An inclusive culture is one that embraces and celebrates our differences – differences in experiences, backgrounds, and ways of thinking. There has been a lot of research conducted indicating that inclusive businesses have more highly-engaged, motivated, and productive workforces. Yet, in 2020 organizations are still struggling to create an inclusive culture. Changing culture remains a critical priority for many of the world’s most innovative organizations even today.
So how do you get your people proactively collaborating together to drive your organization’s culture change efforts forward? As the saying goes, even the longest journey begins with a single step. But there are no silver bullets – it’s a series of tiny steps all happening at the same time that makes culture change happen.
In this interview with Dominique Rodriguez-Sawyer, Chief People Officer, FARE, we look at how organizations can reorganize teams at work to facilitate an inclusive organization. Rodriguez-Sawyer is also co-leading DEIA efforts among staff and leadership, as well as partners and organizational event participants. She helps ensure that all are treated appropriately and fairly, and all staff understands why it's important and how to do so.
Here is an excerpt from the interview:
Q: The business case for diversity & inclusion started with CSR and then it moved to achieve business value. However, we still haven't been able to cascade the story of ROI into a meaningful conversation. We still try to convince leaders that if we hire diversely, we will be able to retain better. What do you think?
Hiring diversely is only the first step. For the organization and its leadership to understand the ROI that results from diversity and inclusion, it may take some time to see the results and to illustrate successes with data. As HR professionals, we must invest in the entire development of each individual, with training that includes proven facts and research on the benefits from diverse people and the viewpoints they bring to the inner workings of the organization. And, education shouldn’t stop once a new employee is in the door – and for that matter, among seasoned team members. You need mentorship and ongoing dialog to help everyone acclimate to, sometimes, a new way of operating and shift in culture. For example, look at partners, competitors, and others who are successful in your field. Make connections to their successes and diversity. A great way to learn is to read the trade publications in your field and share relevant pieces with your colleagues regularly. And, of course, managers must be trained on the unintentional bias, to ensure they view all staff members on their team through a fair lens. The compensation ranges and promotion opportunities are based on the same performance standard based for all. If any one of these elements are missing you are only applying a temporary fix but not a sustainable solution.
Q: To a very large extent, we believe that D&I is the prerogative of HR and the top leader or CXOs in the organization. Your linchpin is your mid-management and your first-level management. How do we get them to become accountable to achieve our D&I goals and embed inclusion as a priority?
D&I is the responsibility of every employee in the organization. This needs to be an expectation for all staff, from the CXO to the junior staff member. Mid-managers should be educated and their actions measured in a manner that fits within the culture of the organization. There also should be accountability built into management compensation incentives that are based on how they have to advocate for and driving representation, treatment, and advancement.
Q: D&I shouldn't be just a leadership priority. How can we get everyone as the agents of change in the journey of creating a gender-balanced workplace? It needs to be embedded into the culture.
Culture change can happen through training such as recognizing unconscious bias - providing guidelines to staff on how to react to and recognize personal bias when they see it. Ask for feedback through surveys to hear the voice of your employees and then establish Resource Groups that will work to find solutions to some of the feedback received. Follow through on the requests for change where and when possible. Keep staff informed and show transparency in compensation and promotion processes. When leadership is open and transparent, staff feel they trust that their voice will be heard. Individuals who feel heard want what is good for the organization.
Q: How can we raise more allies in the workplace?
You can do this through mentorship, and by individuals in positions of influence advocating for those who may not be in a room when decisions are being made. I also believe that it’s important to listen to one another. Provide opportunities or forums – large or small – for people to share their personal stories and journeys. Once we understand each other, it’s much easier to find empathy and allies.
Q: How we can create a culture of openness where people are confident to talk about their apprehensions?
Make it known to staff that there is simply no tolerance for anything other than acceptance for all, and create opportunities for those who are willing, to share their stories. Start with high-ranking members of the organization and set aside specific times for uninterrupted conversations – no cell phones, no leaving the room. Give full attention and listen. Acknowledge suggestions made by staff. Whether or not an idea is implemented, respect for the individual is paramount in feeding a culture of openness.
Q: In your organization, how have reorganized teams at work to facilitate an inclusive workplace?
FARE has recently undergone a turnaround. I am very happy to say that we have added many diverse members of leadership, board, and staff. We’ve provided staff an opportunity to share their views on how the organization is performing on the topic of diversity through our morale and inclusion survey. Our goal is to create Resource Groups that help address every employee from leadership to junior staff who participated in Unconscious Bias Training. In our recruiting and hiring process, we are increasing our diversity hiring in our sourcing by placing our job opportunities at HBCUs both for permanent hires and possible internships that will help potential graduates see FARE as a possible career option. FARE is also working to ensure that our processes are free from bias. Our job descriptions are examined to ensure the language attracts and does not avert diverse candidates from applying. Certain words like “rock-star” “analytical,” or “authoritative” have been shown to steer women candidates away. Our goal is to work towards making our job opportunities as appealing to as wide a range of individuals as possible.