Photo: Ricardo Resende

Is Diversity Baked Into Your Hiring Process?

A few years ago, we were asked to help a market leader that was intent on changing its culture to be more creative and innovative. (Sound familiar?) The company was spending a million dollars on messaging and elaborate company meetings to help “get the word out” and create excitement for this new, transformative initiative.

But even as its leaders spoke eloquently about the need for change — even hiring a guru to guide their efforts — few process changes were made, and they were hesitant to reconsider the kind of people they hired. They talked of needing people who were “cultural fits” even as they held meetings in which they touted the need for cultural change and disruption.

Why traditional hiring practices backfire

The company’s hiring practices were similar to those we see in most organizations, perhaps even your own. After candidates were identified, an internal team of “high performers,” along with HR representatives, reviewed the applicants’ résumés to ensure they had the requisite experience. Unfortunately, this meant most applicant experiences were similar. The unintended result? A candidate pool with little experiential diversity.

But it didn’t end there. After “qualified” candidates interviewed with the hiring teams, they were ranked by the group. If any members of the hiring team had a concern about a person, those concerns were noted. Strong objections by a couple of group members, as a practical matter, were enough to give a candidate the boot.

Predictably, the least objectionable candidate — who typically looked, acted, and thought like other members of the group — became the team’s preferred choice.

If we want change, we need to expect challenges

When we asked the hiring team how the hiring process supported a culture of innovation, team members told us that their hiring criteria included experience in helping organizations change.

Pushing back, we asked the team to consider which types of people would contribute different and creative ideas. What employee characteristics would help the organization change? For instance, had they valued people who were:

  • Diverse in race, ethnicity, and background?
  • Rarely satisfied with the status quo?
  • Impatient and not always willing to take “no” for an answer without significant debate?
  • Disruptive, at times disagreeable, and willing to question authority?
  • Not easily managed?
  • At times, slow and hesitant to make decisions based on what was done last year? (Creativity takes time.)
  • Unwilling to go along just to get along?

 Their response neatly framed their hiring challenges:

“Why would we hire someone who is hard to manage, never satisfied, and always questioning what we do? We’re pretty good here, you know. If we hired people who we knew would consistently challenge what we learned yesterday, we’d never get anything done.”

We say we want change, but do we?

Yes, we say we want to change. We say we want creativity. We say we need diversity, but do we honestly believe it?

The truth is, even if we’re committed to recruiting more diverse teams, we’re often painfully unaware of how our hiring processes give preference to people who are more like us. As a result, we often allow the long-term effects of our biases, knowingly or unknowingly, to be hidden in our collective consciousness, in our culture. Over time, groups that cling to such processes tend to become more homogeneous, not less.

Even when we manage to hire authentically diverse teams — composed of different backgrounds, races, genders, ages, perspectives, and beliefs — we expect everyone to come together in a fabled “kumbaya” moment.

True diversity begins with intention

Recruiting a more diverse and successful team begins with intention. The kind of intention that’s required is more than a desire or wish. It’s a conscious, mindful choice based on a belief that diversity is critical to the team’s success. It requires that we create processes that are built for diversity. Our preference for people who look and think and act like us is strong and can only be overcome with a structured commitment to embrace people who often make us uncomfortable.

So, where should we start? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Start early. It’s easier to become diverse before biases have become ingrained in our hiring practices.
  2. Be clear on the type of people you hope to hire. Do they share your values? Are they competent? Good thinkers? Willing to change? Ready to speak truth to power? Confident? Good leaders? Having clarity is a necessary first step to building a successful hiring process.
  3. Recruit blindly. Superficial aspects of a person’s bio often outweigh an applicant’s talent or potential. The fix? Implement a blind submissions process — stripping away names, ages, and gender. Create a process in which people cannot “see” the applicants when initially judging their competence.
  4. Put more diversity, of all types, on your hiring team. The research on this is clear: a diverse hiring team will recruit more diverse members.
  5. Expand your personal and professional networks. Our personal preferences are affected by our experiences. For example, research shows that fathers with daughters are more likely to hire women. Having more experience with an unrepresented group makes their inclusion more likely.
  6. Confront bias when you see it. When we tolerate bias, we teach that it’s acceptable.

