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From: Benefits Pro
By Cindy Raz, Chief People Officer at NAVEX
October 20, 2022

Over the past two years, people have established a new threshold for how, when and where they want to work – and more importantly they are clear as to why. The pandemic has reminded people that life is short and the experience they are seeking from their employer is becoming even more definitive at all stages of the employment relationship.

Whether your workforce is fully remote, hybrid or consistently in a traditional office setting, creating a culture that is rooted in inclusion is key to being a place that people will want to be.

Inclusion does not happen overnight and must be consistently nurtured to inspire people to be the best version of themselves. Through meaningful and measurable action, your organization can be an employer of choice; this article discusses six ways business leaders can build a powerful culture of inclusion.

1.   Build trust

A foundational element of an inclusive culture is the trust people have that they can bring their whole selves to work and thrive professionally. People want and deserve to know that they belong with their work community, and they are eager to feel embraced and celebrated for what they do and who they are as a person.

Inclusion is often perceived as a leadership goal when it must be an organizational strategy tied to meaningful and measurable commitments from each member of your team. Naturally, people leaders play a critical role, however each team member must also be a cultural leader.

When we embrace differences, seek to learn with an open mind and heart, extend grace to others and ourselves, trust evolves organically. People deserve to feel safe bringing their whole selves to work and when they do, there is increased creativity, productivity, and engagement.

One way to ensure this is part of your culture is to ensure your core values are woven into everything you do across your organization, starting with your Code of Conduct. For example, one of NAVEX’s core values is Inspire one another! – this is reflective of our belief that bringing our whole selves to work each day makes us better together and the company stronger. We ensure members of our team review and attest to our Code of Conduct each year to reinforce the experience we insist exist for people at NAVEX and that everything we do is reflective of our core values.

2.   Embrace and leverage diversity

This principle is more than hiring practices for racial diversity, it also includes diversity of thought, experience, and lifestyle. Though foundational to a culture of DEI, this can be difficult to accomplish as many hiring practices and norms are counter to perpetuating diverse hiring – so pay special attention to hiring practices as this is a great place to start in creating diverse teams.

For example, candidates with diverse backgrounds and experience bring substantial value to teams but are often disqualified during the application process because their work experience may not match the “ideal” candidate. Look beyond the traditional candidate to find a person with unlimited potential and ask whether your role truly requires a four-year degree. Many roles do not and programs like Coding Camps can offer outstanding access to stellar people hoping your organization will take a chance on their nontraditional background.

Recent reporting also shows that many cybersecurity roles go unfilled due to a world-wide talent shortage. Some companies have started to remove specific degree requirements for these roles, instead opting to look for personality traits that align with the position’s needs. Not only does this strategy help alleviate a staffing shortage, but it also ultimately results in a more diverse workforce with varying experiences.

Another consideration to make is to evaluate if there is bias in the candidate selection process. If this appears to be an obstacle, consider anonymizing the name and gender of candidates to ensure applications are evaluated fairly, and ensure your managers are well trained on how to set aside their personal biases in the selection process.

3.   Allow space for courageous conversations

It’s no secret that the news cycle is full of headlines that may elicit a strong emotional response from your team members. Today’s workforce often seeks a place that offers a platform to discuss various social issues. Creating a space for your workforce to react and reflect together can be a powerful platform to support people feeling heard, validated, supported and above all, cared for as people. “Listening sessions” can be a wonderful mechanism to bring people together in groups in addition to regular 1:1 checks-ins. People leaders should consistently ask how people are feeling and ask what people need most from them. Humanity is an element that was often overlooked in the legacy workplace; it is also something that must exist in today’s workplace.

4.   Build communities across your culture

Encouraging people to create community groups is another platform that allows groups with common interests, belief systems, and ways of living to engage. Whether you have a DEI leader or other resources across the HR function to help facilitate growth of community groups in your organization, keep in mind that community groups built organically are those that will thrive best. NAVEX has several community groups that range from a parent’s group to LGBTQ+ that enable people to come together for this purpose. When you support people coming together in various settings, they feel like they belong, trust continues to grow, and people feel safe conveying what they are feeling and needing.

5.   Do the right things right!

One of NAVEX’s core values, Do the right things right! includes taking time to celebrate the diversity of our workforce, ensure equity across the company, and foster an inclusive culture authentically. This practice is one of the most important, as none of the others matter if there is not a true commitment to do the right things right.

Embedding your core values into your code of conduct and ensuring all** team members are held accountable** to upholding your workplace practices will support your ability to successfully build trust and inclusion across your culture. Making an exception for one “great” performer that engages in behavior that compromises your workplace culture will ultimately impact your financial performance; it’s always worth doing the right things right!

6.   Measure progress

As shared earlier, building a culture of trust and inclusion does not happen overnight. Great cultures are consistently nurtured and refined and have measurable metrics to guide decisions and inform progress. Within the social component of any ESG programs (environmental, social and governance), is the opportunity to highlight and track your DEI goals. This visibility enables organizations to be held accountable by their customers, vendors, and team members, while also offering a glimpse into how life might resonate with someone considering your company.

Read more: How employers can offer inclusive benefits for today’s families

Creating and maintaining a culture of inclusion is pivotal to the long-term success of your business. In addition to ensuring sustainable growth, it will also create a meaningful place for people to thrive in life. As challenging and painful as the pandemic has been, it has also dropped an unforgettable reminder that life truly is too short.