We’ve been looking into Diversity and Inclusion initiatives in the workplace. We busted the biggest diversity myth in our last article, so now it’s time to look at inclusion and five ingredients to give you a sure-fire recipe for success.
- Don’t Call it ‘Diversity Training’
This might seem counterintuitive at first, but one of the easiest ways to ensure employees tune out and turn off is to brand your initiative ‘diversity training’. This is because years of misinformation, poorly structured programmes and a feeling amongst some employees that they are being, somehow, blamed, for what are systemic and cultural issues, mean that a portion of the workforce are likely to react negatively to phrase.
If you begin your initiative dragging the baggage of past mistakes through the door, you start from a disadvantage hard to overcome.
Additionally, as we will see, the singular use of ‘training’ is equally unhelpful. Inclusion programmes should not exist as a one-off event, but be consistent (see #3). Employees who have elsewhere attended a single seminar on diversity and seen little subsequent change will be equally disappointed and just as hard to win over.
Ultimately, each business ought to seriously consider the labelling most appropriate to its culture and goals (see #2). However, when naming your inclusion initiative, these three guidelines are worth keeping in mind:
- Emphasise ‘inclusion’ over ‘diversity’
- Reflect the ongoing nature of your programme
- Focus on the positive results, not the negatives to be challenged
Emphasising ‘inclusion’ avoids the negative connotations that some associate with previously diversity training seminars they may have attended. ‘Inclusion’, additionally, represents a positive for all – after all, who doesn’t want to be included? Who doesn’t know what it’s like to feel excluded?
Reflecting the ongoing nature of your programme can be as simple as using terms such as ‘programme’ and ‘initiative’ over ‘training’ or ‘seminar’, while a focus on the positive (as we mentioned in our previous article), ensures that employees view inclusion programmes as beneficial, rather than feeling somehow blamed.
- Be Clear About Your Goals
As with almost any other aspect of business, it pays to be clear about your goals and objectives. What does success look like? It’s all too easy to think that the goal of an inclusion initiative is ‘more inclusion’, but what does that really mean?
Many businesses make the mistake of setting diversity and inclusion goals that purely focus on the recruitment process. While this isn’t a negative in and of itself, relying on meeting diversity hiring objectives, runs the risk of increasing diversity without affecting inclusion in any way.
Remember: diversity is a measure of difference within a group, inclusion is a measure of cohesion.
Ways to measure (and therefore set objectives for) the success of your inclusion initiative might include:
- Positive responses in an employee satisfaction survey
- Voluntary attendance to events designed to promote or increase inclusion in the workplace
- Increased diversity in internal hiring applications, particularly for senior positions
- If relevant, a reduced number of complaints relating to diversity and inclusion issues
- Be Consistent
Janice Gassam, writing for Forbes, points out that diversity and inclusion programmes are often implemented as a reactionary measure, after some unpleasant incident or report has spooked the senior management team. This can, quite rightly, be seen as inauthentic by those who are supposedly to embrace and benefit from the programme.
Additionally, inclusion initiatives that begin this way often tail off quickly, as the panic over the catalyst subsides.
In order for inclusion initiatives to succeed, they must be ongoing and consistent. This means planning ahead in terms of years, not weeks or months, and building upon solid foundations to achieve new successes.
How is this achieved? By allowing individuals to take ownership of inclusion within their teams and their workplace. Inclusion initiatives may begin with an HR or senior management directive, but true success will come when employees become leaders in their own inclusion practices.
- Put Your People First
It should go without saying that any inclusion initiative ought to be more than a simple box-ticking exercise. But, more than this, any programme must to be firmly focussed on the employees it seeks to benefit.
Too often, it seems, diversity and inclusion programmes exist primarily to reflect favourably on the senior management team, their existence of more importance than impact.
If employees don’t feel included in the process, and understand that the end goal is to benefit the entirely of the workforce, then they rebel against the entire programme, switching off to the core message.
Conversely, the more employees feel central to the initiative, and listened to, with their personal experiences taken on board, the more likely that inclusion initiatives succeed.
- Make Improvements Along the Way
The final point to make, is that inclusion initiatives are iterative processes.
Employees at all levels of the organisation can provide insight, feedback, suggestions and experience which has the potential to consistently improve upon existing procedures and practices.
Remember: it is the judgement, experience and empathy that your employees are capable of displaying that make them invaluable to your business operations.
Listening, adapting, and improving your inclusion initiatives will, in the long run, lead to ongoing business success.
Have you had experience of workplace diversity and inclusion programmes? Were they successful? We’d love to know more about your experiences in the comments section below.