How Your Company Can Embrace Inclusion
By Shirley Engelmeier
The drama of last year’s national election sent a significant message about the reality and power of inclusion. The evolution and arrival of a new chorus of previously unrecognized voices certainly shaped the political conversation, but it also provided valuable insights for the business landscape in 2013 and beyond. What are the takeaways?
• Individuals who were formerly viewed as minorities are quickly growing in number. The new majority is the old minority. In fact, 35 of the top 50 metro areas in America now have a majority of minorities.
• Our workplaces are becoming increasingly global — we are no longer confined by the walls of a building, the borders of a city, state, or even a nation.
• Our workforce is more diverse than ever in terms of ethnicity, age, and the personal perspectives that all these differences reflect.
• Increasing diversity leads to increasing complexity, which requires enhanced efforts for inclusion. Seeking out, listening, and responding to the voices of all of our constituents is more important than ever.
To be successful, organizations need to realize the critical value of ensuring that their workforces mirror their markets. So, as we consider how far we’ve come and where we still need to go to really embrace inclusion, here are some short-term predictions that can help companies shape their management strategies.
• There will be a dawning realization that representation metrics, by themselves, are obsolete. Who cares how many people of some ethnicity or demographic we have in our organization? What matters is how those people are driving business results.
• Command and control will weaken. It is a myth that the person with the loftiest title has the best ideas, or the most valuable contributions to share. In 2013, titles matter less. Innovation doesn’t have to come from the C-suite. It also comes from the front lines.
• Mid-level managers will gain influence as organizations embrace inclusive practices. Those are the folks who can make a difference when it comes to adopting, implementing, and modeling inclusive behaviors.
• We will see a growing trend towards business resource groups and employee networks, not only as a way for people with shared traits, interests, and backgrounds to come together, but as a way for people without those shared traits, interests, and backgrounds to learn about them and to leverage what they learn in ways that impact the bottom line.
Ultimately, there will be an increased awareness around inclusion as a business strategy. Inclusion will be embraced as a bridge to customers, as the conduit to the establishment of what J. Walker Smith describes as “a kinship economy.”
Shirley Engelmeier is CEO and founder of InclusionInc. She has been a diversity strategy consultant for more than 19 years. Engelmeier’s thought leadership focuses on the urgency of accommodating the cultural revolution underway in today’s workplace that can often mean success or failure for an organization.