As we’ve grown to more than 1,000 people in nine offices across the United States, fostering an inclusive environment becomes more challenging—but all the more important.
As part of a journey to strengthen our culture of inclusion, we began writing quarterly letters designed to stimulate discussion about relevant and sometimes challenging topics. The idea is that healthy and open dialogue is an essential prerequisite to breaking down the barriers to inclusion. Over the past year, we’ve tackled several big issues: unconscious bias, equality of networking opportunities in and out of the office, the value of employee resource groups, and integration of talent at the senior level. Now, as we are into our third year of this conversation, I want to respond to one of the most common questions we hear from our people: What should I be doing on a regular basis to make inclusion real?
The Harvard Business Review article, “What Diversity and Inclusion Policies do Employees Actually Want,” features recent research by the Boston Consulting Group, which surveyed more than 16,000 employees in 14 countries to understand obstacles to inclusion, the programs employed in their workplaces, and what they find most effective. Although nearly all of large (1,000+ employee) companies invest in diversity and inclusion programs, about three quarters of employees in underrepresented groups (women, ethnic and racial minorities, LGBTQ employees) said they have not personally benefited from those I&D programs. Half of all diverse employees reported that they see bias as part of their day-to-day work experience, while white heterosexual males were 13 percent more likely than average to believe that the day-to-day experience and major decisions are free of bias.
While programs can set the tone, creating an inclusive workplace is something that each one of us has the power to influence. And in my view, this is not just about making the workplace inclusive for people of diverse demographics; it is about making the workplace inclusive for everyone. That includes anyone who may feel like an outsider—the new person, the person from a different practice or office, the person on the phone, or the introvert—in a workplace setting.
We’ve also heard direct feedback from people across the firm that they are seeking some tangible ways they can help: how can individuals move the needle to build an inclusive culture during their everyday interactions with their colleagues and clients?
With that in mind, here are a few simple things anyone can do on a day-to-day basis to make those around them feel included and like insiders rather than outsiders.
Welcoming new colleagues
Some of our offices have grown to a point that we don’t know everyone. Combine that with the fact that many of us spend significant time at client sites, and it can be hard to make sure new team members feel like part of the team from day one.
1. Take the initiative to introduce yourself to new hires.
If you are in the office, stop by to say “hi” to these new employees. If you are out in the field, send a quick note of welcome and then follow up in person when you are back in the office. Extend this gesture to those who may be visiting from other offices—if you see an unfamiliar face, take time to introduce yourself. It will be welcomed.
2. If you are a career advisor, office leader, practice leader, or human resources leader, figure out who your new hire should know, make those introductions, and offer some information to help establish the connection.
“Sue, this is Bob. He is a new manager in our Energy & Utilities practice here in Los Angeles. He comes from XYZ utility and has been part of the team responsible for engaging customers in using new smart meters. His experience may be relevant to you and ABC utility, so I’d suggest the two of you get to know each other.” Better yet, be thinking about who the new hire should meet during the first week and have a calendar of meetings already set up on day one.
3. "Make it three."
Many of us schedule meet-and-greets with new hires to introduce ourselves. While there are instances when three’s a crowd, this is typically not one of those. Consider adding a third person to the conversation to facilitate further introductions within the organization.
Our organization, like many, has an insatiable appetite for meetings and conference calls. There are little things we often do in organizing or running meetings that can determine whether someone feels like an insider or an outsider.
1. Make introductions.
People feel more included and part of the conversation when they know who else is participating. At the beginning of the meeting or call, take a moment to restate the names of the participants and their roles, especially if the participants are not familiar with each other. If time permits, do a round robin of quick introductions.
2. Announce yourself on calls.When speaking up during a call, don’t just jump in with your point. Identify yourself: “This is Brian, and I want to offer my thoughts about ABC…
3. Be conscious of scheduling.
As meeting leaders, we have a tendency to make others’ schedules work within ours. This can be problematic when meeting across time zones or even continents, as many of us do. Make sure one party isn’t always the one accommodating the other. For example, if you have a standing call with a colleague on the opposite coast, vary the time of the call occasionally so one party isn’t consistently taking the call outside of work hours or at lunchtime.
4. Strive to end meetings on time.
Many of us go from meeting to meeting to meeting. When your meeting runs long—even if for a very good reason—recognize that the other party may get a “bad rap” for showing up late to the next meeting.
5. Allocate time for people to speak.
Pause the discussion periodically and ask if anyone has something they’d like to contribute or questions they would like to ask. Not everyone feels comfortable interrupting the discussion to speak up. At the same time, call out interruptions as they happen. “Joe did not have a chance to finish his thought. Let’s go back and hear what he has to say.
6. Choose words with care.Even small words can be important. For example, your greeting of “Hey, guys,” as you walk into the room may not be made with mal intent, but someone may perceive it to be exclusive.
7. Give credit when credit is due.
“Parroting” or “amplification” gives people confidence to speak up and add their perspectives. “Earlier in the meeting, Mary suggested that we have a working session on the customer roadmap next time we get together. Let’s make sure that is on the agenda.”
8. Mix up responsibilities for meeting-related tasks: leading, facilitating, taking notes, and ordering lunch.
This allows the team to get to know each other and their respective styles better. It also ensures the less-glamorous tasks aren’t being delegated to the most junior person or the lone woman on the team. When that happens, people who end up taking on administrative tasks more often may feel they are not as important to the team as others in the room.
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