Getting to ‘We’ – Making Inclusion a Priority in 2022

The post-Millennial generation is on track to be the most diverse in U.S. history, according to analysis by the Pew Research Center. The more diverse we become, the greater the expectation and responsibility for inclusion. After all, diversity is only the start of the equation for positive workplace culture; it takes inclusion to activate diversity. This is but one of many compelling reasons for making inclusion a workplace priority in 2022.

In an inclusive environment, everyone feels a strong sense of belonging to the group, both in terms of the work they are doing and the relationships they are forming. Their contributions, their presence and their viewpoint are recognized and valued. In this environment, each individual is confident that the tasks they perform make good use of their skills and abilities, and that they can show up to perform these tasks as their true selves without hiding aspects of their identity or personality. 

Inclusion is the foundation that drives performance. Gartner’s research shows that 75% of organizations with frontline decision-making teams with a diverse and inclusive culture exceed their financial targets. 

And, the benefits of fostering inclusion and diversity in the workplace go beyond the most obvious financial results. An inclusive culture increases your ability to attract and retain talent, grows employee and customer trust and engagement, and boosts innovation. 

Through RallyBright’s own research we have learned you can drive inclusion by understanding and addressing some of the most important current concerns at work, including talent retention and acquisition, belonging and being valued, psychological safety, sense of purpose, burnout and low engagement, and office culture and mission.

But inclusion doesn’t happen without a conscious and deliberate strategy. Cultivating an inclusive work environment is challenging, even within companies that are successfully hiring diverse talent. Still, making inclusion a priority is now an imperative. Checking boxes and symbolic gestures are not enough to move the needle on inclusion. Customers expect a genuine commitment. And employees and job candidates demand it. This calls for thoughtful, engaged leadership backed by adequate financial investment.

Gartner’s research shows that 75% of organizations with frontline decision-making teams with a diverse and inclusive culture exceed their financial targets. 

As you consider how you can prioritize inclusion this year, here are four practices adopted by inclusion leaders that can help you begin to foster an inclusive culture.

Define what inclusion means in your organization

Establish standards of behavior based on a shared understanding of inclusion. This can encompass recognizing and respecting the diverse voices, perspectives and ideas contributed by your workforce. It may also include operating in an authentic, respectful, trusting and ethical manner, or serving others with respect and compassion.

Assess your capacity for inclusion

How is inclusion currently practiced by your teams? For example, are inclusive behaviors (e.g. respectful challenging of ideas) defined, modeled, and reinforced? Identify obvious areas for improvement. Then design and execute strategies, systems, practices and policies that cultivate an inclusive culture in which all employees experience a sense of belonging and opportunity. 

As an example of how to practice inclusion, Gartner suggests adopting a team manifesto to drive engagement and tie inclusion to the team’s mission. “A meaningful, inspiring purpose matters for any team, because it fosters engagement and a sense of shared investment. Inspired by a common purpose, everyone feels that it is ‘their’ mission, not someone else’s,” explains  Gartner’s Bruce Robertson.

Recruit and develop inclusive leaders

Inclusion requires thoughtful, engaged leadership, backed by practices and systems to ensure leaders deliver on inclusion commitments. Provide the training and tools to develop more inclusive leaders in a way that inspires ownership of personal and professional growth. Encourage champions of inclusion by identifying those who are driving inclusion within your organization, and amplify their ideas for company-wide impact. 

Track progress over time

Establish measures of success and continue to work toward your objectives. A Gartner survey found that 85% of D&I leaders cited organizational inclusion as the most important talent outcome of their D&I efforts. Yet only 57% of organizations currently use that metric to track D&I progress, and many of those aren’t confident in that metric. The firm recommends prioritizing a metric that tracks overall progress over time. 

Our own Inclusive Collaboration Toolkit enables organizations to track key variables of organizational collaboration and inclusion, including alignment, cooperation, compassion, fairness, psychological safety and belonging. By gathering this knowledge, organizations can pinpoint areas to address. 

Making inclusion a priority is good business. It’s imperative for fostering innovation, gaining the trust and support of customers, and attracting and retaining talent. But, building inclusion doesn’t happen overnight, which means there is no better time than now to formulate a deliberate strategy. By making inclusion a priority in 2022, this time next year you could be among those companies that are measuring progress toward inclusion goals and experiencing the business benefits that result.

John Estafanous is the founder and CEO of RallyBright.