Learning to appreciate our differences — and to embrace diversity — is what ultimately fuels an organization’s competitive advantage. Only when people challenge us to think and act differently can we create the remarkable. So, let’s get to it.

Photo: Bethany Legg

Why You Should Recruit Introverts — and How

In this extrovert-biased world of ours, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Many job candidates aren’t making it past the hiring process to get the jobs they’re qualified for. The reality is that if introverts don’t interview in a bubbly, enthusiastic manner, they likely won’t make it to the next round. And if they don’t share their accomplishments with confidence and bravado, they’re likely to be overlooked for positions in which they would thrive. 

The costs to our organizations of this lost talent are staggering to consider. 

Yet, emerging evidence shows that the tide is turning. In a 2019 Workplace Survey of some 240 introverts, a promising 38% of respondents said their organizations demonstrated a willingness to hire and promote introverts. And as general awareness of introversion increases, it may become less of an exclusionary factor. 

Hiring a diverse workforce is just the first step. Companies must also do the work to create places where people of all temperaments feel included and experience a sense of belonging. When introverts can see many different pathways to success and opportunities to thrive, it’s more likely that they’ll stay in an organization and do their best work. 

Consider How Introversion Impacts The Job

In the hiring process, weigh whether personality actually makes a difference for the position. 

Susan Schmitt, group vice president and head of human resources at Applied Materials, says, “The main thing that matters on temperament: Is there any element of this person’s temperament, nature or behavior that will impair them in this particular role or a future role?” 

In essence, how might their temperament work for or against them in that particular role? Susan gave the example of a new hire that appeared to have low energy during the interview process. “She was somewhat slow in her responses, thoughtful and reflective, which led some interviewers to think she may not be right for the role. But her skills, knowledge, experience and education were super strong, and her capacity for complexity and conceptual capability were outstanding.” The team hired her. 

“This hire became a success story, and she ended up becoming a vice president. Had she been dinged for her low-affect personality in that first interview, think of the lost contributions,” remarked Susan. 

To ensure that people with introverted personality types are included and embraced within your organization, make certain that introversion is a key dimension of diversity within your larger talent management strategy. This would establish that an introverted candidate who didn’t come across as the kind of person an interviewer would “like to have a beer with” wouldn’t get shot down for that reason. After all, not every position requires a candidate to be great at after-work socializing, right? Furthermore, if everyone inside an organization knows the introvert-inclusive criteria for hiring and promotion, then they can build a stronger introvert-friendly culture throughout. 

Through hiring greater numbers of introverts and embracing all personality types in our organizations, we may one day reach a critical mass of introverts who are recognized, respected and heard for their wise and understated input.

How Can You Attract Great Introvert Talent?

Here are some ways to ensure that you cast the widest net and seriously consider introverts in all hiring decisions. 

  1. Give them a sense of what it’s like. How do potential recruits view your company? Ryan Jenkins, Millennial and Gen Z expert, says that companies need to manage their YouTube channels and make sure they offer people the experience of seeing what it is like to work for your company. Introverts, who like to research and spend time in reflection, will be looking to social media channels to figure out if they have a connection to your brand. You may never even see those potential introverted hires if you have a sparse online presence. 
  1. Create an introvert-friendly interview process. Integrate these three strategies: first, prep the room. Avoid blazing lights and noisy areas. Consider chair placement; sitting too close together can be off-putting for introverts who value personal space. If it’s a group interview, seat the candidate at the middle of the table rather than at its head, so the candidate feels less scrutinized and can make eye contact with everyone. 

Next, schedule adequate time. If you schedule yourself too tightly between interviews, you may feel pressured and impatient if the person doesn’t respond quickly enough, especially if you are an extrovert. Introverted candidates are likely to pause before answering questions, and you want to provide them with the time they need to fully express themselves. 

And finally, attend to energy levels. One hiring manager said that she noticed her more introverted candidates were “not the same people at the end of the day. They deflated without a chance for breaks with back-to-back interviews.” To avoid overwhelming the candidate, only put people on the interviewing schedules who are essential to the process. Consider breaking a packed interview schedule into two days. 

