I’ve been asked by HR leaders from a few different companies to answer these questions:

–        How do we promote inclusivity without being trite?

–        How do I get managers at my company to see that this isn’t about political correctness?

And actually these questions are really important to acknowledge if we want the effort we put into EDI work to be reflected in our workplace culture.

First off, EDI work has been around for a long time, and it can sometimes feel tired. Especially if the approach being taken hasn’t moved along with the times – for example, basing EDI simply on Unconscious Bias training sessions.

I’m seeing too many EDI initiatives being done in a way that aims to guilt or shame people into ‘doing the work’. And, let’s be real, the inflammatory nature of news headlines and political posturing doesn’t help.

Being shamed or guilted into doing anything is not a long-term recipe for change. In fact, that method is more likely to run out of steam pretty quickly. Because none of us are going to be motivated by being made to feel bad about ourselves or the groups we belong to.

 

So how do we build inclusion without appearing trite or being shown up as being PC?

First and foremost, my only agenda here is to build inclusive workplaces where everyone can thrive. Because there’s a wealth of evidence that proves how successful teams, and companies, can be when people aren’t being excluded. And that counts double when they’re not being harassed or discriminated against.

Going into work and knowing we’re not going to be bullied, harassed or discriminated against isn’t enough. At best, that’s a neutral space.

Real success is is that positive space where we know we’re going to be included, that our input will be valued and that we will be heard.

Just telling people to “be inclusive” is too abstract. Your people  need to be clear about what that means. And that means YOU need to be clear on what that means.

Being clear isn’t about lecturing, which is the trap most companies fall into. Finding common ground and understanding is about having conversations that are based on three fundamental principles: accountability, respect and compassion.

The huge variety of life experiences we are all subject to means that every single one of us can experience discrimination, whether it’s because of our mental health, age, sexuality, race and more. And those experiences also mean we’ll have biases that we need to navigate and interrupt before they impact the people around us.

And that’s why managers in all companies can become more rounded leaders by embedding those three principles. By taking time to understand their teams and their experiences.

Not only by becoming more aware of EDI topics like racism, homophobia, ageism, and more. But also by taking the time to truly listen and by taking feedback on board. Especially the hard feedback about the impact they might have had on a colleague.

If we can approach our EDI work from this perspective and, more importantly, by communicating this perspective well, then our EDI efforts won’t come across as trite or politically correct. And instead we’ll build communities at work where everyone can thrive and tap into their potential.