Company culture tends to trickle down from the top, but there are important roles team members at all levels can play to create an inclusive culture with their own behaviors, in leading teams and managing staff.
“Today, we talk about diversity AND inclusion because having a sense that you belong and your contribution is as important as everyone else’s, is the starting point,” explains Libby Sartain, a Professional Director serving on the Boards of Shutterfly, ManpowerGroup, AARP and the Society for Human Resource Management. She is also former Chief Human Resources Officer for Yahoo! Inc. and Southwest Airlines. “If you do not create that cohesive feeling of belonging, you will not reap the rewards of diversity,” she says.
Sartain will explain how to Create a Culture of Inclusion at WFF’s Executive Summit July 23-24 in Dallas. LEAD THE WAY: Strategies and Insights to Advance Gender Equity will engage leaders at the director level and above in company teams to create organization-specific strategies to move the needle on gender equity.
A recent Deloitte survey of more than 1,300 full-time employees in the U.S. found that 80% said inclusion is an important factor when choosing an employer. Nearly three-fourths said they would leave or consider leaving their employer for a more inclusive organization.
Although Sartain and others agree CEOs must take ownership for creating an inclusive culture and driving accountability among leaders, experts also point out that employee behaviors are critical. In fact, your behavior may be one of the most important factors in inspiring new ways of interacting and collaborating within and across functional areas among your peers and staff.
Ideas for creating inclusion from the ground up . . .
Get input from new sources
Next time you’re in the company cafeteria or waiting for an elevator, consider bouncing an idea off someone new. Getting outside your silo can provide new perspectives and demonstrates your belief that individuals from all areas have valuable input.
Change your (physical) view
When feasible, set up shop for a few hours in another area of your building. Or ask to spend a day in an empty workspace when traveling to other company locations. New environments can spark new ways of seeing your organization and its people.
Put someone else in charge
If you run every department meeting, ask someone else to take the helm and see how the conversation changes. A different focus can spark new ideas and build participation. The same is true for project leads. Changing things up can enable contributors to expand their skill set and perspective.
Ask before assuming
Just because someone has a young child at home does not mean she or he won’t welcome an opportunity to visit an overseas client. Just as someone who has been with the company for years might relish tackling a new opportunity. Ask first.
Get outside the job (at least mentally)
It’s too easy to see colleagues as single-dimensional cogs in a wheel if you only interact around specific work topics. Consider asking what your coworkers do outside of work for fun and you may find commonalities that forge stronger feelings of acceptance and connection.
When direct reports or colleagues know you value an inclusive culture, they will be more likely to share your enthusiasm. As Sartain advises, “You need to make sure that sense of inclusion is happening at midnight with the team closing a restaurant, with the people transporting and delivering goods on the road and in the C-Suite every day.”
Fostering a sense of belonging among your team and colleagues is a great way to spark inclusiveness in your own sphere and provide an example for others to follow.