Based on personal experiences and hearing from clients and colleagues in leadership and Human Resources, just about every company, no matter what size, has been impacted by what happened last summer with respect to social justice. If these companies didn’t already have a Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) plan, they should have one in place by now. The classic way of doing that is to appoint somebody in your organization to be the D&I chairperson, and then to express how important this is to the company.
But my thinking is that, while diversity is paramount, it is more difficult than inclusion and it takes time to develop the talent at every level. It requires a plan, it requires a vision, and it is going to take some time and patience. On the other hand, inclusion is something that companies can—and should—adopt immediately.
Inclusion is something that can be enacted right now. Some best-in-class companies already have recognized that an inclusive culture will positively impact diversity and help with employee retention and productivity.
Creating an Inclusive Culture—Quickly
So how do you create an inclusive culture, and how do you do it quickly? The first step starts at the top because that is the most visible place, up and down the chain of command, within the entire organization. The CHRO and CEO should think deeply if it exists at the top two or three levels in the organization. If it is not there or requires some work, these two leaders need to consider how to build this out. After that happens, consider developing a code of team behavior because that will cascade right down through the organization.
The second component focuses on employees because every single one, right down to the person who is farthest away from headquarters, needs to feel he or she is part of something. I am working with a $3 billion company that has dedicated itself to doing just that by bringing in an outside firm to help create an identity. Interestingly, that identity also helps inform the code of team behavior because it also translates into addressing the question of how employees work together.
The third tactic focuses on training employees at the points of leverage within the organization—for instance, the front-line supervisor in a factory where, all of a sudden, he or she has dozens, if not, hundreds, of direct reports from only a handful higher up in the organization. This is the pressure point at which it is vital to create an inclusive atmosphere that engenders teamwork. In some cases, this is simple as listening and walking around. It isn’t just in a factory-type environment, either. This should be executed within an office atmosphere, too. Any kind of organization, really.
Recognition Is Key
Given the current landscape of remote working, clients often ask how to do the “walkabout.” Believe it or not, this is simple. It can be as easy as a surprise phone call or text saying, “Good job,” or “Thanks for what you did on that account yesterday.” This point is to recognize direct reports even when you are not physically near each other without having to set up a short virtual meeting. What I suggest to the senior managers I’m coaching and training is that they keep a pad of paper—yes, paper—and a pen right beside their phone and write down a list of things they’re grateful for, and make sure that by the end of the day, they’ve made at least a couple of calls to their employees. Consider it a mini-coaching call and be sure to take the opportunity to listen.
To be sure, training your employees to create a more inclusive environment in a remote landscape requires creativity. As you coach, think of this as an opportunity to connect with your direct reports and to quickly build a wonderful new work culture that includes the entire team.
Global business leader Robert J. (Bob) Ryan is an executive advisor at Shields Meneley Partners, where he focuses on building strategic business partnerships and expanding service offerings to top leadership teams around the world. His career has included key leadership roles with companies including Procter & Gamble, Tate and Lyle, Bombardier Recreation Products, Kimball Hill Homes, and Griffith Laboratories. Born in Montreal, Canada, Ryan began his career as a manufacturing engineer after graduating from Carleton University in Ottawa, and McGill University in Montreal with a degree in mechanical/aeronautical engineering. He has served on the Boards of the British American Business Council, the Northwest Cultural Council, and the Human Resource Management Association of Chicago, plus boards representing economic development, education, and the arts. Ryan is also a graduate of the Hudson Institute Coaching Program and a member of the International Coach Federation.