Diversity and inclusion issues are getting a lot of press these days. More companies are beginning to understand that making a real effort to prevent these types of behaviors is essential.
Once you understand the hallmarks of an inclusive culture that will benefit your business, it’s time to take action. Let’s get specific about which behaviors will lead to the type of culture you want to establish.
Establish Value-Linked Behaviors
The attributes of an inclusive workplace we just listed (respectful, safe, empowering, welcoming) are too vague to be actionable.
A value like “respect,” for example, can be open to many conflicting interpretations.
To clarify what you really mean, you need to specifically describe the behaviors that demonstrate the value you’re seeking. We call these value-linked behaviors.
If you want to emphasize the value of respect, here are a few of the value-linked behaviors you might focus on:
- Let’s not interrupt one another, and let’s avoid calling each other names.
- Remember that your tone of voice and body language communicate as much as the words you say.
- When others talk, pay attention. Ask questions, summarize, and turn off or avoid responding to electronic messages.
If you want to focus on providing a safe space for employees to bring their concerns, a few value-linked behaviors might be:
- Let’s not yell or raise our voices in anger in the office.
- When presented with a possible concern about a colleague, managers should address it within 24 hours.
- Managers should thank employees for their contributions and input during meetings.
The behaviors you choose can be customized to your company’s unique needs and reflect pain points that you’re already experiencing. Remember that they’re not set in stone and may change as your needs evolve over time. The important thing is to start taking steps in the right direction by identifying a few key behaviors first.
Keep it Simple
At ELI, we like to say “Make it Matter. Make it Simple. Make it Stick.”
That means that for any initiative, we provide meaningful context, establish a few limited rules with clear language; then enforce those rules with consequences – consistently, over and over again, until culture changes.
Your employees should already have the context for your diversity guidelines: you’re doing it because it helps your business succeed. The consequences are typically verbal reminders, at least at first. The “keep it simple” part comes in when you limit yourself to just a few key behaviors that are easy for your employees to remember and apply.
If you list them all or try to tackle all of your desired behaviors, your employees will get overwhelmed. We suggest that you be almost brazen in your simplicity: Choose just a few key values and related behaviors.
You may be surprised how big of a difference just a few of these key values can have when they’re implemented the right way.
Choose a Training Program
We mentioned earlier that you can’t just throw training at a problem and expect it to go away.
However, educational resources can be a great way to provide a roadmap for leaders and employees on their journey toward a more inclusive culture.
The expert or company you choose for training should understand that real change comes from a shift in culture, which comes about through an emphasis on behavior. Then, they should provide a simple framework you can use to make your goals simple and make them stick.
The best educational and training resources do the following:
Provide actionable takeaways
Knowledge is nothing without action. Plenty of business training programs make your employees aware of problems without giving them a clear way to address those problems.
Adapt to company needs
Businesses have different diversity needs, different budgets, and different staff structures. The training you choose should be tailored to your company. The person who delivers the training should be an expert and use moderation in communicating the issues that are most important to your business. (An out-of-the-box set of diversity videos generally does not have that capability.)
Ever taken CPR training? There’s a reason they make you practice on a test dummy instead of just watching the video. The best diversity training and education is similar: it gives employees a chance to roleplay in a safe space monitored by an expert. Even if employees understand actionable takeaways and value-linked behaviors, they need a chance to practice them. Otherwise, they’ll have to take their solo flights in the office, where they’re likely to say the wrong thing.
Emphasize business benefits
Again, focusing on a “why” will get all employees on board with diversity initiatives. This is especially essential in today’s polarized political climate in which some employees may have preconceived notions about the values of diversity training. Without real buy-in from employees, your efforts aren’t likely to last.