As I read various business articles at the start of the year, something kept coming up – Inclusion and Culture were listed as “trends for 2022”. No doubt these are extremely important areas to work on. In fact, I would argue that they are THE MOST important aspects of a company’s identity, as would Peter Drucker, who has been famously quoted – “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
Many of us think of culture as the core values that we have on our walls. It might look something like this – something you can buy from ETSY for $20:
But the culture of your organization is actually what happens every day organically. If you allow employees to gossip and make jokes at the expense of other employees, then you have a toxic culture. If you allow your employees to come in late and do sloppy work, you have a culture that lacks accountability.
Brene Brown sums up the topic best in Dare To Lead:
“One reason we roll our eyes when people start talking about values is that everyone talks a big values game but very few people actually practice one. It can be infuriating, and it’s not just individuals who fall short of the talk. In our experience, only about 10 percent of organizations have operationalized their values into teachable and observable behaviors that are used to train their employees and hold people accountable.”
If you look around the leadership table, and everyone looks like you, then you may not have a culture of inclusion. If that’s the case, you are likely scrambling.
The goal of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging is to create an inclusive culture where diverse people and thoughts are unleashed and celebrated. This is one of the most difficult changes an organization can embark on, so it’s important that there is alignment at every level of the organization.
Here are just a few studies that show what employees are expecting and how they feel employers are doing –
Employees expect to see more action toward greater diversity and inclusion
Many organizations made public commitments to improve corporate diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB), and employees expect real progress. Qualtrics research shows there’s a perception gap between business leaders and employees on DEIB efforts. Among senior leaders, 80% say their actions show they are genuinely committed to greater DEIB, while only 58% of individual contributors say the same. HR Dive
Mounting pressure on diversity, equity, and inclusion
Along with expectations of greater empathy and a more human work environment, there is increasing pressure to improve equity and inclusion within organizations. In particular, there is mounting pressure from all of HR’s stakeholders — internally and externally — to make real progress on diversifying leadership. Gartner
I must warn you though, that diversity without inclusion causes more harm than good.
“Not being included literally hurts. People process social exclusion like physical pain. After being rejected in an online game, study participants who took Tylenol, compared with a placebo group, reported lower hurt feelings and pain. And just like its physical effects, exclusion has tangible impacts on companies: low quality work, under-utilization of diverse talent, poorer employee satisfaction, burnout and turnover.” Raji Srinivasan is associate dean of diversity and inclusion at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas.
I applied to the same organization 3 times. The first time I applied, I interviewed with the hiring manager but was not selected for the job. Subsequently, the same hiring manager invited me to apply for 2 additional positions. I was not hired for those roles either. All three openings were filled by white men.
In this situation, this hiring manager may have truly desired to be inclusive. Clearly, I was qualified for the jobs since I was invited to apply. Perhaps I truly was not the best candidate, however, when I sought feedback to improve my chances in the future, I was denied that valuable information.
What the hiring manager’s actions showed was that at the end of the day, he was more comfortable working with people who were similar to him. Another possibility is that he had to fill a quota for having a certain percentage of applicants before he could interview. Being a woman of color, I am an easy target, checking off multiple boxes. Either way, harm was done to someone in a marginalized group.
This is one example from my personal experience, but through my work in DEIB, I have heard countless similar stories. Imagine this continuing day after day, year after year to talent in marginalized groups. It is extremely difficult for them to NOT internalize these rejections, creating lasting harm.
It started with late-night dinners over wine…(insert record scratch) this is not that kind of story.
I moved from working for a smaller company to a larger hospital system after my divorce. The first thing I noticed was how many early (7 AM) and late (7 – 10 PM) meetings there were. These were regular meetings, not one-offs. Business happened at these meetings. Decisions were made at these meetings.
These early and late hours can be a challenge for anyone, but for a single mom, it was especially tough. Luckily, my ex-husband and I didn’t believe in the typical custody schedule. We split our time with our son fairly evenly. With the time demands of my new job, I created a calendaring system where we both shared our scheduling requirements, and that dictated when each of us would keep our son. I always felt so lucky that I had an ex who was responsible for being a dad whenever I needed to work early or late, yet I always knew that I shouldn’t HAVE to feel lucky.
Since I was able to navigate the demands of my role, I gained the trust of my supervisors, which in turn led to added responsibilities and promotions. I was able to propel my career because I had a divorce. Others may have had families who provided the same kind of support. For those who did not have this “luxury”, their career trajectory did not look the same.
What kind of message are you giving to your potential hires?
In today’s market, new talent needs to feel like they belong from the day they interview with you. There are so many employment options out there. Even if you happen to snag a great hire, turnover will be quick if there is a lack of authenticity. This happens when an organization at one level or department is inclusive, but not throughout.
What are some changes you would like to implement to create inclusion in your group/department/company?
Check out other blog posts related to DEIB: