The Inclusion Litmus Test: 5 Steps to Take in Your Workplace

The Inclusion Litmus Test: 5 Steps to Take in Your Workplace

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI): it’s one of the most popular buzzwords floating around professional development and executive coaching circles today. Companies who invest in DEI are watching it boost their bottom line, and their competitors are taking note and following suit. And yet:

 

  • Clear Company reports that over half of employees surveyed still think their companies could be more diverse. 
  • Another report shows only 17% of employees actually support more diverse hiring practices. 
  • And 45% of American workers experienced discrimination and/or harassment in the past year according to a recent Gallup poll. 

 

So what gives? 

 

The short answer: hiring a DEI professional or attending a workshop doesn’t automatically make your company more diverse. And even if it becomes more diverse after implementing some DEI practices, your work environment does not instantly become more inclusive. To stop at the appearance of diversity is to stop short. We must challenge ourselves and test our practices and habits against true inclusion. A simple way to do this is to think of the process as taking steps along a path.

 

Step One: Know Your Biases

One of the primary reasons that prejudice, discrimination, and harm persist in the workplace is that our biases, both unconscious or conscious, continue unchecked and unchanged. Biases are anything we feel for or against a person or group, and those feelings result in prejudice when we act on them. 

 

For example, if we’re inclined to believe that people of color don’t work as hard, or that disabled people aren’t as productive, then we are less likely to hire them or promote them to leadership roles. 

 

No one is immuned from biases, but the more aware we are, the more work we can do to act in opposition to them. We can reset our course by doing things like taking reputable tests to identify our biases and examining those biases against facts and best practices. 

 

Step Two: Accept New Beliefs 

Once we have a sense of where our biases have crept into our workplace, and have squared them against more realistic, neutral thinking, we can accept new beliefs that are rooted in more empathic leadership. 

 

For example, once we learn that removing identifying demographic information from job applications makes it 5 times more likely women will be hired, it gets easier to move away from old beliefs about women not being as qualified as their male counterparts and accept the new belief that they’re equally qualified, based on the real data right in front of us. As we accept these new beliefs across our business operations, ideas for new policies, practices, and procedures begin to emerge.

 

Step Three: Demonstrate Understanding

It’s when these ideas emerge that we have the chance to take the next step and demonstrate our understanding by putting them into action and adapting accordingly. 

During this stage of experimentation and exploration, it’s important to stay curious. 

 

  • Might this new approach work for our teams and our leadership? 
  • What do we do if it doesn’t? 
  • How do we proceed if it does? 

 

It can be a challenge to practice understanding and begin to work through your biases. After all, sameness makes a lot of things run more smoothly. That’s a big part of why people keep up the status quo and take the path of least resistance. But when we recognize the value of what we’re doing—both for our workplace culture and our bottom line— we can put our energy toward finding common ground that makes the transition smoother and appreciating the unique strengths and ideas brought to light by more diverse, welcoming teams. 

 

Step Four: Change Your Behavior 

It’s exciting to see the power of moving beyond ideas about diversity to more inclusive actions as they ripple through our leadership teams and departments. But it’s important not to let emotions carry us away from action. As leaders, we have an obligation to model not only understanding the true power of diversity but to put it into practice by changing our behavior. After all, inclusion isn’t just about inviting people to the table, it’s about clearing the way for their full participation in leadership, culture-shaping, and workplace policy change. 

 

Step Five: Repeat the Process

One of the most energizing things about truly inclusive workplaces is that they’re dynamic: they’re always evolving, changing, and fluctuating. So our efforts to be inclusive are never truly done. As we make changes, we must evaluate them to ensure they’re effective, and adapt as needed to make them sustainable into the future.

 

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