How do employees engage with each other in the workplace across identity?
Once we begin to understand the role that our identities play, we begin to see how we make assumptions on how other people see their identity based on how we see our own. In today’s workplace, we have more opportunities than ever to see that theory in practice. We are living in a time and era now where our workplace communities are increasingly diverse. Creating communities where people can be their authentic selves at work impacts trust, productivity and innovation. Everyday, leaders have to start to address what it looks like when people who come from a broader way of different backgrounds are coming together to accomplish something.
What we know from research is that homogeneous groups, in the short term, can be more effective than groups with a lot of diversity. However, the data also tell us that diverse groups in the long run outperform homogeneous groups. What this indicates to leaders everywhere is that people on teams need time to figure out how to connect, collaborate and work together in the initial period. With intentional focus, leaders have the ability to influence how long it takes for a team to begin to perform– and even outperform themselves.
As the demographics in our society continue to change, we are at a point in time where people from very different backgrounds are working together because often work is the least segregated place that we interact. So as we set our expectation for increased diversity, we need tools to be able to help people understand what it looks like to engage with people who are different from us. If you're in a leadership role and you find yourself saying, "I don’t know if I need this or not," I encourage you to consider how you're actively contributing to the education and readiness of individuals who may have limited exposure to diversity beyond their work context. This is essential for them to perform proficiently and collaborate successfully within the team.
Everyday Choices Leaders Can Take to Create Greater Inclusion and Psychological Safety
Model Behavior: Understand where you are on your journey with inclusion and belonging. Whether you are a member of an underrepresented demographic group or a member or a majority group – or both! – your personal sense of awareness, curiosity and learning mindset sets the tone. Modeling behavior for your team is the best education you can provide to them. In fact, you are already modeling behavior, so find your moments everyday to be intentional with prioritizing inclusion. Do you ask for input from all team members on key decisions when appropriate? Do you demonstrate curiosity and a willingness to learn? How do you respond when you make a mistake? Do you actively edify team members to affirm their subject matter expertise?
No Guessing Games: Clearly communicate why inclusion is important to the business at hand and clarify expectations. There is a lot of mixed messaging in the news about inclusion and belonging. Define what it means and does not mean for your team as well as your approach. Do you bring an inclusion and belonging lens in your approach to projects and processes? Do you have accessible guiding principles or competencies around inclusion in your organization? Do you avoid diminishing the importance placed on trust and belonging as demonstrated by calendar management?
Employee Recognition: Add inclusion and belonging to your definition of performance excellence and reward it when you see it. We are all familiar with the phrase, “what gets measured, get’s done.” It also holds true that what we reward, we will get more of. Do you praise employees for their efforts and contributions to creating a culture of inclusion and belonging for all?
Keep in mind that the enemy of continuous improvement is quite often lack of time. Finding your micro moments day to day to advance inclusion and belonging leads to lasting change.