  1. Check your bias at the door. If you’re more extroverted, beware of projecting your bias about introverts onto the candidate by wishing they showed more emotion or visible energy. If you’re an introvert, you’re more likely comfortable with a slower pace and pauses, and the possible self-effacing manner of an introverted interviewee. Check yourself for confirmation bias — that is, the tendency to seek answers that support your case and point of view while minimizing other important responses. Diversify your pool of candidates by being open to everyone. 
  1. Employ paraphrasing. Reflecting back what you heard gives candidates a chance to modify or validate what they said. It also offers a needed pause for introverts so they can process what’s being said in a reflective way. Both introverts and extroverts will appreciate the chance to clarify their thoughts and round out their responses.
  1. Use AI tools (with caution). Using artificial intelligence screening is receiving more attention as one solution to reducing the costs of hiring and to promote more diversity. AI can allow you to cast a wider net and includes those with introverted temperaments who might not be considered in the initial screening process. Digital interviews record verbal and nonverbal cues of candidates and analyze them against position criteria. But many experts suggest using a slower approach rather than a full-scale adoption of these tools at this stage, as they can bear unintentional biases. 

To capture introvert talent, think beyond hiring (and promoting) for personality. It starts with checking your own temperament bias and valuing introverts in your talent management process. 


Photo: Meagan Carsience

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and the Bottom Line

The events of the last few months have brought increased attention to the value that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) bring to the workplace and to society at large. Increasingly, organizations are engaging in discussions around flexible working, social justice, privilege, equity, and about what this all means for the future of work. 

For those who work in the DEI space, these conversations are not new. The strong connections between workforce diversity, inclusion, and engagement have been documented for years. When organizations build diverse cultures where everyone can succeed and thrive, business results also flourish. 

A recent report from The Conference Board outlines how building a stronger connection between inclusion and engagement initiatives can help human capital leaders improve the employee experience while increasing trust and feelings of belonging. As organizations rely more heavily on team-based models, these links become crucial to driving performance and sparking innovation. 

Yet many organizations still struggle to put DEI into practice. Effective DEI strategies and initiatives often require changes in norms, talent processes, and leadership styles, all of which may encounter resistance. Change is difficult. Hence, this period of turmoil constitutes both an ideal and a challenging time for human capital leaders to take action and strengthen DEI within their organizations.  

It’s the ideal time because DEI is top of mind among leaders. There is strong executive support to create positive change that drives resilience; in many cases business leaders are reaching out to their HR teams for the first time to ask for DEI solutions. It is also a challenging time because these important conversations are happening as leaders juggle multiple considerations around the COVID-19 health and economic crisis, and their business needs — and they often are doing so with fewer resources. 

What can human capital leaders do to advance DEI, build resilience, and drive positive organizational change? Building on insights from executives across industries and regions who participated in Conference Board research, we recommend the following four steps:

1. Create a common vision around what DEI means for your organization, and why it’s especially important now.

Enhance communication and encourage consistent messaging across the organization. Help leaders and colleagues understand how DEI can improve the work environment and increase resilience during times of change.

Practical tips from DEI leaders:

  • Create organization-wide definitions of DEI that align with the organization’s culture and values.
  • Identify measurable behaviors and clear expectations that help hold people accountable for those behaviors.

2. Encourage collaboration and broader participation in your DEI initiatives.

As recent events increase DEI’s visibility, they also amplify opportunities to engage employees and leaders more broadly across the organization. Now is the time to boost interest among those who typically do not participate in DEI, to create shared accountability, and to help ensure that the burden of driving change doesn’t fall solely on underrepresented groups.

Practical tips from DEI leaders:

  • Provide resources on how people can participate and take action both at work and within their broader communities.
  • Communicate and set clear expectations, which can go a long way toward people feeling supported during times of change. Encourage dialogue over conflict and make it OK to make mistakes; this will help build trust.

