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  • What Does Workplace Inclusion Feel Like To You

What Does Workplace Inclusion Feel Like To You?

By Josephine Victoria Yam, J.D., LLM.

November 25, 2019

Catalyst, a leading nonprofit on women advancement, posed this question to employees from 42 companies around the world. Interestingly, the employees struggled to describe what inclusion actually felt like.

In its “Day-to-Day Inclusion and Exclusion: Employee Experiences Matter” report, Catalyst observed: “Inclusion is like air: all around but ungraspable, intangible, invisible.”

Despite the amorphous quality of inclusion, employees described two emotional feelings of inclusion. One is a sense of uniqueness when their diverse qualities were highly regarded by colleagues. The other is a sense of belonging when they felt welcomed for bringing their whole selves to work. Both feelings of inclusion fueled their drive for greater creativity, innovation and collaboration.

On the flip side, Catalyst also asked: What does workplace exclusion look like to you?

In this case, employees vividly remembered small but very painful moments of exclusion. Ordinary moments that etched in their minds the feeling of being outsiders. Dnika Travis, one of the report’s researchers, provided a few examples:

 
When an employee is dismissed or ignored at a meeting
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When an employee is left out from a workgroup email chain
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When an employee is micromanaged when working from the home
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Remarked Travis in a Fortune interview, “How Big Companies Get Inclusion Wrong”:

“Most people can easily recall the stories about feeling dismissed at work, and they build up over time... Bottom line, when inclusion works, you don’t see it. But when you feel excluded, it’s all you feel.”

So what can a company do to create an inclusive culture?

One approach is for the company to measure inclusion both qualitatively and quantitatively. After all, the benefits of measuring inclusion are well-known. It benefits the performance of individual employees. It benefits the innovative collaboration of teams. It gives the company a competitive advantage.

A Cornell study recommended several qualitative and quantitative approaches that companies can pursue.

The qualitative approaches include:

 
Measuring changes in attitudes resulting from diversity and inclusion training
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Measuring the organization’s community involvement in local communities
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Using employee engagement surveys that encourage honest feedback about workplace culture
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The quantitative approaches include:

 
An increase in corporate board diversity and senior leadership composition
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A reduction in the number of employee grievances and complaints
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An increase in employee engagement, performance and retention
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Many leading companies are measuring inclusion in various ways. Procter & Gamble ties ten percent of executive compensation to its leaders achieving workplace diversity and inclusion goals. LinkedIn uses a Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Index that encourages all employees to create inclusion experiences for themselves and their colleagues.

Peter Drucker famously said: "What gets measured gets managed". Yet numbers only tell half the story. When your company measures inclusion, it should also go beneath the numbers to uncover the raw human experiences behind them.

And hopefully, those numbers reveal authentic stories of your company’s very happy, highly engaged employees. Which, by any measure, is priceless.

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