Many of us know the benefits of fostering diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives for our organizations, but not every company makes it past the initial hurdles. Businesses that fail with DE&I efforts just aren’t measuring things in the best ways. It’s not hard to find a culture survey for your employees to take, but it’s much tougher to accurately measure the results and take actionable steps for improvement. A lot of this comes down to getting past the surveys by truly understanding context, real definitions and implementing strategies tailored specifically to your organization’s unique needs.
As leaders, it’s important for us to really understand the definitions of inclusion and collaboration and then align these foundations within the context of our company’s goals. Once we understand the definitions, we can take a closer look at how we measure the qualitative and quantitative results from our DE&I initiatives. Then it’s critical to take the right actions based on the data we find, doing all we can to better promote inclusion and collaboration for our employees and teams. This includes grappling with the challenging paradoxes that may come up on our unending journeys for improvement.
We know what’s important for the bottom line, so how do we make the right changes?
Understand the clear definitions of inclusion and collaboration.
When we bring diverse groups together, we unlock a variety of viewpoints that help us find innovative solutions. But in order to encourage this innovation, we also need to foster inclusion in our teams. When our employees feel that they belong in the group—when they feel seen, valued and included—they’re far more likely to contribute their best work. This sense of contribution and connection is what drives innovation. Without belonging, and without inclusion, you’re leaving your diverse talent underutilized, rendering them as mere “diversity hires” to simply check a box.
Once our teams feel comfortable being their true selves at work, they can learn to trust each other more. This sense of psychological safety is what unlocks increased collaboration between teams and leaders alike. Inclusion is essentially unattainable without psychological safety and belonging. Collaboration improves when teams are aligned with one another on goals and commitments. Everyone needs to cooperate well through active role clarity, communication and knowledge sharing. Teams also require compassion through empathy and support, and fairness through objectivity and embracing diversity.
When you combine these dimensions together and master them, you can create high-performing teams that outshine the rest. But in order to get there, you’ll have to take the right measurements before you can make the right changes.
Measure the qualitative and quantitative results and take action.
Identify which dimensions of inclusion and collaboration your teams are doing well with and which areas need improvement. Whether that’s through surveys, employee 1:1s or other avenues, you’ll need to gather the data. For organizations that pride themselves on compassion, for example, you might display plenty of empathy while lacking in support. Do your teams feel supported at work? Ask them and see what they say. If measuring psychological safety shows that your company’s culture may discourage employees from speaking out honestly, you’ll need to first make sure your employees don’t fear retaliation for speaking up. Otherwise, the data you uncover won’t be accurate or truly actionable.
Most organizations are currently struggling with cooperation, often caused by a lack of role clarity and knowledge sharing. Not everyone understands their roles or what exactly they’re responsible for, whether that’s due to a failure to set expectations or to disruptive environments. Or if they do understand, they’re not willing to share information with teammates. In toxic workplaces, overly competitive employees can hoard knowledge and create silos for themselves, convinced they will fail if anyone else happens to succeed. If you notice this zero-sum behavior, get to the root of the issue by encouraging communication. Create a culture where everyone wins together as a team.
Deal with paradoxes that surface from the process.
Measuring and promoting inclusion and collaboration at work isn’t always easy. Sometimes you’ll have to deal with challenging setbacks and paradoxes. You can be an organization that believes in falling forward, but how do you stay accountable? How do you continue to provide support for experimentation and learning when things take a downward turn? Tackling these issues in good faith is a challenge for any business, but it’s a valuable skill we should all develop as leaders and innovators.
So when you know it’s time to foster better inclusion and collaboration at work, be strategic about it. Understand the definitions and how each dimension aligns with your company’s culture. Measure the real, honest results and take decisive actions that can positively impact your teams and your organization. Then handle the contradictions that inevitably surface on your growth journey.
By making these conscious changes, you can create an outstanding environment and community for your employees. They can reward you as high-performing, inclusive teams that outperform your competition and possibly your expectations! Because when your teams succeed, your business can succeed and thrive for years to come.
Originally posted to the Forbes Human Resources Council blog here.