3. Invest in inclusive leadership skills development.

Inclusive cultures do not just happen by chance. They require intentionality and willingness to change how we work and interact with our colleagues, as well as identifying the inclusive leadership behaviors to help drive your people strategy. At times, this will require leaders to learn new skills and to “unlearn” how they manage their teams in order for them to fully integrate different perspectives. The good news: these new skills can improve both leadership effectiveness and business results.

Practical tips from DEI leaders: 

  • There are multiple models of inclusive leadership to help identify key behaviors. You don’t have to start from scratch, leverage existing models of inclusive leadership in the field.
  • Work with both formal and informal DEI champions across the organization to outline key inclusive behaviors that are meaningful to you. Some organizations may want to highlight how diversity and inclusion improve decision-making, whereas others may focus on the connection between DEI and innovation. The key is to make inclusion relevant to your business and work.

4. Enhance accountability. 

To drive effective change, holding people accountable for their role in creating a more inclusive culture is key. Accountability helps establish clear expectations about how everyone can participate, including specific behaviors (e.g., team or leadership behaviors) and, for people managers, metrics (e.g., diversity representation, engagement). Without clear accountabilities to help us keep the goals in mind, we’re all bound to go back to our “old ways” of working.

Practical tips from DEI leaders: 

  • Ask for input on your strategy from, and conduct regular follow-ups with, leaders about DEI accountabilities and progress. Having a voice helps increase ownership and buy-in.
  • Engage your human capital analytics team to identify patterns, trends, and examine the impact of your DEI efforts. Assess what is and isn’t working, such as by comparing promotion and attrition rates for employees who participate in a program or activity and those who do not.

This is the time for human capital and business leaders to drive positive organizational change, increase DEI, and create more effective ways of working across differences. Follow these guidelines to capitalize on this moment to improve workplace culture and business results.

Be Inclusive, Not Just Tolerant

When I think about the words “inclusion” and “tolerance,” I see a large chasm. In regards to the modern-day workforce, diversity and inclusion mean accepting and welcoming people from different walks of life. Tolerance, on the other hand, does not denote acceptance, but rather an attitude of being faced with something you must go along with but in your heart don’t accept.

This isn’t just an esoteric difference, because diversity and inclusion have real business benefits, and even subtle forms of bias have increasingly negative effects in terms of brand reputation and in competing for talent.

How do you address this issue? A first step is to ponder whether you or your company has an issue with accepting people who are different from you.

Looking Inward at Prejudice

Studies show people are programmed to compartmentalize and categorize other people. It’s easy to put people into a bucket than to discover their real characteristics. Feelings of low self-esteem often fuel this thinking and allow it to continue in the normal course of living. But like many things in life, taking the lazy approach produces inferior results personally and professionally, and when adding prejudice to the mix it becomes a morally reprehensible viewpoint.

Denying the humanity of those different from ourselves is a form of prejudice. Unfortunately, this is a common phenomenon in society and without doubt, an all-too-common workplace occurrence that can lead to outright discrimination. When prejudice and bias (another baseless reaction and belief) exist in the workplace, imaginary walls are put up, with certain segments of the population placed inside. These walls block access to the employer’s mainstream activities and benefits,, leaving some people excluded with with limited ability to advance fairly. In essence, they are isolated or at best tolerated.

It Starts at the Top

When business leadership does not openly and actively support a diverse workforce, employees take it as a cue on the company culture. Often a reluctance about inclusion is subtle, but when you look around at your co-workers and see only those similar to yourself, it’s an indication that management is not actively promoting — and perhaps not that interested in — diversity and inclusion.

Also, look at the leadership in your organization. Do you see only the same gender and race in those positions? Organizations that place people in positions of power under the guise of “This is a male-dominated industry” are perpetuating prejudice and ignoring the possibilities of learning from others’ experiences.

Subtle Signs

One of the most common ways that organizations stay homogenous is by hiring only those who fit the image of what is “just like us.” Hiring practices such as using focused venues to advertise job openings to avoid attracting “unwanted” segments of the population is most certainly a sign of conscious bias. Any action, though subtle, to avoid particular people within the population will not serve the organization well in the long run.

In addition, questionable raises and promotions are another subtle sign that not all employees are treated fairly and without bias. Although some employees may have champions fighting for them, there is cause to believe some segments of employee populations are not getting their fair share.

