By Megan Killian, vice president – member relations
Inclusion starts with creating a welcoming environment, one where all viewpoints and backgrounds are valued. And you are vital to its success. Yes, I mean you. Not your boss, or that guy in the cube next to yours – I mean you.
A CEO can make speeches about inclusion and truly believe that the workforce must support these efforts. Management can put forth initiatives to hire more diverse candidates, can assemble committees and task forces to reinforce those goals, and can demonstrate the importance of inclusion through their own actions. But if it’s not being implemented every day, at all levels – by you – then it will fail.
Why is inclusion important? Sure, it is the right thing to do, but it’s also good for business. A 2017 Gallup study showed that “employees who feel strong social connections at work have higher levels of well-being and engagement than those who do not.” If an employee feels like an outsider and does not feel included, they are more likely to have performance issues or simply leave a job. Plus, better inclusion at all levels helps to retain diverse talent. And research shows that more diverse companies perform better creatively and financially.
I really like the analogy that Jina Etienne, director of diversity and inclusion at Grant Thornton, used in her presentations about rethinking diversity and inclusion: “Diversity is inviting someone to the party, but inclusion is inviting them to dance.” The dancing part is where you come in. Your boss, human resources, or others who make the hiring decisions make the invite to the party; it’s up to you to get them to dance. Each person can make a difference in making someone feel welcomed and included.
It’s quite easy, too. Just talk to people. Get to know those who may have different backgrounds. Invite them to social events and be sure to include them in meetings and discussions. Most importantly, be authentic about it. This Entrepreneur article has more great tips.
Bobbi Kelly, HR director at Kreischer Miller, wrote about her experience being the outsider and what a difference feeling welcomed really made. Empathy, understanding, perspective, and appreciating each other’s differences all contribute to fostering an inclusive culture in any situation.
It is important that company leaders support and prioritize diversity and inclusion. But it’s also equally important that individual employees do their part to support inclusion as well.