Why businesses can’t afford not to be inclusive

Written by Peter Eyre on 5 June 2019 in Opinion
Opinion

Inclusivity is key for the future of your business, says Peter Eyre.

Reading time: 4 minutes.

Businesses have often talked in the past about being inclusive and ensuring everyone has their say but the reality has often been different. The voices of the same few managers and leaders have often dominated the conversation. Workers at the bottom of the chain, or those less confident in speaking out, often feel their views don’t count.

Today, we are seeing this situation change. Technology is allowing businesses to ensure everyone’s voice is heard, no matter their background or level of seniority. At the root of this change is a growing recognition among senior management that they simply have to be inclusive.

If they fail to be they may miss out on creative ideas, and they may close themselves off to the skills of a major part of the talent pool available to them, whether that be people returning to work from parental leave or those that cannot physically or mentally be present every day in the office, for example.  

Businesses need to ensure not only that they are opening themselves up to this talent but also that they keep it once they have brought it into the organisation. Inclusivity can help deliver this. People want to be part of businesses where success is built on teamwork and change driven by it.

Employees today also have a sense that they should value themselves more as individuals and that their employers should do the same. 

Businesses that deliver these kinds of supportive environments will attract and retain more staff.

Employees today also have a sense that they should value themselves more as individuals and that their employers should do the same. People are coming to expect that in a modern working environment, they should never feel reluctant to suggest ideas or speak up if something is wrong. They increasingly believe that they have got something to contribute and what they say matters.  

In line with this, we are seeing a growing number of businesses building environments where everyone can communicate in an authentic way. They want to engage with their employees, open up conversations and get their feedback.

Not only does it mean that they can capture valuable insight to help drive the business in the future, such an approach also encourages employees to contribute more ideas in the first place. Typically, they will feedback more because they know their ideas are being listened to.

And businesses get better outcomes.

They keep their staff longer, for example, and so their recruitment costs go down. And by looking after them well, they ensure their employees work harder on the business’s behalf.

 

Inclusivity is also key in helping support a distributed workforce. Remote workers can feel ‘out-of-the-loop’, as they may lack opportunities for face-to-face interaction with colleagues and managers. Today, internet-based engagement technology offers a solution. It is accessible at anytime from anywhere, so this kind of technology can help dispersed workforces feel more involved.

Despite all this, there is a difference between understanding the benefits of being more inclusive and implementing the approach effectively. For some businesses there are still many barriers to overcome. Some organisations feel they are not equipped to respond to employee feedback.

They are worried they will not know how to deal with that feedback and that may further disenfranchise their workforce. The reality is that they can learn a lot by just understanding and listening to their employees. That in itself will take them a long way.

Often, the simple fact that they have not tried either the technology or the approach is seen as a barrier in itself. Using anonymous feedback in meetings, for example, might be new to the business and they therefore may be worried about it. Once they have dipped their toes in the water and tried new technology in a live environment, these concerns often dissipate.



Providing a forum for anonymous feedback is another way that businesses can deliver inclusivity. If employees feel that they can be identified, it can inhibit their desire to interact. True anonymity can be difficult to deliver today, however.

Any employee logging into meeting software, is linked to an account, if they are using collaborative software or use social media, they can be traced. True anonymity is hard to achieve. Yet traceability must be avoided to gain true feedback from employees, such as not even keeping IP addresses. 

Why inclusivity matters

Ultimately, a key element of building a truly inclusive workplace has to involve a commitment that everyone’s voice is listened to and heard, whatever their level of seniority, role or background. Too often in the past, lip service has been paid to this concept but little has been done.

Today, though, that’s changing. Businesses increasingly understand the need to be inclusive and the benefits it can bring and they are increasingly implementing the processes and technology to make it happen.

 

About the author

Peter Eyre is managing director of Vevox 

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