The thousands of small choices we make as leaders and co-workers add up to the culture and environment which is unique to our companies. These choices can help to support an environment where everyone feels like they belong, or they can reinforce a sense of otherness. Most companies are heading into the 20s with a firm commitment to diversity. With the tight hiring market of the 2010s and the shifting demographics of the American workforce, many have ticked a lot of boxes on the diversity front. However, according to Deloitte Insights “diversity without inclusion is worth less than when the two are combined.” Some aspects that make people feel like they don’t belong are obvious, others more subtle.
These 5 are part of my checklist for choosing new programs, and core principles I use when acting in my capacity as the “voice of the customer” at my company.
#1 Native Understanding
Even when you are fairly fluent in a second language, learning new information in your non-native language is more difficult. Your brain has to process the language first, and the concepts second, and this added brain strain reduces your ability to absorb and retain the information. Whenever possible, give employees the opportunity to tackle work, especially learning, in a frictionless way. Translated subtitles are better than nothing, content ‘localized’ by a native speaker will always be best.
#2 ‘Un-accommodating’ accommodations
The ADA requires that reasonable efforts be made to accommodate those with disabilities. Even the name ‘accommodation’ makes it sound like you are doing someone a favor. Having to ask for that makes diverse employees feel like they are not on a level playing field. Whenever you are choosing digital solutions make sure they have screen readers, subtitles, the ability to expand fonts, and adjustments for color blindness built-in. Let any employees use tools like Grammarly or DragonSpeak that are helpful if you have Dyslexia, or Dysgraphia, but are also great productivity drivers for anyone. Give employees the flexibility to use their own devices, in their own environments whenever possible, so that they can do what works best for them. Then no one has to ask for special treatment.
#3 Reflect reality
30 years ago, most companies used images where diverse employees never saw anyone that looked like them. Today you’ve seen it, the ad or the clip-art with each token minority carefully reflected. Or maybe you’ve been the minority employee asked to be part of collateral or PR and you know it’s only because you check a box. Yikes! Ideally, the imagery at the company reflects the employees and customers you work with. If your company is 90% men, then having half the people in the images be women is going to feel disingenuous. And if the picture isn’t what you want it to be, work on your diversity.
#4 Flexible strategies
When we bring on new Coaches to my team to facilitate safe movement workshops, one of the first things we teach is how to assess the right technique for the right audience. Working with an out of shape, middle-aged truck driver can feel different than coaching an elite athlete at first. However, the human body has more similarities than differences. We just have to understand how to remove the barriers to get to the core concepts (even if you have bad knees you still need to protect your back when you lift; try a staggered step instead). The same can be said for most things in business. A diverse project team has diverse viewpoints, which is a blessing, as long as you can remove the potential barriers in building consensus and get to the core concepts. Focusing on the similarities while trying multiple strategies to capitalize on what works for that specific group, is always going to deliver better outcomes. Avoid any program with a one-size-fits-all approach.
#5 Diversity in decision making
If you want to make sure your new program will resonate well with a diverse set of employees, why not ask them? A field-level task force is a great way to evaluate new solutions - push hard to make sure they are representative of the differing viewpoints in your organization (socioeconomic backgrounds, education levels, introverts/extroverts, 1st & 2nd generation immigrants, etc.). Ask them hard questions, and have them include decision-making criteria like the ones listed here. Hear their concerns, and if a solution you are advocating is one that doesn’t resonate with a diverse workforce, ask them to help find a better choice.
According to the Harvard Business Review, “Without inclusion, however, the crucial connections that attract diverse talent, encourage their participation, foster innovation, and lead to business growth won’t happen.”
What is on your checklist to ensure inclusion is part of your decision making?