How can these overlooked people prove they were intentionally left out of the conversation? Often they can’t. This situation runs counter to the very ideals of equality that America was built on. It’s something we should never lose sight of, as so eloquently stated in the Declaration of Independence, “… all [men] are created equal…”

Generational Views

Younger workers’ ideas about diversity and inclusion extend beyond the common observations of age, gender, ethnicity, etc., to also encompass an ideal: that everyone, regardless of their differences, will be treated fairly and equally. For Millennials this means they want to be heard, supported and engaged by leadership, regardless of the traditional management of employees.

Older generations may still default to the anecdotal observations, but as they retire and as Millennials and Generation Z take over, it’s expected that diversity and inclusion will go beyond the legal definition and encompass a greater meaning with deeper engagement.

Inclusion Is Good for Your Bottom Line

Still not convinced that diversity is a fight worth fighting? It turns out, prejudice is bad for business.

A McKinsey study indicates that brands in the top rankings for racial and ethnic diversity are about 35 percent more likely to produce an ROI above other brands within their industry. Additionally, corroborating research indicates that diverse companies have 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee compared with non-diverse companies.

When companies become more global, they access more segments of the population, allowing them to expand their clientele. Interacting with new people means reaching a new customer base, with the potential to increase sales.

Research has shown that one of the best ways to gain employees is to first have them as customers. In fact, one of my partners was a former client, so I can attest to the value of good customer interactions. When people like a product and the company that produces it, they’re more likely to be an engaged and satisfied customer — and happy customers are very good for your bottom line for many reasons, such as becoming brand ambassadors for your organization and secondly, they can develop an interest in being an employee. If your business plans include expanding into new markets, having employees who are representative of them is a great idea. They can help bridge gaps in customer relations and keep potential customers engaged. As people go, shared narratives are impactful.

There are myriad reasons why inclusion will always win out in society, life and in the workplace. It’s up to brands to take an honest look at their employee population with a discerning eye and ask “Who’s missing?” Think about your business to date and what your future plans are for expansion. You may find opportunities you couldn’t imagine before, and in doing so elevate your product and employer reputation.

This post is sponsored by SmartSearch.

4 Ways to Rewrite Your Recruitment Playbook for More Diverse Candidates

If you’ve been following the news lately, you might have noticed a growing conversation in the tech and business worlds about a lack of diversity at major corporations. And when you look at the numbers, it isn’t pretty: Only 24 of Fortune 500 CEOs are female, while only three are African-American. Worse yet, only 3 percent of those companies are fully transparent about their diversity numbers.

This isn’t just an unfortunate reality for women, people of color and members of the LGBTQ community — it’s also a wasted opportunity for the organizations themselves.

Employee diversity raises the bar on business success, innovation and overall brand impressions. Research has shown that increasing the diversity of a company makes it more innovative and more profitable overall.

The world has changed, and our approach to building a workplace culture, especially with regard to hiring practices, must change along with it.

Rewriting the Playbook

A diversity-and-inclusion-focused approach can change everything about the recruiting and onboarding process. It can cause people to expand beyond their comfort zones of where they recruit, how they recruit, the questions they ask and who’s involved in the interview process.

But there’s work to do before you recruit: You have to assess your current state and define what you want to accomplish. For example, if your board and staff aren’t diverse, candidates won’t believe you value diversity. If your company has prestigious awards, do the winners represent diversity? And take a look at your vendors — do you make an effort to source vendors that meet your diversity objectives?

You’ll need to play the long game. Your marketing objectives and sourcing processes could change, but over time you’ll discover a range of unique, qualified candidates that disappeared in your previous screening — or never saw your job posting at all.

The goal is to identify and remove potential biases when sourcing, screening and developing a slate of candidates who might otherwise have been ignored or discriminated against. By doing so, you open your organization up to a whole range of exciting new possibilities.

Diversity by Design

So how do you make hiring for diversity a priority? These strategies will get you moving in the right direction.

