Diversity allows companies to better understand the needs of its consumers, helping modify and create products to suit a variety of tastes. To properly manage diversity, companies need to focus on creating inclusive cultures. Building an inclusive culture takes time. Once achieved, inclusive cultures help companies handle future conflict and respond to changes in the work environment.
The blog post “Defining Diversity and Inclusion,” defines inclusion as:
“Allowing companies to quiet cultural discord. Inclusion is a set of policies, procedures, programs, set of norms, and actions that create an environment where the people who make up this diversity are able to use their difference to a company’s benefit, not to its detriment.”
Inclusion is a component of a company’s culture. This allows companies to attract a wider range of qualified employees, as today’s job seekers increasingly base employment decisions on a company’s culture and reputation. The article “The Ethics of Inclusion: Three Common Delusions,” sheds light on the real challenge of inclusion, stating it’s to find common cause for important work. This can’t be done effectively if employees isolate themselves from each another based on differences such as race, culture, nationality, gender, ability, and personality. Inclusion doesn’t mean an employee has to like everyone they work with, but they must still respect the opinions of fellow employees.
Steps Toward Inclusion
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Make it official. Place inclusion statements in company policies and websites. Employees are required to review company policies and are given training on its components. Therefore, incorporating inclusion into policies ensures the matter is addressed and understood by everyone. Here is an example of the diversity and inclusion statement developed at Coca-Cola Enterprises:
“Attracting, developing and retaining a highly talented and diverse workforce is one of our three strategic business priorities. To achieve this, we are committed to creating an inclusive culture – one that welcomes, values, and celebrates a workforce comprising employees of different ages, ethnicities, races, cultures, genders and sexual orientations.”
Establish Employee Networks
In our post “Labor Relations Tone Set at the Top: Campbell Soup Co.,” we discussed the use of employee networks at Campbell’s. The company has established 7 networks:
- Campbell African American Network
- Asian Network of Campbell
- Hispanic Network de Campbell
- Our Pride Employee Network
- The Bridge
- Women of Campbell
- Global American Indian/Aboriginal Network
Employee networks are excellent tools to foster inclusion in the workplace. Any employee can become a member of each group, allowing them to develop a stronger understanding of the challenges other employees encounter. Networks add more to an employee’s work experience, fostering communication and relationship building. The information shared in these groups assists management in addressing issues and removing barriers to an inclusive workplace.
Diversity training needs to be mandatory for employees at every organizational level. Carefully develop a training plan, tailoring it to the audience. In order for training to effectively engage employees, include a variety of training methods- role play, classroom-style, Q & A and web-based learning. Instead of conducting training once or twice a year for days at a time, hold sessions more often. Also, break training sessions up into shorter sessions. These tips help employees avoid information overload and keeps the information fresh in their minds.
Tone From the Top
Culture is established at the top. In the article “What Does it Take to Create an Inclusive Workplace?,” Paul Hogendoorn, President of OES Inc. located in the UK, discusses two of the ways he sets the tone from the top to encourage an inclusive culture:
“When I make the rounds in the morning, I often say good morning in ten different languages. Of course ‘good morning’ is just about the extent of what I am able to say in many of those languages, but it does put a few smiles on faces. Sometimes it takes intentionally role-modeling examples to illustrate the point that no one person is above any specific task, including myself. Although specific roles may have different values in an organization, as individuals, we are still equal.”
Hogendoorn proves a little bit goes a long way. When top level executives emulate the corporate culture, it’s easier for employees to follow and commit to adopting the culture themselves.