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How to Implement Inclusion and Diversity at Your Organization There are various ways your organization can kickstart its commitment to prioritize people for the long term.

By Carl Lukach

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Inclusion and diversity (I&D) is more than implementing new policies, creating programs or checking marks off a list. Equitable companies can outpace their competitors by respecting the unique needs, perspectives and potential of all their team members. As a result, companies with outstanding I&D-supported workplaces earn deeper trust and commitment from their employees, which is then reflected in the company's overall outcomes. For a company to successfully carry out inclusion and diversity practices in the workplace it must commit to embedding I&D into all aspects of the business from the top of the command chain down to the communities it serves. By doing so, a company has the power to nourish a better connection with its community while inspiring innovation, opportunity and a sense of belonging.

One of the primary reasons I came to Noodles & Company was due to the company culture and to be a part of an organization that can bring forward strong results while also caring for its team members in an unprecedented way.

As I&D continues to be a top priority for many organizations, knowing where to start and how to balance I&D efforts with other business priorities can feel overwhelming. Progressing I&D will always be an ongoing effort, however, you can kickstart your I&D commitment with some approaches.

1. Start with strong values.

As an organization, your point of view should be rooted in your values. As you focus on your company's I&D practices, ensure the company's values are the North Star in which all decisions are made, providing a unified moral compass. Your strong established values should also be highly showcased and communicated to the public so your audience and future audiences can align themselves with your unique I&D practices.

Related: Do Diversity and Inclusion Have to Be Overwhelming?

2. Listen and learn.

In the wake of George Floyd's tragic death in 2020, organizations and businesses around the country realized there is more we need to do, starting with listening to team members and understanding what they need and want from employers. Inclusivity means something different to every single person you meet. It is important your organization covers all areas of inclusivity and diversity including gender, race, religion, sexuality and more. As you listen to your team members, create a plan to put what you learn into action.

Related: Be Intentional About Diversity

3. Be fearless in taking a bold stance.

When creating and implementing new policies that directly impact or support I&D standards, your company may face pushback from outside individuals or groups that do not agree with your stance. However, it's important to stand bold and affirm the actions you take. If financially supporting LGBTQ+ or racial justice organizations is how your organization shows up for diverse groups, you must stand by that even if faced with criticism. When implementing I&D policies like the inclusion of gender neutral-bathrooms, creating a safe space for employees to address their preferred pronouns or creating pathways for underrepresented groups to achieve leadership positions in your company, ensure you establish these policies boldly regardless of outside feedback.

4. Formalize diversity within your organization.

One crucial step your organization can take towards furthering its I&D commitment is enacting an I&D council to help embed inclusion and diversity into all aspects of the business. Ensure the council is comprised of the most diverse members of your team so diverse perspectives are considered. This council can help process the feedback received from other team members and guide the organization in setting strategic direction for I&D implementation. Another beneficial move could be adding an I&D manager to your organization. When full-time jobs and full-time committees are focused on specific I&D areas, it adds an additional layer of importance and understanding that promotes positive change.

Related: Diversity and Inclusion are Driving Force of Future of Businesses

Carl Lukach

Chief Financial Officer

Carl Lukach has more than 17 years of diverse financial-leadership experience, having served as VP finance at Equinox, and has worked at Abercrombie and Fitch and Credit Suisse. He holds a bachelor’s degree in finance and psychology from Georgetown University.

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