Make Sure Your Leadership Is on Board

When I was one of the founding members of a diversity leadership council for General Electric, we worked with a diversity consulting firm to facilitate sessions among executives and minority employees. One of the questions asked of those of us on the executive team was “When was the first time you felt different from others in your work environment?” Out of 14 executives — all of whom were white men — I was the only one who could relate to the question because I’m a woman. None of the men ever felt different from other people at work.

It led to a serious and illuminating discussion. The men were trying to justify that they never felt different, which led to one of them asking “How often do any of you feel different?” A black female attorney stood up and said “Every damn day!” The rest of the employees gave her a standing ovation.

If leadership doesn’t get involved in fostering an inclusive workplace, it will never happen. The rest of the organization can’t make up for the company’s leadership ignoring the cultural challenges, so don’t let executives and hiring managers off the hook. Help them see the value in diversity and inclusion to increase the success of your recruiting.

Add Structure to the Process

Making diversity in the workplace a priority doesn’t simply begin and end with intention. Put structure in your program by setting clear and measurable metrics to monitor your inclusion efforts.

Dr. John Sullivan, an internationally known HR thought leader from Silicon Valley, has developed metrics for individual recruiters’ effectiveness. This includes the percentage of diverse candidates who are presented to hiring managers, how many receive an interview or offer, the eventual turnover rate and how satisfied those candidates feel after going through the process. Tools such as these can demonstrate your organization’s priorities and make inclusivity more ingrained in your hiring practices.

Look Outside Your Normal Paths for Recruitment

When I started at Beta Gamma Sigma, our diversity rate was 0.06 percent. Over the next three years it rose to 33 percent. This happened because we started recruiting beyond our previous sources. For example, we partnered with the Diversity Awareness Partnership in St. Louis. We were able to learn from other organizations’ diversity hiring successes, network in a diverse business community and post our open positions on their job boards.

Participate in virtual or in-person career fairs for targeted minority groups. Likewise, social media is a powerful tool for both sourcing candidates and marketing your company. If your ads, website pages or social media don’t contain diversity, candidates won’t believe you value diversity. If you truly don’t know where to start, ask your employees who are minorities for recommendations on how to improve diversity recruiting.

Partner with Diversity-Focused Organizations

Partner with organizations within your community that value diversity. Like BGS saw with Diversity Awareness Partnership, these organizations can have a positive, lasting effect on your company.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the most common sources for diverse recruiting are historically black colleges and universities and Hispanic-serving institutions. Partner with schools serving minority populations to access a well of strong, qualified candidates. For high-achieving undergraduate and graduate students, a proven source is through the Association of College Honor Societies, which sets the standards for honor society excellence. Most societies are international organizations with members who are recognized for their academic achievements, leadership skills and service.

Jodi Weiss, a board member for Beta Gamma Sigma and the practice leader for nonprofit and higher education at Korn Ferry, specializes in recruiting for C-suite positions. She uses the same tactics herself. “To find diverse candidates for the C-suite level, recruiters must employ a sourcing strategy that also targets diverse boards of directors at impactful companies and organizations,” Weiss says.

It’s never too late to create a pipeline to ensure your successful future. Companies that don’t understand or respect the diverse needs of their customers — or that ignore the opportunity to include all voices — will decrease their likelihood of sustainability. Instead, improve employee morale, productivity and loyalty by building a team that’s truly worth celebrating.

#WorkTrends: Building a More Inclusive Workplace with SurveyMonkey

While inclusion is the new buzzword, do companies really know what it means? How many companies are truly creating an inclusive work culture? How many even know how to?

This week on WorkTrends, we’re talking to Leela Srinivasan, chief marketing officer at SurveyMonkey. She has impressive chops in the world of HR tech and can share advice that any leader can use to build a more inclusive workplace.

You can listen to the full episode below, or keep reading for this week’s topic. Share your thoughts with us using the hashtag #WorkTrends.


Inclusion Doesn’t Happen By Chance

SurveyMonkey takes a variety of approaches to create an inclusive work environment. “We have four employee resource groups (ERGs), which are designed to provide support and inspiration to different populations within SurveyMonkey who are underrepresented minorities,” Srinivasan says. There is a Latinos group, which was founded to support black and Latin employees, an LGBTQ plus group, a women-in-the-workplace group and a separate group for “women who tech,” designed to further the careers of self-identified female engineers.

