July 16, 2024

Association Salers

Solidarity in Success

A New Perspective For Business Leaders

5 min read

Karen Perham-Lippman, M.S., CDP, Ph.D. candidate Eastern University.

Inclusion matters more than ever.

As the world faces unprecedented challenges and opportunities, inclusion strategies are essential to sustainable business strategies contributing to creating meaningful work environments for people and toward company success. These strategies cultivate a climate of belonging, respect and collaboration among people of different backgrounds, identities, perspectives and experiences and are critical to advancing business objectives and unlocking future opportunities.

Companies that embed inclusion strategies within their organizational DNA by integrating them into their broader business strategies have significantly stronger governance, product strength, diversity and community engagement. McKinsey’s 2023 report “Diversity Matters Even More” showed positive relationships between inclusive representation in the executive ranks and board level and an increase in the E (environment) and S (social) holistic-impact metrics within ESG, such as metrics related to “talent attraction and retention, labor-practice indicators, corporate citizenship and philanthropy, and business ethics.”

According to Dixon-Fyle et al. (2020), companies with more balanced gender-diverse executive teams are 25% more likely to have higher profitability and those with greater than 30% women executives are more likely to outperform by 48%. Furthermore, the highest-performing companies in both profitability and inclusion have more women in revenue-generating executive positions than in staff roles.

The Difference Between Climate And Weather

Many people may use “climate” and “weather” interchangeably. However, they are not the same.

Weather is the short-term condition of the atmosphere at a specific time and place. It can change quickly and unpredictably and is influenced by many factors. Climate, on the other hand, is the long-term average of weather patterns over a large area and a long period of time. It can be more stable and predictable and is influenced by the Earth’s orbit, the sun’s energy, the oceans, the land and the atmosphere.

They also represent different scales of environmental interaction—weather describes transient, immediate conditions, whereas climate captures enduring, systemic patterns.

How Does This Apply To Inclusion Strategies?

Similarly, we may think of inclusion initiatives and outcomes interchangeably, but they are also not the same. This distinction is critical when considering how these strategies are embedded and operationalized within an organization in alignment with the organization’s business strategy.

Initiatives are often short-term actions and programs that an organization implements to promote inclusion. Initiatives can be seen as the weather of an organization: They can change quickly and unpredictably, and they can be influenced by external factors such as market trends, social movements, legal regulations or employee and customer demands.

While they are important and necessary, they are not sufficient to create lasting and meaningful change critical to the organization’s business. If the organization does not have an “inclusive climate,” these initiatives will not lead to sustainable business outcomes. They may be seen as superficial, tokenistic or reactive.

An inclusive climate, on the other hand, is an organizational culture and environment that is the foundation and driver of inclusion initiatives and outcomes. It is influenced by the organization’s leadership, followership, business strategy, commitment and accountability. An inclusive climate means the organization’s vision, values, policies, practices and behaviors address systemic barriers to equity, create a sense of belonging and foster inclusion, respect and collaboration among all employees, which in turn inspires innovation and helps drive execution of the organization’s business strategy.

Let’s look at a few examples.

Inclusive Weather (Short-Term Initiatives)

Company A implements a series of workshops and training sessions focused on inclusion. They celebrate cultural heritage months and launch a hiring drive aimed at increasing the pool of qualified diverse candidates. These actions generate a positive buzz and perhaps short-term outcomes. However, without a deeper commitment, these initiatives begin to fade once the initial enthusiasm wears off, and old patterns start to re-emerge.

Inclusive Climate (Long-Term Strategy)

Company B aligns its inclusion efforts with its business strategy, which will start with the understanding of its workforce composition and the hiring, development and retention programs deemed critical to the company’s business and success. This will be done through an audit of company policies and practices to identify areas of improvement. Additional measures may include:

• Implementing a balanced slate hiring policy to increase the pool of qualified candidates.

• Establishing mentorship and sponsorship programs to support the career advancement of all talent within the organization.

• Implementing transparent pay scales and performance review criteria to ensure equitable opportunities,

• Creating employee resource groups (ERGs) that provide support networks and promote an inclusive environment where every voice is welcomed, heard and valued.

• Instilling accountability at all levels of the organization for long-term results.

How To Create An Inclusive Climate

Creating an inclusive climate is a continuous process that requires understanding the company’s business strategy and the need to align its inclusive initiatives for positive business outcomes. Start with these actions:

• Define and communicate a clear and compelling vision and purpose for inclusion that aligns with your organization’s business strategy and overall mission, vision and values.

• Establish and monitor measurable and meaningful goals and indicators for inclusion that align with the organization’s business priorities, challenges and opportunities.

• Allocate and invest adequate resources for inclusion, such as budget, staff, training, tools and technology.

• Engage and empower all employees in the process, by creating opportunities for diverse dialogue, feedback, learning, collaboration and innovation.

• Recognize achievements and contributions throughout the journey, sharing best practices, acknowledging challenges and learning from failures.

• Review the inclusion strategy and action plan regularly to ensure alignment with the organization’s business strategy. Collect and analyze data, assess progress and impact and identify gaps and areas for improvement.

By embedding inclusion into the company’s business strategy and treating it as a fundamental aspect of organizational climate rather than a series of weather events, business leaders can create a sustainable, equitable and inclusive environment that drives innovation, performance and success at all levels.

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