I was eight-years old in 1965 when my family moved from Los Angeles to a small, growing suburb called Rowland Heights. When we moved there, there were only five Black people in the whole municipality… and they were all in my family.
But there were no major issues from a race perspective. My two brothers, Skip, nine-years old, and Brian, five-years old, and I just found other kids our age that loved sports… and we were “in.” We were active in Boy Scouts, and church, and our dad coached us in Pee Wee football.
By the time Skip and I graduated from high school in our respective years, we were both voted Favorite Man on Campus.
We felt included.
After high school, I matriculated to the United States Military Academy at West Point. I estimate that there were roughly 200 African American cadets there at the time – about five percent of the student body. When we gathered as a formal club of Black Cadets, it was easily the most African Americans I had ever been around. And, while I absolutely loved being surrounded by people that looked like me, I quickly realized that most of them had grown up in predominantly Black communities. It meant that they were having different conversations than I was, watching different movies, eating different food, using different slang, and listening to different music. I felt like a fish out of water. I quickly learned to cover, to pretend that I understood the jokes or was familiar with the artist. It took decades before I felt comfortable enough to admit that.
At West Point, I did not feel included.
It wasn’t anyone’s fault. It was just one of those weird social things that happens. But it affected how I interacted, when I interacted, and my willingness to bring my full self to the table.
The need to feel included has always been important. The fact that inclusion is now being called out as something we all need makes some people uncomfortable. And when we view inclusion through the lens of DEI, we describe it as new, and different. It isn’t.
I was on a panel recently, speaking to a room full of corporate board directors and someone in the audience framed a comment as follows, “My organization needs to get better at inclusion. Not the kind of inclusion described in DEI discussions, but the kind of inclusion that seeks to make sure everyone feels like they are part of the organization, where everyone feels valued.”
My response, of course, was that they are the same thing. We have convinced ourselves that creating an inclusive culture is an add-on; something extra we do to accommodate people from underrepresented communities. But, when we unpack what inclusion is, we realize it’s something we have strived for all along. The difference is that now we understand the need to be intentional about this culture shift and we recognize that our best leaders have always been inclusive.
The DEI movement has encouraged us to identify inclusive behaviors and make a conscious effort to develop them. Once we recognize what those behaviors are and how to leverage them, we create an opportunity to extract more value out of the most important resource we have, the human resource.
An inclusive leader is someone that recognizes the value of activating the entire team. Not just the go-to people, not just those with which they have the strongest relationship, or those that look and sound like them, but everyone. People, talk about increasing ROI. What better way is there to increase your ROI than by leveraging the resources you have already invested in?
More organizations are acknowledging the need to measure inclusion/belonging/engagement in some form. There are three foundational questions organizations seek to answer:
- Which are the inclusive behaviors that we want to elevate?
- How do we measure these behaviors?
- How can we create an environment that grows these behaviors throughout the organization?
Which Behaviors Do We Want to Replicate?
Pulsely, a DEI SaaS solution, data analytics company, identifies the following behaviors or competencies:
- Embracing differences
- Openness to change
- Positive actions
- Awareness of systemic bias
- Bias introspection
Embracing Differences. The act of celebrating, embracing and harnessing the differences between people in a way that maximizes everyone’s contributions, rather than avoiding conflict by focusing solely on commonalities.
Openness to Change. The degree to which employees will change their own behaviors to foster the inclusion of different backgrounds and perspectives to create a new dynamic that benefits the organization.
Positive Actions. Evaluates the degree of personal responsibility for proactively taking inclusive action while potentially risking one’s own social and political status.
Awareness of Systemic Bias. The extent to which the individual recognizes flaws in the system that, despite good intent, need to be addressed and monitored or whether, alternatively, they tend to trust that the system is a meritocracy.
Bias Introspection. A person’s recognition, acceptance and desire to identify and mitigate the inherent unconscious biases that can lead to instinctual decision making influenced by stereotypes and assumptions.
Deloitte has identified six inclusive leadership behaviors, many with similar traits to the Pulsely Model.
Commitment. Treat everyone with fairness and respect, empower each other’s wellbeing, and foster an environment where team members can be their authentic selves.
Courage. Engage in tough conversations, when necessary, take ownership, engage others, and identify opportunities to be more inclusive.
Curiosity. Listen attentively and value the viewpoints of others.
Collaboration. Create teams that are diverse in thinking.
Cultural Intelligence. Seek out opportunities to learn about different cultures and be aware of other cultural contexts.
Cognizance of Bias. Be aware of unconscious biases so decisions can be made in a transparent, consistent and informed manner.
These are just two examples of frameworks that define the behaviors that build inclusive cultures.
In the early stages of measuring inclusion, organizations would add inclusion/engagement questions to general HR surveys by using platforms like Qualtrics or Culture Amp. The evolution of this work has spawned organizations like Pulsely, which uses dedicated, algorithm driven DEI platforms that not only reveal patterns of how inclusion varies among different identities, but measures the inclusive behaviors of supervisors and managers.
Regardless of the platform your organization employs, to use metrics effectively for measuring inclusion, include these principles:
Define Inclusion: Start by clearly defining what inclusion means within your specific context. Establish a shared understanding of inclusion by developing a definition that aligns with your organization’s values and goals. Normalize the behaviors; describe how they are connected to the type of leadership we have always valued and that we can now and more intentionally ensure.
