The concept of inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility (also known as the IDEA) can be used as a clear business differentiator, one that has never been so critical, especially in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced a massive number of professionals to leave their jobs (the Great Resignation). Companies that have created inclusive cultures now have an advantage in hiring top talent and retaining it. Why is that?
Aside from being the right thing to do, creating an inclusive environment in an organization can also improve business results. Inclusive and diverse organizations typically outperform their competitors not just in talent recruitment and employee retention but also in innovation, productivity, profit, and many other business metrics that lead to stable growth. In fact, inclusion and diversity in the workplace can boost innovation by 20%! As Accenture reports: ‘The more empowering the workplace environment, the higher the innovation mindset score.’
So, what can business owners, CEOs, and leaders do to build an inclusive company culture? First, let’s explain what inclusion entails.
What Is Inclusion?
To create an inclusive environment, it is important to have a clear understanding of what inclusion means in the context of companies, institutions, and even governments. Inclusion is when differences that make a person unique (such as age, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, skills, cultural background, and more) are valued and supported, while barriers are removed that would prevent anyone from reaching their full potential in a specific organization. Real inclusion celebrates all diversity factors and enables everyone to perform at their best in a supportive and safe environment.
How To Build An Inclusive Environment In Your Organization?
When it comes to the concept of the IDEA, you may think you’ve done your part if you’ve managed to hire a diverse group of people and you’ve written a corporate statement about your organization’s support of people from diverse backgrounds. But that is not enough. Some organizations are making real, palpable changes to improve inclusion and other IDEA initiatives in their workplace. For example, we often hear about large organizations like Wellsfargo, AirBnB, or Winnebago that have gone to great lengths to ensure their employees are listened to, valued, and respected. They have clearly defined their IDEA policies that reverberate through all aspects of their organizations.
Diversity, although important, is just one part of the whole picture. Diversity is often mistaken or considered synonymous with inclusion, but that is not the case. To say it in simple terms, diversity is like an invitation to the party, while inclusion is being asked to dance. All people have their individual dance moves, speeds, and cool tricks. The inclusion part of the IDEA means making sure those different dance moves are all seen and valued and that they contribute to the party. So, how can you properly build inclusion? Consider the following steps:
1. Establish policies that codify the IDEA concept in your organization. In order to ensure that IDEA is not simply just for show, it is crucial to make an inclusive culture part of the fabric of your organization. Employee diversity and inclusive team policies are great ways to codify IDEA within the company culture.
2. Foster an inclusive environment and create safe spaces. One of the vital things any organization can do is to create safe spaces for their people, for example, employee resource groups where they can learn about different cultures and engage in conversations. Encouraging people to bring their authentic selves to work fosters a welcoming and inclusive environment. Once you build an inclusive culture, you will undoubtedly increase employee engagement and innovation, which leads to higher employee retention.
3. Lead by example. Ensuring you have a diverse leadership team can set the tone for the entire organization. Leaders must always lead by example, acting as bias disruptors and instantly intervening whenever they notice inappropriate behavior. Having strong-minded and active leaders in your organization who place a high value on inclusion and diversity is crucial to building a culture that embraces the IDEA.
4. Nurture a pipeline of opportunities. Ensure that your organization has a pipeline of IDEA opportunities that highlight growth and retention. Sponsorships and mentorships are all great ways to further support your people. By investing in your employees, you can strengthen your organization while creating an inclusive culture.
5. Set inclusion goals and keep track. This step is particularly important. Why? Because when you set IDEA goals for your organization and then track the metrics, you can see how your organization performs when it comes to stated objectives. Holding your organization to set standards is the perfect way to ensure everyone is held accountable and you’re making progress in a measurable way.
Why is Inclusion Important?
We would like to think that inclusion was an ever-present ideology for organizations from the beginning, unfortunately, that is not the case. However, times are changing, and we are now ready to face the challenges of creating diverse and inclusive environments in the workplace. Although it can be difficult for some organizations to start applying the IDEA concept, it should still be a goal we all should strive for. Luckily, many organizations have already figured out the diversity aspect, but that can’t be said for inclusion.
That is why we must discuss the importance of inclusivity in the workplace. Numerous conferences (including ours) have been highlighting and expressing just how important inclusivity is for today’s organizations. Truth be told, without it, all of our diversity efforts are in vain. When people feel included, they feel a sense of belonging that increases positive performance results and creates collaborative teams who are engaging and innovative.
In order for organizations to have successful employees, they must embrace and encourage inclusion (in fact, the whole IDEA concept). Inclusion, diversity, equity, and access all coincide with one another. And it all starts from the top. From the very leaders and managers who need to believe in the importance of inclusion, just as much, if not more, as their employees. Both have to be involved and work in unity.
When we feel included, we are better able to contribute to the group and our society in general without fear of being ostracized. By bringing our ideas forward, we offer a particular perspective that stems from an entirely different background. This creates space for further inclusivity and a cycle of acceptance and growth. Are you ready to bring positive change to your organization? Because we at the World Happiness Foundation are more than willing! We invite you to join us as we’re changing the world for the better, one happy person at a time.