Effective Inclusion Programs Lead to Long-Term, Sustained Success

Are diversity and inclusion interconnected? Yes.
Are they interchangeable? No.

Diversity refers to the traits and characteristics, such as gender, ethnicity, and age, that make people unique. Inclusion is “the achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectively, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization’s success” according to The Society for Human Resources (SHRM). It brings with it a sense of “belonging;” of feeling “welcomed.”

What Is Diversity Without Inclusion? Statistics.

A company that ranks in the top quartile for gender diversity but has few or no women in senior leadership is an example of diversity without inclusion. Why does that matter? Women have no opportunity to impact policy, growth plans, or weigh in on key decisions like promotions and hiring decisions. They are simply numbers.

What Does the Absence of Inclusion Cause? Inequality.

From a social justice perspective, inclusion is the missing link to building healthy communities anchored in equality. From an organizational perspective, it is a key element that can mean the difference between short-term and long-term progress.

Qualities of An Inclusive Culture

Organizations that go beyond meeting “diversity requirements” to practice inclusivity intentionally create environments that reap significant benefits. In their research, Juliet Bourke and Bernadette Dillon found that inclusive cultures were:

  • Twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets
  • Six times as likely to be innovative and agile
  • Eight times as likely to achieve better results

Alex Gorsky, CEO of Johnson and Johnson, wrote, “We recognize that diversity and inclusion should be more than a simple promise; it must be a consistent business priority.” He is joined by hundreds of others who understand that inclusion is the missing link to a healthy, happy workforce and achieving success.

And yet, despite the obvious benefits of a “diversity plus inclusion” strategy, too many leaders fear that such initiatives might become uncomfortable conversations that could stir up more divisiveness. That is a likely possibility; however, leaders who are confident about their abilities to create a work environment where all voices matter are prepared to turn such conversations into opportunities for cohesiveness.

Where to Start? Bias.

Let’s accept that if we have a brain, we have a bias. Call it out. Remind us that it is part of life’s experience. Show us that it does not have to govern how we make decisions.

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, bluntly states that “Any advice that advocates passivity in the face of bias is wrong. Leaders need to act and shape the culture to root out biases and create an environment where everyone can effectively advocate for themselves.”

Leaders, who are committed to incorporating inclusion into their workplace, set the tone by relentlessly focusing on the value of each employee. They ensure that inclusion is a core value that is actively practiced. It begins with who gets heard at meetings. They make certain that no one voice or personality dominates.

They also consciously guard against their own biases, especially when recruiting or promoting. They incentivize employees to root out flaws in systems and create new processes to mitigate the possibility of bias.

Companies with successful inclusion programs seek to create one large “in-group,” where nobody is out, everybody is in, and every individual can be their best self. It’s the secret sauce to long-term, sustained success.

Linda Cassell, M.Ed, CPCC, is an independent certified neuro leadership coach at Management Concepts and president and founder of Quantum Leap Coaching and Training, LLC. An expert in leadership development, crisis management, and culture transformation, Linda works with executives in the commercial, non-profit, and public sectors. She holds a Bachelor of Science and Master’s degrees in Education from Kent State University and is a graduate of the Coaches Training Institute. Linda also holds a Neuro Leadership Coach certification from Mark Waldman.