2020 reshaped our future in many ways. It led to realignment of priorities and the dawn of a new purpose, for not only individuals, but businesses and governments too. For many, it led to an introspection on what it takes to be truly progressive in today’s world. Inclusion can take on several different shapes and forms, while remaining rooted to the empowerment of an individual. An organization's success hinges on its relationship with its workforce, and a healthy environment can be assured only when every employee feels valued and included. It is thus imperative that every individual in an organization is valued and empowered, irrespective of their nationality, culture, age, gender, sexual orientation, academic or career background, and lifestyle.
A pertinent question that arises is how do we actively cultivate the culture of inclusion in the modern workplace and who must share the responsibility of ensuring its success? A collective understanding and participation from both leaders and employees will ensure a positive impact and overall success. Especially now, as many people will continue working from home, how do we ensure that there is collective participation of all stakeholders in upholding and spreading the inclusion mission? Organizations that are progressive in their efforts to be more inclusive will not only survive, but thrive.
Creating awareness around inclusion and eliminating biases
Organizations have to be clear about how they view inclusion, and must customise and contextualise their roadmap for implementing necessary actions. The first step has to be enabling self-awareness around inherent biases that might exist within the organization and to actively eliminate them. These biases can be manifesting themselves anywhere - be it in hiring, internal career movements, or opportunities for involvement in important initiatives. The creation of internal platforms for voicing opinions and grievances, can help identify problem areas on a regular basis. Facilitating meaningful training programmes for employees that sensitizes and educates them on the nuances of inclusion can also usher in positive change in society at large.
While it is key to cultivate inclusion at higher echelons of an organization, adopting an approach where day-to-day decision makers are educated on the merits of inclusion, is the need of the hour. This can lead to the creation of champions of inclusion, who can then become the drivers of change, as they positively influence their larger circles.
An inclusive approach is a business imperative
An inclusive approach must be actively present in the operations and day-to-day functioning of an organization, and not be pursued in silo. Businesses have to introspect and see how inclusion can be integrated into the very fabric of their functioning. For this, they have to devise
workplace policies, forums and innovative employee centric practices that are aimed at making the workplace more inclusive. The goals for being more inclusive have to be concrete, time-bound and involve the participation from all key stakeholders.
Some of potential steps can be – increasing employment opportunities for the differently- abled, diversifying hiring efforts to include non-metro candidates, enabling flexible working hours, equal uniform healthcare coverage and creating programmes for new parents to make a positive transition back to work. These steps serve as the right starting point for any organization looking to create a more inclusive workspace.
Translating words into actions
An inclusive workplace can be established only if a considerable community within the organization understands its merits. For this, leaders have to ensure that the nuances of inclusion are understood and valued by the entire organization. Senior representatives should be open to feedback and maintain an open channel of communication with all employees. It’s important for every employee to feel like they are heard and therefore, share the larger vision for the organization. As mentioned before, implementation and action are absolutely necessary. A progressive outlook effective only if specific actions are implemented swiftly and efficiently. Organizations must also frequently communicate and close the feedback loop with employees.
It is now increasingly vital for inclusion efforts to expand to include every kind of employee. When the entire workforce understands the importance of inclusion, it not only leads to a more hospitable workspace, but organically creates more enablers and agents of positive change.
To echo the oft-repeated adage of ‘unity in diversity’, organizations need to integrate inclusion into their charter and then back it up with a concerted action plan. A dynamic future of work beckons us, and the onus is on all of us to proactively reach for it.