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Diversity and Innovation: Creating and Maintaining an Inclusive Workplace

Posted by Liliana Piña on March 09, 2018

Last week, we hosted a sold-out Women’s Network breakfast, which featured an expert-led panel on workplace culture. The event was moderated by Su Juon, Principal of Diversity@Workplace, who also conducted a workshop on unconscious bias, a part of our new leadership workshop series, following the main event. Panelists included: Andrew Dreyfus, President and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts; Christina Luconi, Chief People Officer for Rapid7; and Grace Speights, Partner at Morgan Lewis. The level of excitement and audience participation was a true testament to how critical the topic of workplace culture is here in Boston, especially given current sociopolitical climate. Whether you are a business leader seeking to make a change, a manager looking to improve employee morale, or someone who is simply interested in the topic, workplace culture affects us all and there is much to be learned about it. Here are some takeaways from the event to get you started:

Make diversity and inclusion training an integral part of your company.

In a time when movements such as #metoo are fighting to create true equality in the workplace, it is imperative that companies think critically about their diversity and inclusion training offerings, or lack thereof. Diversity and inclusion training should be treated as seriously as any other component of your company, and the same business discipline should be applied. An easy way to start this is to make sure that there is an awareness of issues within your workplace – at all corporate levels. This will allow you to take a clear look at the workplace environment and notice areas of improvement, so you can begin rectifying them.

Do more than train, teach.

Though the topic of diversity and inclusion extends far past the workplace, training should be pinpointed so that employees know how to handle workplace-specific situations. Typically, trainings that are more discussion-based have the best results, especially if they delve into specific scenarios and explain how to handle common situations. Trainings should address how to appropriately manage people in an inclusive manner, not simply how to reduce the risk of formal complaints of this variety. One way to do this is to set performance objectives specifically related to diversity and inclusion. This promotes accountability and engagement while also reinforcing the importance of inclusivity in your workplace’s culture.

If you can’t find talent, cultivate it.

A trite excuse employers often give when justifying their lack of diversity is an overall shortage of minority talent. Though this is simply untrue in many cases, for those odd instances where it is true, there is a solution. Instead of finding talent, companies should look to cultivate it. A business invests in many things, and diverse talent should certainly be one of them as diversity provides a proven return on investment. A more diverse and inclusive company is a more financially and economically successful company – in all markets – so companies can only gain from diversifying their workplaces. Additionally, it is important for lower-level employees within your company to see people that look like themselves in positions of power; this gives them the ability to see what can be possible for them and will motivate them to perform better. A feasible way to begin incorporating this into your company is to think more about talent management, specifically by identifying talent in the organization early, promoting them when appropriate, and giving them opportunities so they can create career paths that works for them.

It’s about more than compliance – it’s about accountability.

It is important to create a cultural value system within your team to ensure that if any instances violate company diversity and inclusion policies, they are dealt with appropriately. This must be done on not only a legal level, but on a personal one as well. A legal defense is not always sufficient in satisfying an issue in a way that will make all parties involved comfortable, so employers should take a people-centric tactic when dealing with these issues. It is crucial that managers at all levels hold themselves and one another accountable for mistakes that they make, not only to reduce risk but also create a workplace culture that promotes positive inclusion behaviors.

We’re all pickled. Let’s just make progress.

In the unconscious bias leadership workshop, Su Juon explained that there is no way to eliminate bias – it is something inherent in all of us as humans – but we should make an effort every day to curb our impulses and create a more inclusive, dynamic workplace. According to Su, the way to do this is to first acknowledge that there are a plethora of different types of biases that we succumb to each day both overtly and covertly; then apply a conscious effort to change these things. However, eliminating bias isn’t a one-day, one-week, or even one-month initiative – it is a lifelong journey. If we improve within ourselves, and our organizations by extension, progress is being made and there is merit in that.

Our next Women’s Network breakfast will be held on Wednesday, March 27 and will feature special guest Lisa Wieland, Port Director at Massport. Find out more information and RSVP here.

If you are interested in our leadership workshop series, we will be hosting our next event on Wednesday, March 21 and will cover the topic of polarity management. Learn more here.

If you would like to see photos from the Women’s Network event, click here.