We are in an interesting time in the world of service and support, where digital transformation (and AI, particular) is rising at the same time a focus is being placed on transformation in human resource development. While we are more focused than ever on advanced tools and technology, we are also focused on advanced human knowledge and practices.
We have focused on human practices in the areas of diversity and inclusion for years, yet these practices are transforming as well. Recently, I read a blog where someone responded, “Why do we really care about diversity, can we just focus on being inclusive?”
This question stuck with me. I’ve thought about it and tried to look at the answer from many different perspectives. My answer would be no, without understanding and acknowledging diversity, one cannot truly be fully inclusive. In other words, inclusion is a part of diversity. I’m sure there are others that may have a different answer, and in the spirit of diversity and being inclusive, I’d love to hear it!
Without understanding and acknowledging diversity, one cannot truly be fully inclusive.
So, what exactly does it mean to be diverse or to embrace diversity? Diversity is a practice of embracing differences and creating a safe, open environment for all. Inclusion is the support of individuals across areas such as generations, race, sexual orientation, gender, education, disability, citizenship, and work experience.
A specific nuance from a service and support perspective is that we must embrace more diversity and inclusion just as much, if not more, than anyone else in our organizations because of all of the stakeholders we touch, namely our customers.
We in service and support have been practicing diversity and inclusion for years. I feel we are much more advanced than we might give ourselves credit for. We have been teaching customer service practices that include techniques for handling novice, intermediate, and advanced customers; how to assess and handle different types of challenging customer situations across the board; and how to use positive language to diffuse a situation, all while being taught to just focus on the customer needs, not the customer themselves.
So, my next thought is to ask if we are providing the same level of training and focus internally in our own teams to practice diversity and inclusion as we have been giving to our customers. Based on my experience in training and consulting for the past 18 years, I’d say we have some work to do.
There are four key areas to look at to start to build and embrace a diversity and inclusion plan for your teams:
Establish Definitions: Start the discussion by working with human resources and diversity teams within your organization. The first step is to establish definitions, guidance, and goals around what it means to embrace diversity and be inclusive.
Be Accountable: Organizationally, set standards, practices, and processes around how we create an environment that supports diversity.
Create the Climate: This term climate is utilized often in higher education. I really like the term and adopting it for a corporate environment. How do we create a climate that fosters diversity and inclusion? What does that look like, feel like? How do we incorporate the spirit of what we are trying to accomplish? Can this be built into our planning related to engagement, morale, motivation—embedding diversity into the climate of all we do?
Ensure Equity: How do we ensure that equitable practices are built into all that we do? Our vision, mission, goals, objectives should be built around this practice.
As we race towards the AI age, now is the time to stop and think about the diversity and inclusion practices in your organization, for your team. The key purpose is to create practices that define, foster, and promote diversity and inclusion for all. The end results are developing a team climate that creates a more innovative, creative, and engaged work force. This is part of smarter service and better business practices that we can all embrace.
Fancy will facilitate the Masterminds: Support Center Leadership workshop at HDI 2019.
As the Director of Training and Content for HDI, Fancy brings more than 20 years of experience specializing in consulting, training, and human resource development. Her main area of focus has been working with service and support centers and contact centers across various industries to optimize their performance. As an ICMI and HDI Business Associate, she certified thousands of service and support professionals, managers, directors, analysts, agents, technicians, and corporate trainers around the world in virtual and classroom environments. In addition to training, she has developed and facilitated customized curriculum and training and consulted for Fortune 500 companies in the areas of customer service, customer experience, quality management, workforce management presentation, communication, and time management skills. Fancy has also served as a speaker for various industry conferences and events such as Fusion, HDI, and ATD and holds a master’s in human resource development with a specialization in adult education from Texas A&M University. A fifth generation Texan, Fancy lives in Austin with her husband Kevin, son Mills, and their tabby cat Sparky. She's an avid sports fan, including supporting the Dallas Cowboys and all Texas A&M sports. Her favorite team is anyone her son is playing on!