To build a foundation for an inclusive culture, you must first cultivate inclusive behaviors across the board. That, of course, can seem like a daunting task. Fortunately, there are some relatively simple ways to engage your diverse workforce. Here are some easy-to-implement steps toward a culture of inclusion.
Share your strategy with employees. Let's say you're worried about increasing competition and the emergence of new technologies that might make your products obsolete. Have you told your employees, or do you figure they just need to punch in and punch out at the right times and work their part of the assembly line? Do you think, "What could they possibly have to offer me?" If so, your thinking is wrong. Sharing your strategy with employees not only gives them perspective about how their efforts fit into the big picture to drive organizational success, but also increases the odds that they will share their unique insights and ideas with you.
Ask for their input. Include them! If you rely entirely on a handful of managers and top executives to come up with great new ideas, you're missing out on the brainpower of the majority of your workplace. When making hiring decisions, most employers look for employees who are creative, intelligent and insightful. Why hire people like that if you aren't going to ask for their input? These are the people on the ground, the ones who will implement any new strategy your organizations pursues, the ones selling your products and services to your customers, and the ones who have seen firsthand what works and what doesn't.
Listen and evaluate the idea, not the person presenting it. What could that 21-year-old business graduate possibly know about improving productivity or product quality? What could that 62-year-old possibly know about technology? You might be surprised. Similarly, as your markets and customer base become more diverse, it is increasingly important to get input from all your employees. Don't you think your Hispanic employees might have some insights into the tastes of their friends, families and communities? When you put up barriers in your mind as to the value of the input and opinions that employees have to offer, you're being exclusionary. Your employees lose out, and so do you!
Provide feedback to your employees about why you did or did not act on their suggestions. Again, it's impossible and impractical to use everyone's suggestions, but your employees might think their ideas were particularly useful and may be confused if they aren't implemented. It's important to let them know, specifically, why one path was taken and not another. This will reassure employees that their ideas were truly considered and not just passed over.
Thank your employees for being willing to contribute. Think about times when you've contributed something to a brainstorming session or strategic planning effort. Did you feel you received recognition or appreciation for your contributions? Too often, the answer is no. Simply stopping at an employee's desk to take a few seconds to personally thank them can go a long way toward making them feel included and help ensure that they will be eager to contribute in the future.
One of the keys to creating an inclusive workplace is often as simple as being more effective at communicating. Even the most well-meaning workplace can seem exclusionary if there is poor communication. Taking the extra time to share new strategies with employees and simply asking what they think can go a long way toward making them feel valued and engaged.
What are you waiting for? Be inclusive!
Becoming an Inclusive Leader
Inclusion: The New Competitive Business Advantage
Are you tired of workplace diversity training that does not link to business? Are you tired of tactics that don’t drive business results? InclusionINC has inclusion training solutions and strategic consulting that link inclusion to employee engagement, productivity, innovation and retention, moving inclusion beyond tactics to a critical business strategy.