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It seems I keep seeing the word everywhere lately, but once in a while I have to ask myself if it is just a new fad. All my Equality and Diversity colleagues are all eager to add the “I” to their title and all over the blogosphere you keep seeing this word appear…but what does it actually mean? And more importantly…do we know what it means in the world of work?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, inclusion is, “The action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure”. When I read this I wonder… why is this a “new” thing within business? Clearly if we have employees in the workplace we would want them to feel included within the organisation…or have I been living in a parallel universe? Inclusion should not be something we aim to DO; it is something an organisation should BE. There should be no question on whether or not this is of importance in the world of business. Inclusion is key to create a culture within an organisation, and if you think that is too fluffy then try innovation, new product development, change processes, strategy, implementation of strategy and customer service… just to name a few.

Then, again, the new circumstances of the world does make me wonder if there is a new risen priority of having this subject at the forefront of our minds.

It seems like the world who has started embracing and promoting equality and diversity is turbulent and uncertain. The lines of divisions and identity are being blurred with the external environment being the greatest influence. The countries that were once the example to follow seem to be all over the news with stories of homophobia, racism, and even sexism. The idea of moving to inclusion as a status quo, is almost seen as mission impossible by some.

However, I would like to remain optimistic. What I think we do need is to truly understand what being inclusive really means in practical terms within an organisation. I have a fundamental belief that the world of work can impact far beyond its four walls into the rest of the world. Therefore, I believe that by changing organisations, we can change the world we live in.

So what does this look like in the workplace? Here are some thoughts to get you started:

– Inclusion starts by treating people as individuals. Getting to know your employees, what drives them, what they enjoy about their work and who they are. This will help not only managers to lead better but also the entire organisation to bond together as a collective of people working for a shared purpose.

– By logic, being inclusive is making sure that the 9 protective characteristics are viewed past their characteristic as an individual. People should not be “separated” by this, as this alone does not define them, it is just a piece of them. To avoid inequality it is just easier to be as inclusive as possible!

– When implementing change, this means looking back at those core values disciplines such as Organisation Development have and realise inclusivity has always been key to it since the 50’s. Including the whole system (or at the very least the people who will be affected by he change) will drive a successful process. Talk to them, generate change ideas together… you may be pleasantely surprised at how many innovative ideas people come up with, and then include them in the implementation. All of this decreases resistance, maintains engagement and speeds up the process. Please do not do this a tick box exercise, employees can tell the difference!

– Thinking of creating a new strategy? Same as above, why not let the whole organisation participate. Give them the basics…a purpose…and then ask, “how would you do it?”.

– As time goes by you’ll get a better understanding of what you need to tailor to an individual and what can be a group solution.

– If your company has networks for specific groups, for example LGBT+, Women’s network… make sure they are inclusive rather than exclusive. The network I was a founding member of welcomed everyone as members regardless if they fitted into the “characteristic” we represented. This was amazing as it meant we instantly had allies for the cause and further influence within the organisation.

– Lastly, provide opportunities for people in your organisation to network and most importantly be themselves. Individuals are more productive when they can bring their whole self to work. Don’t believe me? Have a think about when you have been the best at work…

So yes, although Inclusion is not new, the new fad is now taking more importance. It’s time for organisations to rise to the challenge and be the change they’d like to see in the world.

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