How can we better integrate DE&I efforts into the workplace on a daily basis? That’s a challenge I’ve been thinking a lot about recently, especially as companies reflect on how their previous diversity and inclusion efforts may have fallen short. As my colleague Aram Lulla shared in a recent Forbes article, you can mandate diversity but you can’t mandate inclusion. Hiring diverse employees is just the start. It’s an employee’s daily experience at your company that impacts whether they feel truly included and have opportunities to grow and thrive.
Some DE&I efforts can seem like significant undertakings that aren’t accessible to all employees, like reviewing company hiring policies or authoring a more inclusive mission, vision and values statement. But there are plenty of opportunities to bring a more inclusive approach to daily work life. These are three ways to get started:
Broaden Perspectives. This year during Black History Month, Lucas Group is celebrating the trailblazers making a positive impact in our communities right now. In addition to major figures in business, entertainment and sports, there are many diverse voices outside the prominent spotlight, from educators and HBCU graduates to military heroes and innovators, that deserve recognition. Share their work within your company. Invite them to speak with your team to offer new perspectives. Perhaps they’ve authored a book or written an article on a topic that identifies areas of growth.At Lucas Group, we’re raising awareness about these groups through company-wide trivia challenges and weekly spotlights. Every employee may not know where to look, so it’s important to provide a foundation to expand their learning. Trivia challenges and knowledge sharing don’t need to be limited to a special month, either. Look for ways to integrate learning opportunities throughout the year.
Host Smaller Group Discussions. Picture this scenario: You’re in the middle of an all-staff meeting. A colleague says something you respectfully disagree with, and you’re planning to respond and start a conversation. Before you can, another colleague chimes in on a different topic. Suddenly, the group is focused on this new topic and it seems like backtracking to return to the earlier discussion, so you let it fizzle without saying anything.It’s tough for everyone to feel heard in larger meetings. Not everyone feels comfortable speaking up, and it’s difficult to be fully engaged with so many faces in the room (whether virtual or in-person).
Encourage more conversations by splitting up those large meetings into smaller groups. It’s easier to share what’s on your mind with four people instead of five hundred. You can offer prompts or questions to help guide these discussions, but it’s important to provide a platform where everyone can feel heard and included.
Celebrate Beyond Major Holidays. We’re celebrating Black History Month now, but when March 1 comes around, inclusion efforts shouldn’t stop. Even if a major holiday isn’t on the calendar, we can still listen and learn.At the 99U Conference last year, artist Nishat Akhtar presented on practicing intentionality and care when listening to what someone is saying. She offered an exercise you can do with any colleague: ask them about two albums (or songs) they’re listening to a lot right now or that have special meaning to them. Then listen to that music for a week. As Akhtar noted, it drew her closer to her colleagues and friends, building a stronger connection.
There are lots of unique things to celebrate within our cultures. Music, food, entertainment, art, and books all contribute to who we are as people. Invite colleagues to share something from their culture with you—maybe it’s an album like in the example above, a recipe from their family, or even a phrase or saying they use that has a deeper meaning.
When we listen and learn from the individuals around us, we’re helping everyone feel more included.
What steps are you taking to make your workplace more inclusive? I invite you to share them in the comments below.