Even with the best of intentions, creating an inclusive workplace doesn't happen by accident. In striving for inclusion, leaders may find it useful to ask themselves, and their employees, whether everyone understands their role in building an inclusive environment. They may also want to find out whether staff feel they can call out and challenge exclusionary behavior.
While the answers given may highlight some uncomfortable truths, it's important to know if people are supported to be themselves, and whether opportunities to contribute and develop are truly open to all.
What Is "Inclusive Inclusivity?"
Being inclusive allows everyone to feel valued and accepted without having to conform to a particular organizational norm. Inclusive organizations support their staff to do their best work, regardless of background, circumstance or culture.
And importantly, inclusion is about valuing difference, rather than merely tolerating it. It's about creating a positive environment where everyone can contribute.
In preparing for the upcoming #MTtalk Twitter chat, Community Manager Yolande Conradie coined the phrase "inclusive inclusivity" to capture the idea that, to be truly inclusive, we must make sure that we're inclusive of absolutely everyone, regardless of culture, circumstance or background.
The term comes from the observation that, sometimes, well-intentioned efforts to include particular groups or individuals can inadvertently exclude others.
Adopting an Inclusive Mindset
In order to achieve true inclusivity, we first have to adopt an inclusive mindset. When we detect an imbalance in the workforce, it may be tempting to adopt strategies that will tip the scales back.
However, not only could this approach unintentionally alienate other team members, but even the very groups we're aiming to support may feel patronized.
Instead of surface-level fixes, we need to get to the root of the issue and embed inclusivity into organizational values and behaviors.
Inclusivity In Action
How Inclusive Are Your Events?
U.S.-based Mind Tools Coach, Sonia Harris, is an event manager, and has been reflecting on what inclusive inclusivity looks like for those with disabilities. Following an event, Sonia suggests getting feedback from attendees who use wheelchairs or who are visually or hearing impaired. This will ensure that efforts to be inclusive translate into reality.
Sonia believes that planning is essential for achieving genuine inclusion at events. For example, when conducting a site inspection for a future meeting and event space, Sonia offers the following planning considerations:
Can wheelchair users and those who have audio or visual impairments easily get to and from the venue?
Once they've arrived, can they smoothly transition between the indoor and outdoor event spaces?
How far is the main event space from elevators and wheelchair-accessible restrooms?
Are entranceways and restroom stalls wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair?
Will sign language interpretation and closed captioning be available during sessions of your in-person or online event?
Do the main session and breakout rooms have enough unobstructed, comfortable space at the front for wheelchair users or those who are visually or hearing impaired?
U.K.-based Mind Tools Coach, Sarah Harvey, shares an example of inclusive inclusivity in action. As a previous non-executive board member for a mental health and wellbeing charity based in London, Sarah reflects on her experience of working in a diverse and inclusive organization.
Their clients have a broad spectrum of complex mental and physical health needs, combined with different personal circumstances, educational backgrounds, and cultural diversity. And this broad range of diversity was reflected in the staff and volunteers.
Such contrasts could have been a recipe for clashes, conflict and chaos. Yet the inclusive inclusivity was clear to see in every conversation, every decision-making process, and every meeting, Sarah says.
Despite their differences, everyone was expected to show up and share all that made them their unique selves, while recognizing the importance of celebrating how other people showed up, too.
Inclusion in the Workplace
Inclusion is more than a set of policies or procedures. It's about our individual and collective experience of our work. It's about creating positive workplaces or environments where we can all influence, share our ideas and expertise, and have our unique perspectives valued.
Yolande sums up how we can all achieve inclusive inclusivity by asking the following question:
"It's important to me to respect your culture as well as my own. How can we accomplish that?"
To achieve inclusive inclusivity, it needs to sit at the heart of what we do, drive our thinking, and guide our behavior at all times.
In our Twitter poll, we asked our followers how they define inclusivity. The overwhelming majority voted that inclusivity is "When everybody belongs."
Exploring Inclusive Inclusivity
During Friday's #MTtalk Twitter chat, we discussed the importance of active mindfulness to ensure no one is excluded. Here are all the questions we asked, and some of the best responses:
Q1. What does "inclusivity" mean to you?
@DreaVilleneuve It's more than creating a seat at the table, it's raising the voices of those who have joined.
@Yolande_MT Inclusivity: to treat people in such a way that they don't feel they have to "earn" it to belong. Inclusivity isn't a tick-box exercise. It comes from the heart and it's all about how we treat people and how we include them from day to day.
Q2. When have you felt most included at work, and what made the difference?
@_GT_Coaching In the past, when values felt like they were aligned with others. Now, I can personally choose to feel included based on how I create it.
@PmTwee It makes [me] feel satisfied and thus more productive.
@Dwyka_Consult I felt most accepted when my workplace supported me through a very tough time – even though I was only 50 percent there (mentally). Everybody understood and offered to help.
Q3. What do organizations risk by not becoming more inclusive?
@_GT_Coaching Lots, but one thing that really shows up for me is a lack of creativity.
@DreaVilleneuve Inclusive environments bring diversity, diversity brings new ideas, different problem solving, alternate viewpoints. Without being inclusive, you risk growth potential and stagnation.
Q4. What are possible barriers to creating a more inclusive workplace?
@NWarind Nepotism; favouritism; bullying; perks and privileges to higher tiers but no trickledown effects.
@_GT_Coaching People's personal filters and understanding of how a situation occurs for them.
Q5. How can we distinguish between real inclusivity and token inclusivity?
@DreaVilleneuve It's the "B" in DEIB [Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging]. Belonging. Real inclusion makes way for all people to feel as they are welcomed, valued, and important to the team/ organization.
@PmTwee When you fail to see consistency, truth will out.
Q6. What small things can anyone do to include others?
@NWarind Be open-minded and consult. As all have intelligence, let them share and feel the burden of responsibility.
@_GT_Coaching I can be mindful of how I am being plus recognize my own inauthenticity and biases.
Q7. How can we include one person's values/ culture without ignoring or excluding someone else's/ our own?
@MikeB_MT Including someone's culture shouldn't mean I have to exclude someone else's. It's that richness of seeking to include and understand all different perspectives and cultures that truly starts to build a culture of inclusiveness and belonging.
@DreaVilleneuve By celebrating it all, by giving space to differences, by making changes they show that all are welcome.
Q8. Does being inclusive mean accepting everything around you? Please explain.
@Eve_odhis Yes and being able to say no politely and with a lot of love and respect for whatever you are disagreeing with. We are all different thus the beauty of diversity and power of inclusivity. We have to acknowledge our differences, accept them, and communicate them with love.
@Dwyka_Consult No – and I've learned not to just "accept" my own thoughts. Sometimes, in certain situations, I must treat them with suspicion because they want to "steer" me to what's comfortable, not what's necessary.
Q9. What does it mean to have an "inclusive mindset"?
@ZalaB_MT "Inclusive mindset" means less judging and more listening, learning, searching; having a bend-able mindset (a term coined by @MikeB_MT) allows me curiosity and openness towards the unknown; empathy; and understanding that together we can be stronger.
@Eve_odhis For me it means being true first to yourself then to the world by deliberately learning about others, their way of life and appreciating it. One thing I continue to learn is that, not knowing actually is a driver to exclusion. When you do not understand how and why, you'll tend to be blinded by your own biases.
Q10. What action will you take to nurture an inclusive environment?
@_GT_Coaching Engage in conversations about the subject to develop my understanding. For now, continue to be detached from my beliefs, which means I can accept the beliefs of others as being important to them. Continue to seek feedback on how I show up to others.