Imagine life at a large company that allows for little to no inclusivity. Ideas would likely be stunted, growth would be near impossible, and everyone would be a copy of his neighbor. Without inclusivity in the workplace, companies suffer. By incorporating a diverse and inclusive team and culture within companies, success and productivity are far more imminent.
When you take it back to basics, inclusivity is simply including those that are commonly left out or dismissed, whether it is done purposefully or without intent. Often times, those that are not included are minority groups, handicapped or mentally disabled individuals, or those that are the outlier. While developing a culture of inclusivity might be more simplified in smaller companies, large companies have their work ahead of them when it comes to becoming masters of inclusivity.
How do large companies master inclusivity? Large companies that have mastered inclusivity have a majorly diverse workforce and tend to focus on maintaining that diversity. They use recruitment, marketing, and leadership as tools for inclusivity. They also make inclusivity an ongoing process, develop a culture that allows for it, and create connections across the company.
If you were to do a quick internet search on company inclusion, you would likely receive equal parts diversity and inclusion in the results. While this might frustrate those seeking specific items for inclusion, this happens because diversity is the largest aspect of inclusivity. Why? Diversity is inclusion.
Without diversity, there would be no need to worry about inclusion. Everyone would be the same and there would be no worry as to whether or not someone is being included. However, as aforementioned, a workplace without diversity is one that lacks creativity, efficiency, morale, profits, and cultural insights. By starting with diversity at the beginning, inclusivity becomes far more possible.
Diversity and inclusivity should start from the recruitment process. Many employers make the mistake of attempting to find the perfect candidate. In their mind, the perfect candidate has a specific degree from a certain school (or one similar), has had experience with one particular situation, speaks perfectly, and has a family background in the career in question. While this idea of perfection might seem as though that person would be great for the job, it actually takes away from the diversity available to the company.
When a company recruits someone that attended a community college where they would usually expect an Ivy League graduate, they receive so much more than a lower quality education. In fact, this person might have a completely different world view and will offer more creative solutions because of the differences they have lived. It is those differences that can make them valuable.
This is not to say that the Harvard graduate should not be recruited. Instead, companies should consider both candidates and hire in a diverse manner - both Ivy Leaguers and community college employees on the same team will allow for greater success.
In addition to education, employers should consider geography. The individual that was raised in the suburbs might have had some experiences that can be helpful to a company, but the person that grew up on the other side of the tracks might offer a different point of view on many topics.
This is true for a variety of personal differences, from race to sexual orientation (though employers would be smart not to ask about the latter), gender to family background, and socioeconomic status to religion. Employing a wide range of people and types is a great way to include various ideas and thoughts in one space.
Many times companies focus on one particular customer base. While this can be good for small companies to produce or sell only what one market segment will purchase, larger companies have more capabilities to serve more people. Since handling a diverse customer base requires diverse thinking, this is a great way for large companies to master inclusivity.
Look at Proctor & Gamble, Inc., for instance: this is a company that sells to a wide array of people. This company is one that has a huge array of name brands that most people recognize and use. Many popular P&G brands include Gillette, Luvs, Head & Shoulders, Oral B, Pepto Bismol, Mr. Clean, and Swiffer. These are just a fraction of the brands owned by this company, so you might imagine the diverse customer base that they have.
P&G not only has a diverse customer demographic, but they maintain a diverse and inclusive workforce. In fact, the company spent $2.6 billion with minority and women-owned suppliers. Sources say that the company also places a heavy focus on catering to deaf and blind employees. One might assume that having such a massive demographic (everyone) means that Proctor & Gamble has placed emphasis on including every demographic within their workforce.
Leadership within a company that has little to no diversity is one that will struggle with inclusivity. It presents the idea that diversity is not of importance and that leadership requires specific demographics. When companies do have diverse leadership, statistics prove the decision to be a good one.
Would you encourage racial and ethnic diversity in leadership if you “were 35% more likely to have financial returns above [your] industry median?” Would you encourage greater gender and racial diversity if companies with low levels were nearly 30% less likely to attain better than average profitability? While these numbers might be staggering, it is important that diversity exists in leadership for other reasons.
Diversity is more valuable than just statistical success. Large companies that boast a diverse leadership team see a greater trickle-down effect. It leads to a more diverse workforce at all levels - from the entry-level individual to the most experienced. By placing focus on mentoring employees of all types by leaders of various backgrounds. It becomes a culture-building process that leads to a deliberate form of inclusion.
Diverse leadership will also help to keep diverse employees on staff. It is encouraging to see that people of various demographics can reach a leadership level within the company and inspires those that wish to reach that level to stay within a company.
An inclusive workforce is not something that will occur by accident. It will not happen without intentional and deliberate effort on the part of leadership and the company as a whole. Being inclusive on purpose requires each of the aspects mentioned previously: recruiting and hiring in a diverse manner, having diverse customer demographics, and establishing a diverse leadership team.
