What Does It Mean To Foster Inclusive Cultures?

Jessica Jaymes Purdy | 17 Dec 2018

When I first began considering the idea of transitioning to Human Resources work, the one thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to be a driving force in changing workplace culture. For the entirety of my professional career, I had witnessed how valuable members of company teams were left out of the conversations that shaped the vision and future of the company. At times, what I witnessed went beyond mere exclusion and entered the realm of harassment and bullying.

Allow me to share a story with you that highlights a Non-Inclusive Culture.

In 2017 as the The Great Recession approached, I was a Service Manager working for a decent sized local company. In the months leading up to December of that year, I had numerous discussions with the CFO where I tried desperately to impress upon him the dangerous housing bubble we were in. A reckoning was coming and it would be devastating to a business like ours that was so heavily dependent on the housing market. I was ignored, written off, and told explicitly that because I did not have a college degree that I could not understand the market forces at play. I was told not to worry. I think we all know how that next year played out.

This is just one of many examples I could use to illustrate a company culture that was not inclusive. In this situation having a College Degree was essential to being able to fully participate in the conversation that would shape the company’s destiny. Had the culture been more inclusive of different experiences and thought processes, things may have turned out differently. That company did survive, but they were forced to make hard and drastic choices to weather the recession. Decisions they may not have had to make if they had been preparing for the recession the college educated CFO couldn’t see coming.

So what does it mean to foster an Inclusive Culture?

Having a diverse workforce isn’t enough. And as the story above illustrates diversity is about more than just racial diversity. Age, education, gender, nationality, religion, political view, and just about every way in which people differ from one another is an opportunity to expand your organization’s ability to view, adapt, respond, and navigate every aspect of its operations and interactions. But this can only happen when that diversity is fully included and incorporated into the company and have a voice in shaping its future.

In order to truly foster an Inclusive Culture your company needs to outline the specific values and culture that it seeks to foster. They need to create, implement and enforce policies designed to create and uphold them. Your company will need to do training and host discussions on every aspect of the company’s goals and values. They will need to hold everyone accountable, especially the management teams. And just as important, your company will need to safeguard against allowing an implicit culture contrary to the one they are explicitly setting out to create to thrive.

To foster an Inclusive Culture your company must create and encourage equitable access for all of your diverse employees and will need to hold space open for the discussions, growth, and learning that everyone will need to begin the process of more effectively including other viewpoints and experiences.

An Inclusive Culture is a continuing discussion among everyone in the company.

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