How Training Professionals Can Help Employees Develop Inclusion

A framework that training professionals can use for developing and measuring inclusion within the workplace.

Diversity and Inclusion - Training Magazine

People spend years learning how to do business in other countries where they need to navigate different cultural expectations, communication styles, and life experiences. Learning how to work inclusively is similar. It takes years of experience to learn how to work productively with people who think and communicate differently and have different life experiences. If we approach inclusion as a skill to master, then we can identify the key behaviors or social indicators that show proficiency or conversely, show where we have opportunities to improve our skills.

Generally, organizations have been approaching diversity and inclusion as a corporate value and talent strategy. Consistent with that approach, organizations itemize and report on demographics as it relates to hiring, promotion, retention, pay equity, ERG activity, mentorship, and a host of other metrics. While these are all essential to track, they show the current situation rather than the trajectory towards a future outcome. In order to really move the needle and get the flywheel turning, we need to focus on the specific behaviors that we know trigger more inclusive outcomes.

Emtrain’s Workplace Culture Insights

With that in mind, Emtrain evaluated employee sentiment data on attitudes toward inclusion from more than 83,000 employees at nearly 100 companies. Our goal was to broadly identify the current state of inclusion in business. And to specifically identify key indicators that can help businesses track how they’re measuring up, and how they can improve. Unfortunately, a lot of improvement is needed. Some key findings from this report:

  • Only half of all employees believe their organization has a genuine commitment to inclusion.
  • Just 43 percent of employees say they can consistently be their authentic selves at work.
  • Only 33 percent of people say their company leaders work hard to create a sense of belonging.

These numbers are sobering, but shouldn’t demotivate training professionals. They are a starting point. The good news is that our research has now identified a way to make it better. Our framework for inclusion is based upon six Inclusion Indicators, which group the key skills and behaviors that are critical to creating an inclusive workplace culture. We found that these are not normally measured, tracked, or reported on, in part because they are invisible. Yet, our research finds that these Indicators provide deep insight into what is brewing in your workforce ranks, and have the potential to predict future outcomes. In short, our Inclusion Indicators, combined with our Inclusion Benchmark, make the invisible visible so leaders can identify, measure, and track behavior change to increase Inclusion, diminish risk, and increase your organization’s value.

Here are the six Inclusion Indicators we identified:

  1. Decision Making: Does your company have an intentional system for making decisions?
  2. Valuing Differences: How good are you at appreciating and leveraging different experiences and skills?
  3. Allyship: Do company leaders use their privilege to make a difference?
  4. Demographic Experience: How often do your employees have direct experiences with people from different demographics?
  5. Curiosity & Empathy: Can your employees turn their assumptions into questions and switch their perspectives?
  6. Authenticity & Belonging: Can all of your employees bring their whole selves to work?

This approach comes from years of investigating thousands of employee conflicts; our development team (made up of former litigators, executive managers, seasoned learning professionals, organizational psychologists, and data analysts) witnessed clear patterns of behaviors. We noticed that when organizations had people problems, they treated the symptoms but didn’t understand the issues that caused the problem. So we mapped conflicts back to root causes, and as we did, a framework emerged. We realized we could identify and train the behaviors and skills that create value in the workplace. Our framework can also measure progress as skills are growing, and risk where behaviors are counterproductive.

The Impact of Diversity and Inclusion

What also emerged was that diversity and inclusion impact organizational equity and respect. As people develop their skill at curiosity, empathy, and understanding how to work effectively with people from very different life experiences and perspectives, people have fewer “blind spots” where they’re unaware of how a comment or action is interpreted negatively by a coworker, creating friction and negative team dynamics.  As friction increases, it typically escalates into an EEO or harassment claim – all because someone had a “blind spot” and was unable to see how a comment or action could be perceived negatively by their coworker — which is an inclusion skill. So inclusion (or the lack thereof) can increase the number of EEO and harassment issues.

Inclusion is ultimately about understanding and addressing the invisible mindsets that drive behaviors. To understand and solve for Inclusion, training professionals need to identify and measure what people don’t see – the way people think, their tensions, and communications between individuals and groups, and the way decisions are made. These invisible things are part of our everyday social exchanges, and they predict Inclusion.

As companies start to use a data-driven framework to measure the key dynamics of Inclusion and benchmark their performance, they’ll have more information to share on the tactics and strategies that work to drive inclusion. Inclusion has never been more important than in today’s workplace where equity and inclusion are front and center for all stakeholders and key to fostering a healthy, high-performance culture.

Emtrain founder & CEO Janine Yancey is a pioneer and visionary in healthy workplace culture, including online education in harassment, ethics, and diversity and inclusion. A former partner with a prestigious employment law firm whose clients included such Silicon Valley giants as Google and Intuit, she founded Emtrain in 2006. The boot-strapped startup began by delivering engaging online sexual harassment and workplace compliance training and recently evolved into an AI platform that provides powerful data and analytics to identify toxic workplace issues in real-time.