But even with those four ERGs, the company believes it’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure that SurveyMonkey is a diverse and inclusive workforce. It’s not just an HR program — the company engages the entire organization. In addition to the ERGs, there are four office committees — at the headquarters at San Mateo, California; in Portland, Oregon; in Ottawa, Ontario; and in Dublin. “The idea is to make sure that we, on a local level, celebrate important and culturally significant events.”

For instance, Pride Month is celebrated across all four offices. Also, the Goldie Speaker Series — named for Dave Goldberg, the company’s late CEO — provides an opportunity to discuss diversity and inclusion issues as a team, and hear from inspiring trailblazers.

Companies often struggle to measure their inclusion efforts, SurveyMonkey worked with Paradigm and Stanford University to develop a template of three drivers that are fundamental to building an inclusive workforce.

Inclusion Driver 1: Growth Mindset

Organizations that have a growth mindset believe that talent isn’t necessarily fixed and that people, whoever they are, can evolve and learn. “The converse of that growth mindset is a fixed mindset, which means you think people are either talented or they’re not, and it creates what we would call a culture of genius.” A culture of genius hinders true inclusion, because not everyone will feel that they can learn, grow and have the best opportunities at the company.

Inclusion Driver 2: A Culture of Belonging

When SurveyMonkey was in the process of building the template, it surveyed about 10,000 people to ensure the methodology was sound. “When we ran this survey, 25 percent of workers told us that they feel like they don’t belong at their organization. That jumps to nearly a third for black workers,” Srinivasan says. If you haven’t created a culture where everyone truly belongs, Srinivasan says this is going to run counter to your efforts to build an inclusive culture.

Inclusion Driver 3: Objectivity

The third driver, objectivity, is the perception that people can advance based on fair and transparent criteria. Take compensation, for example. In the survey, 60 percent of employees thought their compensation was fair. “However, when we looked at the data and sliced it by ethnicity, we found that less than half of black employees agreed that compensation was fair,” Srinivasan says.

“Those were the three drivers, and it’s very clear from the stats, the survey, and what we know to be true that we really do have our work cut out in building truly inclusive cultures.”

Let’s continue the conversation. Join us on Twitter (#WorkTrends) for our weekly chat on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 10:30 a.m. Pacific or anywhere in the world you are joining from to discuss this topic and more.

How to Intentionally Create a More Inclusive Culture

Inclusion is a popular buzzword, but are companies doing more than just paying lip service to the idea? Some organizations truly want to create an inclusive culture, but many leaders don’t fully understand what that entails. If you’re working on making your workplace more inclusive, consider these four steps.

Define an Inclusive Culture

There’s some confusion regarding the definition of an inclusive culture. Just because your company has some racial and gender diversity doesn’t mean you can check the inclusion box. “In an inclusive culture, everyone has the opportunity to do their best work no matter who they are, what they do or where they work,” says Simma Lieberman, an inclusion expert who is the author of “110 Ways to Champion Diversity and Build Inclusion” and who recently launched a podcast, Every Day Conversations on Race for Every Day People.

In a truly inclusive workplace, she says, everyone feels like they’re really a part of the organization, and they know how they contribute to the organization’s success. “Diversity management and inclusion are integrated into every system and process, so people are comfortable taking risks, sharing ideas, and they feel invested in their own success and the success of the organization at every level.”

The key is to make employees feel comfortable and believe they’re a good fit with the organization. “In an inclusive culture, all members of the staff understand and embrace that this is a space that belongs to everyone and that there are values we hold and behaviors we expect to guard that culture,” says Ximena Hartsock, co-founder and president of Phone2Action, a digital advocacy platform. “Inclusion is a lifestyle, a way of living, not just a set of principles written on a wall,” Hartsock says.

Understand the Relationship Between Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion (D&I) are often mentioned together and some people think they’re synonymous terms. They’re not. “Diversity is a fact; inclusion is a choice. You must have a diverse workforce in order to be inclusive,” says Anna Beninger, senior director of research and corporate engagement partner at Catalyst, a global nonprofit that works with CEOs and companies to help build workplaces that work for women.

