collaboratively develop policies. Engage with your employees (survey or via nominated leads) and find out what they need so they can feel more engaged and included at work. Taking on board this feedback will help to avoid time consuming and expensive development of theoretical policies that don’t work in practice or that don’t reflect the needs of your teams and business areas.

Learn from others

Talk with other businesses to understand how their organisational cultures have evolved over time. Learning from their mistakes and successes can help you to understand what may lay ahead for your business; saving you from exerting time and money on items that may prove fruitless. However, if you do wish to replicate policies that others have implemented in their companies, make sure to take the time to adapt them to fit your organisation. As we all know one size fits all clothing, can look very different and misshapen depending on the wearer. The same is true when considering the culture of a business.

Moving forward with intent and action

Building an inclusive culture, begins with directed intent and action. To summarise, if you wish to evolve the culture of your business then the following 3 simple steps will set you on your way:

1.    Establish a baseline. Understand where you are starting from via communicating with and listening to the teams in your business.

2.    Do something. The feedback from the communications exercise, will have provided you with insights on the areas needing work. Likewise, insights from other businesses will also give you a clue as to what is possible. Combine this information and establish and agree some targets so that everyone knows what you are working towards.

3.    Check and communicate. If you roll out a new policy or initiative, check on its progress. Check with your teams if it is working and establish ways for them to gain support or to feedback without feeling any stigma.

Cultural change will take time and effort for it to stick, but as established in many reports, including the Deloitte report I cited earlier on, it is worth doing.

If you are looking to engage some consultancy support around inclusivity and diversity in your organisation, you can get in touch via email or telephone.

Monica is also proudly involved in D&I School, providing training to people who want to create a D&I strategy for the 21st century. Their first course starts on 12th September 2020.