This article first appeared in ICMI
Inclusion should not be considered simply a box to be checked off. While there are many reasons why it is best for society to offer an inclusive environment within your company, it shouldn’t be overlooked that doing so can help your bottom line.
Inclusion is defined as “the practice or policy of including and integrating all people and groups into activities and organizations.” Inclusion can include people with disabilities and different political ideologies, different racial and societal backgrounds, as well as a host of other differences. There are not two people on this earth who are identically the same, come from exactly the same background, or think exactly the same way. Our inclusive differences come from our “frame of reference,” which is how we look at the world, everything that touches, us and our belief systems. Our frame of reference is based on our individual experiences.
We start cultivating our frame of reference when we take our first breath. It comes from how we were raised, where we lived, what type of family structure we had, and what our neighborhood was like. Each situation in our lives shapes how we view the people we come in contact with, how we evaluate what we do each day, and how we view what happens to us in our lives. Our frame of reference influences how we think about every opinion or decision.
Because of all our differences and how we look at and approach business differently, we will have differing opinions and ideas. These differences can help a company be able to take a more holistic approach to business, including by bringing fresh ideas of new products and services, how to serve customers, and how we engage with each other. When a company has a more inclusive employee base, process gaps can be looked at from many different vantage points. When a company’s employee base is inclusive, it can be a real incubator for new ideas that services customers’ needs, new approaches for how to drive business procedures, and different ideas on how to utilize technology. All this helps companies have a culture that is conducive for success, where it can bring in revenue and make a profit.
How do executives determine how to capitalize on their inclusion? The first step is to ask frontline employees how they believe the company can access their knowledge and ideas.
Many companies may take a top down approach towards implementing policies to foster inclusion, but that may overlook the biggest resource for this process. Frontline employees have a vantage point that senior-level executives don’t when it comes to customer-facing and colleague-facing processes. They understand what is needed to have free-flowing communication within the company. These are the people that need to be tapped into for identification of internal gaps and ideas on how to streamline processes within the company.
As companies begin to understand how powerful inclusion can be to help grow their business, it will be essential to tap into this resource. When companies do this, they will see the difference in employee engagement, productivity, and accountability almost immediately—all of which improve employee retention. Retaining employees reduces sourcing, recruiting, and training costs. Utilizing an inclusive workforce takes a proactive mindset and additional time, but it’s well worth the effort.
Should “inclusion” be the new box to be checked off? If companies simply do that, the business world is missing a valuable opportunity. The bottom line is that authentic inclusion makes good business sense. By having an inclusive organization, a company can tap into employees throughout the organization to develop and deliver products and services that have value. Utilizing authentic inclusion makes good business sense.
Recognized as a subject-matter expert on virtual/work-at-home environments and leadership development, Vicki Brackett has written for and been interviewed by Forbes, Fast Company, Fortune Magazine, CFO Magazine, CEOWorld, HR News, Training Magazine, and a host of other publications, news outlets and podcasts on creative work-at-home and employee engagement strategies.
Vicki has spent almost two decades transforming contact centers into thriving virtual/work-at-home environments that achieve stellar performance and high employee satisfaction. She is the Co-Founder and head of work-at-home strategies at Sinousia where she and her teams help organizations rethink and reengineer their workplace to thrive in the virtual/work-at-home environment.
Vicki is also the author of ‘The Leadership Toolbox - Manage Less Achieve More,’ a book about her experience running virtual/work-at-home and brick & mortar contact center organizations from 200 to 2000+ people across industries ranging from consumer technology, education, automotive, cosmetics, nutrition and other consumer products. Her book showcases a set of leadership tools that have been vetted by thousands of employees and a systematic approach that can transform organizations into top performing organizations where employees love coming to work, are highly engaged and help move the organization forward.