6.1 Exploring inclusion
People are often so busy thinking about their own point of view that they cannot see the point of view of others. People also tend to judge the ideas of others rather than trying to understand them. As academic researcher Michàlle E. Mor Barak (2017) explains in their work, we have difficulty accepting that others may achieve the same result in a different or a better way.
However, bringing a mix of different people from various backgrounds together is an important factor in finding and implementing creative solutions to problems. Thinking ‘outside the box’ and interacting with diverse colleagues improves people’s ability to work in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world (this description is commonly shortened to the acronym ‘VUCA’).
Inclusion in the workplace means making the most of diversity in staff and students. It increases the depth and range of behaviours, capabilities and skills that the organisation can use in order to respond to the needs of a VUCA environment. In fact, a leader who is able to manage and engage a company’s heterogeneous workforce can obtain a unique competitive advantage and deal with leadership challenges more effectively.
As you will see in the next activity, an organisation becomes an inclusive workplace when it accepts and makes use of the diversity of its workforce. This diversity could include accent, age, caring responsibilities, colour, culture, visible and invisible disability, gender identity and expression, mental health, neurodiversity, physical appearance, political opinion, pregnancy and maternity/paternity and family status and socio-economic circumstances, or any intersection or combination of these, as well as other personal characteristics and experiences.
Activity 12 Leadership strategies for (global) inclusion
Watch the video at the link below on ‘global inclusion’ by Ernest Gundling, co-founder and managing partner at Aperian Global.
(open link in a new/tab window so you can return easily).
What does Gundling mean by ‘global inclusion’? Make some notes in the text box below.
The way that Gundling addresses global inclusion incorporates the following:
- To include people of different race and gender.
- To work together with people from different functions and generations.
- To be ready to cross the barriers.
- To find ways to include people from an expert area to help in other areas.
- To invite the unexpected.
- To look for new sources of information.
In this video, Gundling discusses global inclusion, which he says not only refers to race and gender, but to areas such as functional and generational differences. For example, being a technical expert doesn’t mean you have no opinions on marketing, sales, or any other areas that you don’t have a strong knowledge or engagement with. In this example, you need to be ready to cross the barriers and find ways to include technical experts to help the company in other areas too.
Gundling also offers some strategies for inclusion that leaders and managers can use, such as:
- look for new sources of information
- challenge their assumptions
- ask people to think about their network so as to expand it
- invite the unexpected.
Barak (2017) defines an inclusive workplace as one that:
- values and utilises the differences of the individual and groups – ultimately, it will aim to modify the organisational values and norms to accommodate its employees
- works with the surrounding community and contributes to the community – the organisation acknowledges that it does not have responsibility only to its stakeholders but to the wider society
- works with individuals, groups and organisations from a variety of national and cultural backgrounds – the organisation seeks to develop international collaborations so as to further expand the possibility for diversity
- seeks ways to support disadvantaged groups – the organisation will seek to hire and train people that belong to underrepresented and disadvantaged groups.
You will probably notice that Barak goes a step further than Gundling – who speaks about internal inclusion – and also presents the importance of external inclusion.
In order for a leader or manager to achieve inclusion in a global and turbulent environment, they need to look at both internal and external inclusion. They need to find ways and practices to accept, welcome and equally treat groups or individuals from different backgrounds, and at the same time respond to the needs of their community or organisation.
If inclusion is the ‘overarching culture encompassing diversity, equality, and many other aspects of our working lives’, diversity is ‘the mix of people’ (Inclusive Employers, 2022). The next section explores various attributes of that mix.