An Inclusive Workforce is Good for Business.
Many companies don’t fully grasp the real power of an inclusive workplace. But it’s a compelling thing. Culturally inclusive companies withstand economic downturns and unpredictable shifts in national. That’s why so many modern companies prioritize diversity. But without creating a truly inclusive workplace, a company risks leaving a lot of power on the table. If successful diverse employees jump ship for competitors, a company risks losing ground. As good fortune would have it, I believe there are three keys to creating a truly inclusive company culture.
Information, of course, but make it accurate information.
An employer first needs to make sure any prejudice-fighting information they’re finding is accurate. When researching cultures, religions, orientations, or nations of origin that are unfamiliar, the right place to start is looking into longitudinal studies.
There are consultancy firms that specialize in inclusive practices, which specialize in studying inclusive methods to see which ones are the most effective. Mc Kinsey & Company and Institute Consultants are two such firms with stellar reputations, recently collaborated to release a study on the successes and failures of programs to include employees with Down’s Syndrome in the workforce.
For almost any kind of diversity, there’s a consultant that can advise based on accurate, up-to-date information. Getting this information is a worthwhile investment.
Decrease Opportunities for Prejudice
In their book, Designing Equality, authors Alexa Frank, Kelly Connors and Michelle Cho with Deloitte Consulting LLP write about how, in the 1970s and 1980s, symphony orchestras began holding blind auditions, putting a screen in between the auditioning musician and the committee in the hope of eliminating selection based on preconceived ideas. This way, the committee was forced to judge the auditions solely by the quality of their music delivery and nothing else. Did it make a difference? The authors report that:
In the 70s, fewer than 5 percent of players in the United States’ top five professional orchestras were females. Now, women hold 50 percent of the chairs in America’s top 250 orchestras.
By removing the potential for bias in the audition process, symphonies were able to root out sexism and hire the musicians who were objectively the best. Studies of blind application processes and blind interviews where hiring managers couldn’t know an applicant’s race, gender, or ethnicity showed similar results. Without prejudice and confirmation-bias in play, racially and culturally diverse applicants were chosen significantly more often than they are in a typical application process. Eliminating the potential for bias will result in an increasingly diverse workplace, which, in turn, contributes to a culture’s potential for inclusion. The more varied employees there are in total, the more motivated everyone will be to foster that inclusive culture. The conclusion being that blind auditions work, and the same principle can be applied across the American corporate culture. Of course, I am not suggesting all interviews be conducted behind a curtain, but with robust preventive and corrective strategies put in place, new behavior can occur. An excellent approach to adopt incorporates:
- Educational policy (including but not limited to school-based interventions)
- Short-term diversity training courses
- Media campaigns
Connect All Employees to Diverse Communities
It’s essential to foster a sense of community among diverse groups. Employees aren’t the only diverse people a company can care about. In their article ” The Diversity and Inclusion Revolution: Eight Powerful Truths, “authors Juliet Bourke and Bernadette Dillon interview corporate leaders who used inclusive practices to transform their companies and, in some cases, save them from bankruptcy.
One element that distinguishes inclusive leaders from others is their cultural intelligence, also known as CQ, a term first coined by researchers Christopher Earley, Earley, and Soon Ang between 2000 and 2003. Bourke and Dillon define culturally intelligent leaders as those who are, ättenvite to others’ culture and adapt as required.”
Empowering employees to connect with diverse cultures, whether that happens through an education contest, mentorship settings, a public awareness campaign in the form of a PSA, or a community outreach event gives employees a firsthand opportunity to hone their cultural intelligence.
It also provides diverse employees an opportunity to play to their strengths. Through connection opportunities, these employees can represent the company while building meaningful relationships with others like them.
At the end of the day, diversity is only as useful as you let it be. By taking steps to implement truly inclusive practices in the workplace, you can unlock the true potential of your diverse employees.
About the Author
Vanessa Yanez, a regular contributor to The Scope Weekly, heads World Wide Head of Print Communications at HP – San Francisco Bay Area.Find Vanessa Yanez on LinkedIn.