Company leaders understand that an inclusive company culture can lead to better retention and productive, happier employees. Employees even become more innovative when they feel they are included, according to a report by Forbes. More than ever before, organizational leaders are shifting their approach to diversity, inclusion, and belonging at work.
But creating a company culture that includes and prioritizes every individual’s voice can sometimes feel overwhelming, especially in organizations with hundreds or thousands of employees. So, how can you ensure everyone’s voice is heard? How can you encourage leaders to step up, understand their own biases, and create space for everyone’s voice? And, what if that first step feels like you may be stepping off of a cliff?
I’ve spent many years examining inclusivity and belonging and building programs to promote it. Today, as the Chief People Officer at Bullhorn, I’m committed to bringing inclusivity into everything we do. Here are some of my insights on how to give every employee a voice.
Why Inclusivity and Diversity Matters
Our goal as a company is to create a workplace in which everyone feels valued. In fact, we rolled out a vision for our employees that embodies this philosophy. Every Bullhorn employee has a sense of belonging, a voice that is heard, and a clear path for success. Encompassed within this vision, we want employees to feel that their ideas are welcomed and that they are able to be successful in the organization.
At Bullhorn, I want to ensure that every employee – regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, introversion, or extraversion – feels that they are able to be successful. Everyone should feel that their voice is heard, and that they have a seat at the tables they want to sit at and a successful path forward.
This is less about a talent team worrying about bringing in diverse employees, and more about embracing differences. After all, different ideas, points of view, and perspectives make Bullhorn an incredible place to work. Here are some of the strategies we leverage to foster an environment of inclusion.
Inspire Leaders to Prioritize Inclusion
When you work at a company with hundreds or thousands of employees, it’s difficult to reach everyone. That’s why one of the areas to focus on is educating your leaders.
Leaders often say they want to surround themselves with people with divergent points of view. But when someone does things differently or pushes back, leaders need to learn to embrace that and welcome that as opposed to squashing dissent or quieting disparate voices.
Ask yourself how your company leaders create (or don’t create) a sense of inclusivity and belonging within their teams, especially around ideas that are different from their own. This can lead you to create trainings that meet your leadership team where they are.
Run Effective Meetings
Another way to create a culture of inclusivity and belonging is to run better meetings. After all, if a company prioritizes every voice, those voices should ring out during meetings. At Bullhorn, we’ve done a series of trainings for our managers on how to run effective meetings so that everyone’s voice is heard.
When it comes to meetings, it’s not only what happens during the meeting that’s important, but also what happens afterwards. For example, we’ve seen that employees who have difficulty speaking up in a meeting will share their opinion with their manager once the meeting is over. The two can work together to figure out ways to bring the employee’s point of view into the conversation.
Educate People about Unconscious Bias
We are also running unconscious bias education programs at the employee level so we can all understand what gets in our way. None of us are free from bias of some kind – we are looking at how our unconscious thoughts get in our way and influence our behaviors, and to understand and change those behaviors. Our biases don’t make us bad people, but they are certainly counter-productive. Understanding them will help us all work more effectively together.
View Inclusivity as a Process, Not a Destination
Creating a culture of inclusivity and belonging is not something that happens instantly. It’s very much a work in progress, and employees and organizational leaders should see it as a journey. Despite the progress you make along the way, there are some days where it can feel as though you’re taking a step backward.
Whenever I talk to HR leaders about belonging, they’re overwhelmed by how much there is to do, and how much needs to change. I recommend that they start small. They don’t have to spend months or years developing a program. They can start by introducing relevant workshops, teaching leaders how to run better meetings, and bringing in expert speakers.
Create a Culture of Belonging
No matter the size of your organization, your employees should feel a sense of belonging. They should feel that they are welcome to sit at the tables they want to sit at. They should feel that they can contribute their opinion, even if it’s unconventional or a departure from the status quo. When employees feel they belong, they feel they can make a difference. That’s what company culture is all about.
Kimberly Castelda is the Chief People Officer at Bullhorn where she drives highly effective people strategy, lead global talent acquisition, direct training and learning programs while ensuring an engaging culture for the global company. Kim is passionate about providing an incredible employment experience to employees across the globe.