4 Strategies To Create More Inclusion in Business
An inclusive workforce is a vital component of any successful business and requires constant attention to ensure all voices are heard and acknowledged. Diversity is your team's greatest strength. Use it.
Countless studies show that inclusion in the workplace is a bedrock for company profitability and success. From improved innovation, to better collaboration and overall greater efficiency, inclusion encourages a broad group of people with different perspectives to unleash superpowers that drive creativity. It’s the concept that multiple heads are better than one — that teams made up of both left- and right-handed individuals are more likely to create a better product than a team made up of only right-handed individuals.
The last time you went to a major sporting event or concert, you might have noticed how long the line was for the women’s restroom versus the men’s — I’m always the rebel who says, “Ladies, let’s take it over!” But there’s a reason the line for the women’s restroom is always four times as long: It’s too small, doesn’t have enough stalls and doesn’t take into consideration our biological needs as women. This flaw in architectural design, which has yet to be addressed, no matter how modern the facility, is a real-world example of an inclusion problem that affects women. It’s because we didn’t have a seat at the table when such venues were being designed.
Ensuring there’s a seat for everyone at the table means ensuring your products are designed with everyone in mind — and that’s a big customer base. Opportunities for inclusion show up in the simplest of ways. Implementing strategies to intentionally make inclusion part of your organization’s culture can help improve your products and exponentially grow your business.
1. Be intentional
To incorporate inclusion, you have to be intentional and think holistically. Understand that it has to permeate every element of your business operation and that you must truly live those values in everything you do. How you recruit, what your HR practices are, what products you promote, your marketing, your environment and where your company is located all need to factor in inclusion. If you look around the room and everyone looks the same, talks the same and went to the same school, it’s not an inclusive environment.
If you don’t have a diverse group of people, chances are you’re not going to reach a portion of your audience, which ultimately diminishes profitability and gives your competitors an advantage. Take a hard look at every aspect of your business. Are there people stepping on diversity and inclusion instead of promoting it? Do your employees actually have a say in your business practices? Are they a part of your frontline teams? Are they in leadership? Many businesses make beautiful pledges, but when you go behind the curtain, that's not the reality of the operation.
2. Dismantle the system
Most businesses are hierarchical in nature. You have to dismantle the rigid system to get rid of any inherent bias — seniority, geography, age, race, etc. — and be open to different structures to include people you might have overlooked before. If you’re trying to reach a Gen Z or millennial audience, make sure to include your Gen Z and millennial employees, listen to their feedback and consider their input, which will often be very different from what you’ll hear from other demographics. Inclusion is like an aperture: The more open it is, the more you see, and the more ideas you’ll have to validate and move forward.
3. Trust feedback and opinions
Be careful to ensure your inclusion efforts are genuine and comprehensive. It’s not just about having a red ball, green ball, purple ball and yellow ball. You have to acknowledge, appreciate and respect all of the differences and nuances each of those balls brings into play. What does that collaboration look like? How do you create something that brings it all together? That's the hard part, because there are things you simply don’t know. The only way to truly understand is to ask for and be open to feedback, and to trust in the people you bring to the table.
When you get your feedback, make sure you really listen to it. Some of it might be hard to swallow — it might be tempting to get defensive and choose not to believe it. But this defeats the purpose. The only way you’ll really make positive change is to really listen, then act accordingly.
4. Ask employees what works
When it comes to knowing whether or not inclusive procedures work, most businesses never ask their own staff, and they're always surprised when it’s brought up. But if you’re only getting feedback from your customers, that’s only half the picture. I recently read an article about two letters of resignation from Salesforce by two women who talked about the micro aggressions they'd suffered during their careers. If you read the trade press and everything else about Salesforce, it sounds wonderful. However, in the day-to-day, that's not what it turned out to be for some employees. And that’s what matters most, because it’s your culture. If you ask your employees, they will tell you what works and what doesn’t. Run anonymous surveys. Be ready to hear more hard truths, and then focus on finding real solutions.
When it comes to inclusion, you have to take action. Don’t just talk about it. Actually do it and understand that it’s going to require constant effort. You don't want trophies for inclusion — you want operational rigor and commitment. When we’re intentional about inclusion, we can all truly reap the benefits — together.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor