If you ever suffered the indignity of being one of the last kids chosen when teams formed for a game, you know what it's like to feel excluded. You technically were on the team, but you really weren't a welcome addition, and you probably spent most of your time sitting on the sidelines. That's how employees feel when they are hired, but they perceive that their contributions are not valued. Inclusion means giving every employee a chance to take the field with fans cheering them on.
Diversity and Inclusion
Diversity means that a company’s workforce reflects a variety of races and religions, and includes a good mix of male and female workers. But, bringing diversity in the door through a targeted hiring program is only the beginning. If diverse workers don’t feel they have a voice and an equal opportunity to advance, they will leave. Inclusion is the second half of diversity that makes sure all employees are full team members and feel their contributions are valued.
Benefits of Inclusion
Inclusion isn’t just good public relations; it benefits the company’s bottom line. Employees who feel valued are more productive and more likely to show initiative because they feel invested in the company and their work. In addition, diverse employees bring with them different perspectives, so they see problems from different angles and can offer unique approaches to problem-solving and brain-storming sessions. Employees from diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds also understand different segments of the population and can help the company market more effectively to different demographics.
Dangers of Ignoring Inclusion
Employees who don’t feel included easily become depressed and withdrawn, making them uninclined to offer solutions they believe will be ignored or rejected. The quality of their work may suffer and their rate of absenteeism may increase, which costs the company money. Their decreased morale and related lack of communication may also adversely affect the whole team and drag down its productivity. If they leave their jobs because they feel undervalued, the company will incur the cost of severance packages, the outlay to hire and train replacements, and the lost productivity during the training period for the new employees, according to HRDirectory.org.
A Path to Inclusion
Communication is fundamental to the establishment of an inclusive work environment. The message “we value all of you” must blare out from every corner, on all levels. For example, images of employees -- even hired models -- on the company’s website and in its brochures should reflect different ages, races and genders. Employees chosen to speak at corporate functions or to receive awards should include an appropriate race, age and gender mix. Training courses, where networking and bonding take place, should incorporate a diverse mix of employees so they can get to know and trust each other. All employees must receive the training, mentoring and coaching needed to maximize their ability to succeed in the organization.
A retired federal senior executive currently working as a management consultant and communications expert, Mary Bauer has written and edited for senior U.S. government audiences, including the White House, since 1984. She holds a Master of Arts in French from George Mason University and a Bachelor of Arts in English, French and international relations from Aquinas College.