How to Start Your Journey to Inclusion: Simple First Steps

Photo by    Leighann Renee

By Jennifer Coyne & Cinthia Manuel

Cinthia Manuel and I recently had the opportunity to present a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion focus topic at the “Conscientious Leadership” workshop, hosted by BCFG. Sharing our insights and hearing about attendees’ experiences trying to drive change in this area was a fantastic experience, full of learning for us all.

Especially for those on a triple-bottom line journey, the words Inclusion, Equity, Equality, Diversity, Accessibility, and Justice are commonplace.  And yet, understanding how to translate these words into meaningful action and transformational, lasting changes within an organization can be a challenge.

Even within purpose-driven organizations, the economics of people programs must make financial sense. The good news is that creating an organization that values inclusivity and creates a safe and accessible space for all is also good for profit.

Research Shows Diversity is Good for Profit

A McKinsey study* showed that companies in the top quartile for ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to outperform their industry competitors in lower quartiles. In addition, companies that have pro-diversity policies are shown** to be more innovative, releasing more new products on average than those with less diverse practices in place.

Hiring and retaining top talent in the future will also depend on creating a diverse and inclusive environment. There is a lot of work to be done in a space where we are all learning. There aren’t many established best practices yet, and the positive effects can take time, so persistence is important. The good news is you don’t have to have a full strategy to start prioritizing changes in the right direction.

Ultimately, achieving a fully inclusive environment across all facets of your organization’s operations is the goal. This environment will support equity, diversity, justice and access.

I encourage you to consider a framework that drives change in three ways:

1)      Implement processes that mitigate bias & encourage inclusion

2)      Deliver programs that foster inclusion and employee development

3)      Promote techniques to increase empathy & behavioral awareness

Each element of this framework could have its own strategy and many different effective tactics. You can get started with good sponsorship from leadership, a willingness to listen & challenge the status quo, and invest the energy to make and meet goals.

5 Ways To Create a More Inclusive Work Culture

Cinthia Manuel outlines five ways to get you started attracting more diverse candidates and creating a more inclusive work culture:

1)      Make your job descriptions results-based. Jobs descriptions use different terminology based on the industry. Many organizations use creative writing to differentiate themselves, and others use certain words to come across as unique. Make sure that your job descriptions don’t cater only to certain demographics but are encouraging to all who can deliver the results you desire. A job description should not just be a list of skills that an organization is seeking, but it should show what is expected for the candidate to achieve within the first month, three, and six.  

2)      Design gender-neutral job descriptions. Certain words on the job description are written with a gender bias; bias with a male-oriented tone often prevents women from clicking the ‘Apply’ button. Avoid using words like “superhero,” “ninja,” “guru,” etc., to describe the type of employee you are seeking. There are different types of software such Text.io available to help you review your job description and gender-neutral alternatives.

3)      Introduce gender-neutral restrooms, provide female hygiene products, and establish a mother’s room.  Having gender-neutral restrooms can eliminate discrimination towards individuals that are taught to be in the “wrong” restroom. Let your staff know that gender-neutral restrooms are essential to creating an inclusive environment. In addition, ensure that you are allocating a section in your budget to provide an assortment of free female hygiene products in all company restrooms. Last but not least, make sure that providing private spaces for mothers to pump breast milk is not an afterthought. In some places, mother’s rooms are legally required; make sure you are in compliance.

4)      Introduce a flexible work hours policy. Individuals have different situations that could affect their ability to work an 8-to-5 work schedule. Instead of “accommodating,” a single or a couple of individual schedules, create a policy that allows all employees to have the flexibility to design their work schedule. This policy will help eliminate any labeling that could put a negative focus on an employee.

5)      Eliminate bias in operational tasks and meetings. It is important to realize that there is a built-in bias when assigning tasks such as making copies, getting refreshments, planning parties and taking notes in meetings. During an entire week, act as an observer. Take inventory of who is asked to or volunteers for these duties, and make certain it’s balanced among members of the team. Assign gatekeepers during meetings that take stock of who is heard in meetings. Observe who is interrupting, who is silent, who is invited or left out when important decisions are made. Make adjustments to ensure that all voices are heard and that administrative duties don’t always fall to the minority attendees of the meeting. 

If you are already doing some of these things, that’s a great start! Make sure you’re measuring progress on goals you have set and then take on new challenges to make your environment increasingly more inclusive.  Whether you take small steps or bigger leaps, committing to improvement and persevering to deliver change is what’s important.

For more recommendations on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion topics, please feel free to reach out to us!

Jen Coyne, CEO & Co-Founder of The PEAK Fleet, Designing Irresistible Workplaces Jen.Coyne@thepeakfleet.com

Cinthia Manuel, CEO & Founder of Autentica Consulting LLC, Working to Create More Equitable, Inclusive and Diverse Spaces cinthia@autenticaconsulting.com  

 *     Companies in the top quartile for racial ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have higher financial returns above their respective national industry medians Source: Hunt, Vivian, Dennis Layton, and Sara Prince. "Diversity matters." McKinsey & Company 1 (2015)

**      Study Finds Diversity Boosts Innovation in U.S. Companies by Matt Shipman, January 9, 2018 https://news.ncsu.edu/2018/01/diversity-boosts-innovation-2018/

~benefitcorporationsforgood.com~