Create a Sustainable Inclusion Strategy

Growth-minded companies and leaders recognize that being inclusive is more than a moral obligation. It’s a business imperative.

Inclusive companies, on average, experience 49 percent higher profitability due to innovative products and services. Why? Because diverse perspectives lead to unique ideas that typically aren’t discovered by homogenous teams.

Don’t feel like a slacker. These companies weren’t always inclusion experts. They built feasible plans to operationalize inclusion, and the benefits are significant, as evidenced by their stellar profitability. To create a sustainable inclusion strategy, follow these steps.

Determine Your “Why”

To make genuine progress, don’t start with solutions. Start with purpose. “Why does our company need to be more inclusive?” If your answer is, “because it’s the right thing to do,” you’re likely setting yourself up for push-back and inaction. I recognize that answer may not be popular, but it’s true, and here’s why.

Just because we are aware something should change isn’t motivation enough to actually change. I’ll prove it to you in three words: New Year’s resolution. We fully intend to keep these resolutions, but rarely do they stick. And, neither do intentions to be more inclusive. Look no further than the tidal wave of companies who made statements in solidarity as a reaction to the murder of George Floyd. How many of them have kept those promises? They meant well, but many lacked a plan of action to execute on the intention.

Another reason why moral motivation doesn’t work is morals are subjective and different for everyone. Political division in the United States is an example of how differently we define morality. If your strategy is based on morals, some will agree, some will oppose. Companies cannot sustain strategies without buy-in and support from stakeholders. Inclusive companies push beyond the moral case to one aligned with their business goals. 

Define the Problem

Next, define the problem you need to solve before solving it. Jumping to a solution without first determining the need leads to failure, frustration and unsustainable change. When strategies don’t align to business KPIs, they are often perceived as a luxury or expendable initiatives. Misalignment causes many well-intended companies to lose momentum and executive support for inclusion strategies, thus jeopardizing the boost in profitability that comes with being inclusive.

Use Data, Not Opinions

To define the problem, it’s paramount that you use sound data and not opinion-based insight. Ask this question: “What data exists that indicate how we’re performing related to diversity and inclusion?” If you don’t have any data, please get some. Analyze performance across key areas of focus. These assessments are like physical exams, a “check-up” of your company’s vitals, pain points and stakeholder concerns. 

With data and evidence, you will have the insight needed to build a feasible and sustainable inclusion strategy. I highly recommend partnering with an unbiased third party to benchmark your organization objectively. Inclusion issues are a challenge to pinpoint, especially by dominants in organizations, as many have blind spots given that they likely aren’t on the receiving end of exclusion. 

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