When we think about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)—or diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB)—these days, we tend to take a strategic approach and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. After all DEI should be part of any progressive organization’s strategy.
But every strategy needs to be supported by some solid tactics. So here we take a look at some of those tactics, or tools, and how you can put them to use to help build better relationships in your organization. Some have existed for some time; others have emerged through technological advances and demographic demands. Inclusive leaders can effectively leverage these tools to ensure they are capturing inputs from all areas, and all members, of their organizations.
Crowdsourcing is a term that has sprung up in the Web 2.0 age to refer to the process of actively soliciting ideas from a large group of people. Inclusive leaders can crowdsource by actively seeking input from employees, for instance, through the use of online forums, live chats or other technology-enabled media. The same process can be used externally. Doritos’ “Crash the Super Bowl” campaign, for instance, turned to the public to solicit ads that competed to appear during the Super Bowl broadcast and had a long and successful run over several years. The campaign ran for a number of years and has resulted in both PR buzz and sales. Many companies, large and small, copied the approach.
Two heads are better than one. Thousands—even millions—are infinitely better! That same approach can be used internally to crowdsource ideas from employees generating engagement and innovation.
Celebration of Great Ideas
Celebrating great ideas may seem obvious; however, celebrating ideas is something that needs to be actively incorporated into a company’s culture, whether these celebrations include tangible benefits such as bonuses, raises and promotions or more subtle perks like public or private recognition. Innovative companies are finding fun and creative ways to engage employees through celebration and recognition.
Celebrations don’t have to be massive events. Even small celebrations among team members can help boost morale and demonstrate the value that companies place on their employees.
The IT world has popularized the concept of hackathons—events where programmers come together for intense collaboration around a particular project. These events could last anywhere from a day to a week in length. The concept has caught on. Today the concept is used by innovative leaders in many industries as a means of bringing people together to focus their efforts on a specific issue or innovation. Doubt whether the concept can work? Twitter was created via hackathon by a group of employees working at a company called Odeo, Inc., in San Francisco. Today a number of companies use this tool to engage employees in coming up with creative ideas of all kinds.
Internal communities, often called Business Resource Groups (BRGs) or Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), are groups of employees with shared backgrounds, interests or characteristics that come together to share perspectives, and gain insights about each other and about their workplaces. But, while ERGs may by their nature seem exclusive, that is far from the case. They are a rich source of information, insight and understanding that others within the organization can benefit from on both personal and professional levels.
A growing innovation here is that many companies are becoming more inclusive within their ERGs—inviting people outside the groups’ areas of focus to participate as a means of bringing people of all kinds together to boost community and understanding.
Kaizen is a Sino-Japanese word which means good (zen) change (kai). It’s a philosophy that was picked up by companies like Toyota for use in work related to quality management and continuous improvement. For inclusive leaders, the use of Kaizen is tied directly to the value of leveraging employee insights and inputs to make positive change. These are typically not “big ideas,” but small, incremental improvements. Every employee in an organization participates in kaizen and all are encouraged to come up with small improvement suggestions.
A skunkworks project is an initiative in which a department is created or is tasked with working independently on a specialized project typically geared toward innovation. The idea is to allow the loosely organized team to escape the strictures and cumbersome bureaucracies of the larger organization in order to more efficiently and creatively innovate. Lockheed Martin takes credit for the origination of the term Skunk Works.
Inclusive Leadership Training
While some leaders certainly have a greater propensity for exhibiting inclusive leadership behaviors than others, it can’t be assumed that even these “naturally inclusive” leaders will be able to successfully lead their teams toward desired outcomes. Leadership training is required to ensure that leaders’ actions are aligned with the desired corporate culture and that they have the tools to serve effectively in their roles.
Yes, it takes time to nurture inclusive leaders. But the effort is well worth it. As the organization’s numbers of inclusive leaders grow, so do both internal and external benefits.
How can you use tools like this to build a more inclusive culture in your organization? What other tools have you found to be useful in helping to build inclusion and better relationships?