Set Clear Objectives: Determine the specific objectives or outcomes you want to achieve through measuring inclusion. Consider what aspects of inclusion you want to measure and what changes you hope to see. Get leadership buy-in by focusing on the ROI of fully leveraging existing talent.
Identify Relevant Metrics: Once you have your objectives in place, identify the metrics that will help you track progress towards those goals. The metrics should be measurable, relevant, and aligned with your objectives. Prioritize metrics that can guide your action – telling not only who is/is not included, but also what is getting in the way of greater inclusion.
Collect Data: Gather the necessary data to calculate the identified metrics. This may involve collecting demographic information on your workforce, conducting surveys or interviews, analyzing HR data, or using other data sources. Ensure that the data collection methods respect privacy, confidentiality and legal requirements.
Analyze and Interpret the Data: Once you have the data, analyze it to understand the current state of inclusion within your organization. Look for patterns, trends and disparities in the data. If you only look at overall scores, you may dilute some low scores of smaller demographic groups. Identify areas where progress has been made and areas that require attention or improvement.
Communicate Findings: Share the findings of your analysis with relevant stakeholders, such as executives, managers and employees. Highlight key findings and trends that you plan to act on, the actions you will take, and when you will re-measure. This communication helps create awareness, transparency, accountability and trust.
Take Action: Use the insights gained from the metrics to develop strategies and action plans for improving inclusion. Address any identified gaps or areas for improvement through training and education. Provide the resources leaders need to build inclusive behaviors. Monitor the effectiveness of these actions over time and adjust them as needed.
Monitor and Iterate: Regularly monitor and update your inclusion metrics to track progress and measure the impact of your initiatives. Continuously refine and iterate your measurement approach based on the feedback received and the evolving needs of your organization.
How can we create an environment that grows these behaviors throughout the organization?
- Ground the organization in the need for inclusion. As with any shift in culture, the purpose of that culture change must tie to business objectives. Failure to make that connection risks the effort being labeled an “add-on” or something created to appease a certain segment. Understand the power of inclusion and convey that to stakeholders.
- Education. Be intentional about providing resources that help the workforce continue to learn.
- Measure. What gets measured gets done. “Inclusion measurement” is a growing field where the most evolved resources incorporate the latest AI tools.
- Create opportunities to connect.
Creating inclusion within some communities is easier than others because connections may exist naturally with some people and not with others. The more connections throughout the workforce, the higher levels of inclusion. So, how do we connect?
Seven Pillars of Friendship (Connection)
Robin Dunbar, Professor of Evolutionary Psychology at the University of Oxford, identifies seven Pillars of Friendship. Dr. Dunbar discovered these pillars while studying the nature of friendship. It’s not a leap to apply these pillars to the work environment. Note how these pillars come into play with our closest work colleagues.
- Sharing the same language, dialect and slang. Even within languages, there can be significant differences in accent that can indicate region, education, class and social status.
- Musical tastes. I’m taking the liberty of expanding this pillar to include all of the arts. Visual arts and movie preferences can create bonding opportunities.
- Educational trajectory. Because educational trajectory is often a precursor to career path, education plays a major role in establishing our networks.
- Growing up in the same location. This clearly impacts the language pillar but can also influence musical tastes.
- Hobbies and interests. Similar tastes in hobbies can create opportunities to bond outside of the work environment and can extend informal relationships into formal relationships and career opportunities.
- Similar moral and political and religious views. While, for the most part, political and religious discussions are avoided in the workplace, misalignment of these views can inhibit the creation of inclusive cultures for those that do not share a majority view.
- Musical tastes. While not typically the basis for violent disagreement, similar tastes can form a connection point.
- Sense of humor. Everyone laughs in the same language. It’s a great place to begin the connection.
Some of these pillars are organic. They are a function of where we grew up and what we were exposed to; others can be developed. Where there is difficulty connecting, take note of which pillars are naturally present and which ones may be leveraged to build sustainable connections. While the pillars may come more naturally to people who are similar, we need to be intentional in building connections with colleagues who come from very different backgrounds. Be curious about the backgrounds of others. Don’t assume that because someone shares the same ethnicity or gender as you that they are the same across all other dimensions. Seek to draw out and learn from their unique perspectives.
For those struggling with the importance of inclusion, recall a time when you were not included and how that impacted your psyche, your ability to be your best, and then multiply that against the size of your workforce. An inclusive workplace is a competitive advantage and impacts employees across the employee life cycle, affecting attraction, development and attrition. Being intentional about creating an inclusive environment benefits all employees and is accretive to your bottom line.
Lee Jourdan is Chevron’s former global chief diversity and inclusion officer and former vice president commercial and business development for Chevron’s IndoAsia and Asia South business units. He has been published by The Harvard Business Review, Washington Post, and interviewed by SHRM and Pulitzer Prize winner Daniel Yergin on DEI. Jourdan is co-author of From Shoeshine to Star Wars and was recognized by Business Insider in 2020 as one of 100 people transforming business in North America. Today, he is a director on the boards of PROS Holdings (NYSE: PRO) and the nonprofit SEARCH Homeless Services, an advisory board member at Pulsely Inc., and Ally Energy, and a special advisor to FTI Consulting, author and keynote speaker.
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