ReVisions LLC 

Ideas for Leaders,  a newsletter from ReVisions LLC
TOWARD INCLUSIVE ORGANIZATIONS, PART 1
While Americans have been supporting political candidates of different views, ages, races, genders and life experiences, I have had the good fortune of designing diversity programs for several organizations. As organizations and citizens, we now face a challenge of moving from appreciating diversity to being truly inclusive.

What is acknowledging diversity and what is being inclusive? “Diversity” refers to differences among people. To appreciate diversity means to pay attention—to some degree—to the fact that your employees differ in many ways. “Being inclusive” means that all employees fully and equitably participate in every aspect of organizational life; it is an ideal to strive for.

Imagine a scale. “Paying attention to diversity only as required by law” is at the bottom and “an inclusive work place” is at the top. Organizations that are in the middle, that is, who to some degree “appreciate diversity,” have a mission, values or employee handbook that supports diversity. They can point to some organizational practices such as holding new employee diversity training, or having one or two senior leaders who are different from the majority in, say, race or gender.

The journey to inclusiveness involves sustained exploration of organizational practices. A trained professional can help senior leaders and HR see opportunities for improvement. Expertise in inclusiveness involves learning about individual and group identities, differences between tokenism and inclusiveness, overt and covert uses of power, unconscious bias, institutional “isms,” and subtle cultural messages embedded in our behavior and organizational processes.

First of all, take an expanded view of diversity that includes socio-economic differences, age, military experience, sexual orientation, ethnicity and national origin, ability/disability, parental (and care giver of parent) status, and marital/civil union/partnership/single status. These are just a few aspects of our diverse identities. Based on your experience, what other aspects of individual and group identities can you think of?

These differences will be revealed as employees express their needs for benefits and time off, their career goals, and their views on organizational policies, processes, and workplace norms. The young parent and the employee who cares for parents may need flex time. The veteran may be sensitive about hearing office talk where criticisms about the war she fought in are expressed. The New American’s views of family and community responsibility affects his career goals.

The sidebar at the right summarizes several ways to become inclusive.

In my next newsletter I will explain each item on this list.

Moving toward inclusiveness is a continuing journey. First, we make a commitment to clearly see where our organizations now stand; then we patiently take the path toward an ideal.

Early Summer 2008
Volume 11 • Number 2

The Inclusive System
• Conducts regular organizational assessments with a diversity component

• Has inclusiveness experts: a standing diversity committee, a consultant on call, or a staff diversity coordinator

• Encourages the board and senior management to do regular self-monitoring such as evaluating meeting norms

• Uses non-traditional ways of recruiting, for example, in-person networking in addition to newspaper ads

• Uses diverse hiring committees

• Trains all senior leadership, HR staff, and all managers and supervisors in ways to recognize and interrupt unconscious bias in hiring, supervision, performance reviews, promotion and retention practices

• Welcomes and retains employees through a mentoring system, diversity committees, succession planning, and benefits programs

• Solicits and keeps trended data on employee and customer feedback

Copyright (c) 2008 Dr. Merryn Rutledge.

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Dr. Merryn Rutledge, Principal of ReVisions LLC 233 Van Patten Parkway Burlington, Vermont 05408
essential guidance for organizations in transition

Ph.: (802) 863-7084
Fax: (802) 860-7183
mr@revisions.org
http://www.revisions.org

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