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Diverse Hiring and Inclusive Leadership Is How Startups Thrive Making inclusion a cornerstone of company culture assures you that every good idea is voiced and heard.

By Angela Kambouris

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Diversity creates opportunity, value and respect for all. Inclusive leaders ensure you feel it. Empowering people, capitalizing on the strengths of each employee, and using the full potential of every individual provides your team with a competitive edge.

Inclusion makes all people feel like they belong. It's about finding like-mindedness in our differences and placing our unique differences at the center of conversations to be able to grow and build inclusive teams. Inclusion is about growth of the individual, growth of the team and growth of the organization. You break down silos by shared problem solving and creating safe and trusting environments.

Related: See Inclusion and Diversity as a Growth Strategy, Not a Cost

Inclusion is a mandatory part of organizational culture, and defining how a company listens to its people is today's business. Diversity and inclusion are now a business reality. Companies like Facebook and Salesforce are publicly highlighting gender equality and setting a strong example. Salesforce performed a comprehensive analysis of 17,000 employees, identified a gender pay gap and spent roughly $3 million to even out the disparity.

Let me share with you how embracing inclusive practices make a difference.

Are we asking the right question?

Organizations continue to ask the same question over and over. How do we train diverse employees for them to succeed in our culture? We continue to ask the wrong question and wonder why we expect different results. Geoff Llopis, author of The Innovation Mentality, asks a valid question: "Why do people need your diversity and inclusion plan, and what is the opportunity it is solving for you?" If you cannot answer the question, then you are probably solving the wrong things.

Move from group to team.

Leaders need to grow your workforce from groups into teams to maximize the full potential of every individual. Establish a team working towards a shared vision. The common purpose is the driving force. When teams are unified each member understands and supports each other in a manner that feels inclusive. The overarching goal is to accomplish its mission. The synergy of the team creates the competitive edge.

Predator waiting to pounce.

Unconscious bias is like a predator waiting to pounce as it lurks in the back of every mind. Our bias is deeply rooted within usand serves as a filtering lens that can shade our perceptions of what people are capable of.

Education plays a vital role in awareness of the issue. Eradicating bias from systems and processes is the first step. Giving leaders a language to discuss bias and holding them accountable needs to be a priority. Even more than that, teaching leaders how to lead conversation to co-develop solutions with staff has to be a priority.

Related: 5 Ways You Can Create a More Inclusive Workplace Immediately -- and Why You Should

Beginning the conversation within the organization.

Often workplaces wait for a new initiative to be released before conversations begin. Starting a conversation amongst colleague's drives buy-in that can be difficult to develop when an initiative is led top -down. How often do we see organizations adopt an approach and attempt to sell an initiative, only to see it flat line? Open the conversation by defining what inclusion means, what it looks like and how it feels and how will you know it is happening organically within the organization. Make a commitment to the value of diversity and inclusion by having open conversation and agenda items in various forums.

Explore the elements of inclusion.

Often conversations limit themselves to gender and race. Highlighting that there are many categories of differences in the workplace and the value of having many perspectives creates more robust discussions and more effective implementations. It takes more than delivering one class and a conscious decision to remove bias, as they are deeply rooted beliefs.

Inclusive leadership requires a lifelong commitment to your people through personal development and coaching. Learn to recognize differences and how to benefit from them to cultivate a new culture.

People first.

Inclusion is not about color, race and culture; it is about embracing the uniqueness of all individuals, eradicating oppression of all forms and inspiring a workforce that lines up at the door because they want to belong to an organization that believes in them.

Deloitte partner Juliet Bourke says research into the impact of inclusive leaders found a strong connection between authentic leadership and individual feelings of inclusion. Employees were more likely to experience greater self-worth as organizational members, more likely to help their coworkers and more likely to care about the organization's performance.

Creating standards of excellence in the workplace.

It means welcoming and encouraging involvement by creating a space where asking for help is the norm and actively seeking information and problem solving is a collective responsibility. It's creating a team spirit where each person feels like they are a part of something. You have to draw people into conversations and ask them what they think, using periods of silence to allow thoughts to develop.

Related: 3 Ways to Build a Diverse Team of Lifelong Employees

Build of culture of inclusion that starts from the top.

Symbolic workplace changes are critical at the top of organizations if you are serious about inclusion. Developing a narrative as to why inclusion is critical to business success should be the priority of creating change. Highlighting the benefits, integrating inclusion into the organizational values, is significant in guiding behaviors and holding senior leaders to account for non-inclusive behaviors. Showcasing highly inclusive leaders and the benefits derived for the organization leads the way.

Proctor & Gamble became a leader in this arena by investing $2 billion annually to support diversity programs. From advancing women leaders through comprehensive leadership programs, to a stronger presence of women amongst managers and driving a leadership position in supporting employees with disabilities to ensure an inclusive workplace where all can contribute -- P&G was a shining star for inclusion.

Angela Kambouris

CEO of Evoluccion Consulting Agency

Angela Kambouris built a high-level career as an executive in the field of vulnerability and trauma. A global consultant and founder of Evoluccion Consulting Agency, she writes about how the leader’s mindset drives workplace culture, how to cultivate leaders and set the leadership team for success.

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