Beninger says diversity refers to the demographic makeup of an organization’s workforce. “A diverse workforce includes individuals representing more than one gender, racial/ethnic group, sexual orientation, national origin, socioeconomic stratum or other characteristic.”

The benefit of diverse groups is that they bring a variety of viewpoints, experiences, backgrounds and interests to the table. “Diverse teams inherently create more unique ideas because individuals have had different experiences and view problems in different ways,” Beninger says. “They challenge one another and ultimately develop stronger solutions.”

On the other hand, she says, inclusion can be invisible and difficult to grasp. “Catalyst research shows that when individuals feel that they belong to the group and are valued for their unique perspective and skills, they are more cooperative and innovative,” Beninger says.

However, when companies have diversity without inclusion, the results are much different. Lieberman says that without inclusion, you just have employees from different backgrounds. “Diversity alone may look good in the company photo, but without inclusion employees end up in racial, cultural, gender and other types of silos — and they will leave if they are underutilized, underestimated or feel invisible.” She says companies will not benefit from diversity unless they make employees feel welcome and can bring them together to interact and solve problems using the unique talents and experiences from their backgrounds.

Realize That D&I Is a Process, Not a Program

Inclusion isn’t something that you do one time and then check it off your list. “Too many people see it as a one-time event with training or an hour lunch-and-learn, but inclusion has to be embedded in the culture in every business system and process,” Lieberman says, adding that this doesn’t just happen by chance. “It has to be intentional and aligned with recruiting, hiring and retaining people,” she says.

Another issue is the tendency to focus too much on policies and programs. When developing a D&I strategy, Beninger says it’s important to pay attention to the human side of change. “Catalyst research shows that an organization’s formal efforts to promote inclusion may be effective, but if there is a disconnect with the informal culture, exclusion can persist.”

For example, she says, an employee may be excited about the company’s leadership development program, but at the same time dreading interactions with team members who constantly dismiss his or her ideas at meetings.

“To overcome this challenge, organizations should promote inclusive leadership behaviors among all employees and visibly and explicitly reward these behaviors,” Beninger says. “When exclusionary behavior does happen, interrupt these behaviors — and, importantly, leaders should validate employees’ experiences of exclusion by transparently acknowledging barriers and setbacks, and highlighting efforts to amplify inclusion.”

Adopt Inclusive Leadership Behaviors

To create an inclusive culture in which everyone feels they belong and is comfortable expressing their uniqueness, Beninger recommends adopting four key inclusive leadership behaviors:

  • Empowerment: Enable team members to grow and excel by encouraging them to solve problems, come up with new ideas and develop new skills.
  • Accountability: Show confidence in team members by holding them responsible for aspects of their performance that are within their control.
  • Courage: Stand up for what you believe is right, even when it means taking a risk.
  • Humility: Admit mistakes, learn from criticism and different points of view, and overcome your limitations by seeking contributions from team members.

Companies should also actively recruit, develop and advance people from underrepresented groups. “Catalyst research shows that significant barriers still remain that hold high-potential women, including women of color, back in organizations,” Beninger says. “These barriers must be addressed to level the playing field and create a truly diverse and inclusive organization.”

And while gender and ethnicity tend to dominate the D&I conversation, diversity extends beyond these descriptors. “We had a student in a wheelchair in our fellows program, and that helped us tremendously to understand his limitations, but also value even more his resilience and desire to succeed,” Hartsock says. “We had to make several adjustments that gave us more empathy about his situation and raised our awareness tremendously.”

Also, Hartsock says her company has summer fellows as young as 15, and next summer it will have senior fellows older than 65. “We do this to get a wide range of perspectives, and it’s incredible how much you learn when you are open to other views.”

It’s being open to these other viewpoints that will ultimately determine the success of your program. “For D&I to benefit an organization and sustain itself, people have to know each other, engage in meaningful interactions and learn skills to be more culturally intelligent, which benefits everyone,” Lieberman says.