Including diversity is imperative in developing inclusivity, but it cannot stop there. Large companies that have mastered inclusivity keep the process ongoing, determine the makeup of an inclusive culture, and develop connections between people with intent. Placing a focus on these aspects allows for large companies to include everyone. No one is overlooked and everyone has their part - despite being one of many within the organization.
The problem with many companies’ attempts at inclusivity is that it is not a process, but rather a program. To many, an inclusivity program feels fabricated. Programs that attempt to bring inclusivity to the workplace often have the feeling that the company is attempting to reap the rewards of inclusivity (profitability, productivity, creativity, etc.) without truly caring about the individuals. While a month-long program that matches a leader with a group of people that are different from themselves might have some great components and allow for good conversation, without the addition of an entire process, the program will likely fail.
A process of inclusivity will not only have a program as mentioned but will work on various areas within the organization to allow for greater inclusivity. As an ongoing process, this will likely include starting from the recruitment and hiring of diverse people, promoting from within to a diverse leadership team, and even celebrating various holidays in the office - from Hanukkah to Chinese New Year and Easter to Boxing Day.
By allowing inclusivity to become a part of every facet of the workplace, it will become less like a simple program and more like an ongoing process. This will allow everyone in the office to feel included for the reasons that matter to them.
In an inclusive culture, individuals feel as though they belong. Whether they are Asian, female, transgender, or grew up in the lower class, they do not get the feeling that they should not be working for a specific company. However, some companies try to achieve this by simply ignoring differences. In truth, this is not really possible and creates a culture of ignorance. Instead, successful, large inclusive companies place an emphasis on respect, fairness, and the positive identification of differences.
Organizations must have a zero-tolerance policy for hate and disrespect in order to create an inclusive culture. This means that any jokes, comments, or rude opinions must be stopped in its tracks. For many companies, this means the immediate consequences of these actions. Allowing anyone to partake in these harmful actions without consequence (even if that means the loss of their job) will create a culture that does not allow for inclusivity.
Creating an understanding environment in which individuals can share and communicate in a constructive way is far better a place to work for all. It is fair this way, which is another component of an inclusive culture. All employees, no matter race or background or gender, should have the same opportunities for advancement.
The advancement of internal employees should also be carefully considered, as it might seem as though it is best to simply promote the most diverse individual. This is not necessarily true - leadership must consider everything that a person brings to the table.
Lastly, the positive identification of differences is something that must be included in an inclusive culture. While it may seem difficult for some to understand, being transparent in decisions is crucial to this aspect. When Person A is chosen over Person B to lead a project, the decision-maker should explain exactly why and not avoid the topic of diversity. He might explain that Person A had various experiences growing up in India that led him to believe that she might offer the greatest insight to the project. Because of their diversity, they were best for the job.
By developing an inclusive culture, larger companies are able to reap the benefits of diversity and inclusivity and create teams of people with various thoughts and beliefs. Those teams can carry their newfound information outside of work to the rest of the world, which is an added benefit.
ERGs are hugely popular with large companies that are focused on inclusivity. ERGs are Employee Resource Groups. These are basically communities that offer various forms of support in specific demographics. An ERG might be based on a specific religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. It is a place where employees that share these characteristics can communicate and share with one another.
They can often bring up issues and offer solutions to problems that help the organization to become more inclusive. These groups offer a support system of other like-minded and bodied people, but they also align with the mission and goals of the company. It provides a group voice for minorities and groups that may not have been heard otherwise. The connections that ERGs and similar groups provide are not only great for the individuals, but for the company as a whole.
When you think of having an inclusive company on a large scale, it might seem impossible. How can every single diverse employee have a voice and a weight within a company of thousands? With an inclusive workforce, that diverse employee is not the only diverse employee. He or she is one of many and makes an impact on the company.
Accomplishing inclusivity within large companies starts with hiring diverse employees and ensuring that the leadership team is equally diverse. Offering products or services to diverse customers and clients also helps to encourage inclusivity.
In addition, inclusivity must be sought out intentionally and must be worked toward over time in a process. The culture of a company is imperative and must not drive out diversity, but sustain and encourage it. Lastly, a large company should encourage connections between diverse people so that they have a voice.
By achieving these things, large companies can master inclusivity. They can become models for organizations of all sizes to establish a workforce of various backgrounds, races, religions, educations, and other demographics. Doing so will allow for greater success and a well-rounded team of employees that might not only change the company for the better but the world around them.
How do companies hire diverse employees without asking the wrong questions? Asking questions about race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and similar topics are illegal in an interview. An employer can draw conclusions from an individual’s appearance and resume to determine diversity without crossing any lines.
What are good ways to develop connections with diverse employees? Treat diverse employees the same way you would your average employee. Have company-wide events and team-bonding experiences for everyone. Have a potluck once a month featuring various cultures around the world or have both a Christmas and Hanukkah party.
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