The well-regarded educator and author Peter Drucker is famously known for his quote: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” That concept is particularly true when it comes to inclusion and diversity where an organization’s way of thinking, behaving and working is paramount in creating a workplace where everyone feels like they belong.
What leaders say at every level, how they say it and then move to actualize it, and what appears on a company website are often very revealing about where an organization is on its inclusion journey. For this reason, organizations would do well to pay as much attention to the science – or the qualitative indicators — as well as the art, of creating their desired inclusion profiles.
Several key actions that can help create an inclusive culture include:
- Ensure that inclusion and diversity are clearly defined and communicated by leadership, and that every opportunity is taken to articulate examples of how the company and its people are living its values.
- Ensure a clear communications cadence that regularly conveys the organization’s supportive programming, investments, networks and opportunities. It’s important to demonstrate a clear and transparent commitment to advancing inclusion in the workplace.
- Engage, train and connect employees and leaders alike to the business and social imperative of inclusion and diversity. And, while tone should continue to be set at the top, activating voices at all levels is essential to creating an environment of inclusion.
- Verify that every channel of communication – onboarding, websites, internal and external collateral, holiday recognitions, office functions – reflect the diversity of the organization and the richness of perspectives.
- Conduct an inclusion “audit” of processes, policies and procedures to mitigate any unintended bias. Often this exercise can bring to light an opportunity to strengthen the company’s commitment to fair treatment.
- Develop an employee lifecycle roadmap that ensures development, credentialing assignments and advancement convey the theme of opportunity for everyone. Make it clear that cultivating unique skills, backgrounds and experiences spur innovation, and convey a message of empowerment to all employees to thrive in their careers.
- Keep talking about inclusion and diversity in the workplace. Embrace opportunities for discussion, even when difficult, so that open dialogue is encouraged and every employee develops a comfort level around sharing perspectives.
To be sure, these steps must be accompanied by the quantitative measures and tangible successes including diversity in recruitment, promotion and representation at the top. Adopting a strategy that focuses on measurement of diversity metrics, including the mix of diverse talent in the workplace and indicators of diversity such as employee surveys and engagement scores, is always an important part of the equation.
To establish a truly inclusive culture, organizations must be intentional, decisive and demonstrative in reflecting and modeling diversity across the organization, inexorably linking it to business imperatives. Companies that continue to take steps towards embracing and respecting the individual will, in turn, affirm a “great place to work and build a career” experience for everyone.