Organizations Strive for a New Level of Inclusiveness

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Companies are putting a renewed focus on getting employee engagement practices right in 2013 and are striving for a new level of inclusiveness. Traditionally, inclusion was pair with diversity (as in Diversity & Inclusion) and implied a sense of “feeling included’ regardless of skin color, origin, culture or sexual orientation. Forward thinking executives have re-positioned inclusiveness as “unleashing the full potential of all.”

Inclusiveness is about allowing employees to be their true self in the workplace and fostering formal and informal connections, which intrinsically ties them tighter to the company. Inclusiveness is about creating a space for risk taking and “fast failures’- making mistakes, but quickly learning from those errors, and moving on to the next level. Inclusiveness is about encouraging employees to move outside their “comfort zone” and encouraging diversity of thought, behavior and reaching out to someone who they know peripherally.

Several companies have created circles of inclusion by encouraging workers to have lunch with a colleague that they don’t know or are from a different part of the company- even across the globe! Boerhinger Ingelhiem created ”Lunch Roulette” app that pairs employees from different departments. Employees feel energized, connected and often learn from one another, regularly spurring new ideas.

Corporations are leveraging enterprise social networks to connect geographically dispersed remote workers to share knowledge and cultivate outside interests. Often theses informal connections lead to jam sessions, uncovering hidden talents and individuals feeling valued.

“Reverse Mentoring” has been used by hundreds of companies on numerous topics to engage early career talent and leverage their skills outside of their day-jobs, erasing traditional hierarchies and flattening communications. The Hartford leveraged a reverse mentor program to generate awareness and understanding of social media and emerging technologies with C-suite executives. This program was very successful- effectively educating executives and generating more than 100 ideas to improve sales, internal and external branding, collaboration and knowledge management across the organization. Creating an inclusive environment means believing that the next big idea can come from anywhere!

Another trend in inclusiveness is how best in class companies are treating former employees as “alumni” vs. “traitors’ and creating online communities for sharing knowledge, offering supporting and providing direct yet informal communication. Studies show that former employees are a great source of product and employee referrals and often are open to re-hire.

Embracing unique perspectives, experiences and approaches will build an inclusive environment and drive unprecedented business results. But it’s a journey.

What is your company doing to foster inclusiveness? What can you do to “be the change you want to see”? I look forward to your comments.

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Comments

  1. Interesting article and a lot of things to think about to further engage employees in our organization. Ours currently takes the form of staff meals, retreats and other traditional things.
    I found it strange though, when the different types of diversity was listed, that disability was omitted. It seems to me that employees with disabilities may be even more benefited by conscious inclusion and have a lot to share in the area of reverse mentoring. My organization serves people with visual disabilities and it is staggering to see how often they are ignored in the workplace because people aren’t sure how to speak to them, what they can do, what’s appropriate, etc. We employ one person with a visual impairment and we have to be extremely conscious to involve him in activities and provide activities that are accessible. Right now, the unemployment rate of able, working age people who are blind is 70%. Companies would do well to consider this demographic as well.

    Reply
  2. Well said Marjorie! I apologize for omitting people with disabilities in this post. Numerous companies are promoting Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) for people with disabilities. It’s an effective way to provide formal/informal support, education/awareness as well as expanding the business case for talent attraction, engagement and retention. Thank you for sharing your thoughts- Lisa

    Lisa Bonner |
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    Lisa Bonner

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