Many organizations that weren’t able to get much traction when using the word diversity started shifting to using the word inclusion. That, in itself, isn’t such a bad decision. What has made it not work for quite a few organizations is they started using a different word without changing anything else they were doing.
What’s Your Intention?
When you use the word “inclusion” do you want people in your organization to focus on behaviors that result in greater productivity, improved customer service or other business benefits?
Or do you use the word “inclusion” to describe a focused recruitment process that targets women or specific ethnic groups?
The first example has powerful, positive, proactive potential. The second example shackles inclusion to decades old approaches that are more akin to affirmative action and EEO than to a 21st century focus on retention, quality or increased market share.
Why Does It Matter?
What matters is that you have a very clear vision for what you want to achieve as a result of your focus on diversity and inclusion.
What matters is that people in your organization are clear about the distinction between affirmative action and inclusion.
What matters is that your managers and supervisors understand, and are able to explain to others, how paying attention to diversity and creating inclusive work environments actually help them successfully get their work done.
What matters is that – if you intend to create or maintain an inclusive environment in the workplace – you are providing employees with the training they need to behave with cultural competence.
More Than a Buzz Word
Some organizations that shifted to using the word “inclusion” in addition to (or instead of) the word “diversity” have found it to be en empowering move that enhances their ability to reach and engage more employees.
They often were able to do this because they had very clear intentions to use the change in language to indicate a different or expanded focus on employee engagement, service excellence or translation of company values into daily expression.
If you want inclusion to be more than a buzz word in your organization then you must align it with programs, policies and practices that link the focus on inclusion to the way people interact with other people.
Remember: inclusion is about the ways you relate, the values you demonstrate and the culture you create!