What is an Inclusive Environment?

Over the last couple of years, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) has become a hot topic. Organizations have started focusing on this since the social justice protests in 2020. My HR Pros has seen an increase in supervisor and employee trainings this year for our clients and non-clients. We understand that people are diverse—no two people are exactly alike. The inherent differences in people can cause conflict, but it also encourages different ways of addressing our problems and challenges. How do we become more profitable? Is there a more efficient way to complete this task? We can encourage better solutions for our company’s profits and efficiencies with different generations of thought, experiences, backgrounds, cultures, and beliefs. Yet, do we as an organization allow that? Do we have an ‘Open Door’ and not just a policy?

What is inclusion? The literal definition of inclusion is ‘the action or state of including or being included within a group or structure.’ During my 12 years here at My HR Pros, I’ve heard multiple employers say that they have a diverse workforce and encourage diversity in all their employment practices. What does it mean to promote diversity in all your employment practices? The fact is, we are all diverse. It is essential to provide opportunities for diversity to be put into action.

HR Works released a podcast on June 21, 2022, called ‘HR Works 195: Buying Into the Belonging Experience’ with DDS Dobson-Smith. They shared, “Diversity is a fact. Inclusion is a behavior. Belonging is an experience.” A critical thought that Dobson-Smith addresses about company culture and climate is that it is impacted by the worst behavior you, as the employer, are willing to tolerate from your leadership positions. He says this is because behavior is contagious. It will spread throughout your organization, both the good and the bad behavior.

It’s great that your company is diverse, but are those differences being encouraged, or is your team limiting who they can be at work? Do they have to fit into your company’s perfect little box? Your recruiting and hiring process does a great job of bringing in diverse candidates, yet your hiring manager brings their personal bias into the selection process. When hiring managers don’t realize their own biases and unconsciously filter out candidates who are different or who make them uncomfortable, your company loses out. Are you training your manager to take their personal preferences out when making employment decisions?

We face this challenge in many ways, both culturally and politically. We work with humans who may not think or act as we would. Just because they do not behave or act like us does not mean they cannot do the job or offer contributions to your organization. Dobson-Smith also mentions in the Podcast, “Equitable thinking encourages us to recognize that not everybody has the same chances in this life.” We want to be fair and just; however, that’s not always possible. Some may have better opportunities than others. We need to think more equitably versus equally as employers. Who is the most qualified person for this position? Just remember to remove personal bias when answering this question.

The other hot topic has been ‘The Great Resignation.’ This topic is also impacted by whether your company is inclusive or not. Dobson-Smith calls it the Great Realization versus Resignation because people ask different questions and look for what they want in an employer. People want to belong somewhere. They want to feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves. This fundamental human want is the case for most.

The only difference today is that people are acting on it. They are asking more about a company’s culture and how employees are treated and respected in the workplace. They are seeking a better understanding of what their value would be. I am even seeing that employees are leaving employment without financial support or other jobs lined up. They are taking time to reflect on what they are looking for and want to find, even if that means they will not get paid for a time. We as employers must focus more on our culture and climate if we strive for belonging in our workplace.

Developing a sense of belonging in the workplace begins with our ownership and upper management levels. It starts from the top down. If there is no buy-in from upper management, it limits what inclusive options you can have. If your company’s culture has more of a ‘it’s my way or the highway’ type mantra, then employees hired will never feel as though their opinions will matter, and they may contribute little to your organization. You may also experience less employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention.

Personal buy-in to an organization is so critical. If a person loves their job, feels like they are a part of a team, and feels their inputs matter (a.k.a. they feel like they belong), then they are more likely to stay employed with you. Just remember that your managers matter. More often, people do not leave jobs; they leave bad managers. It is essential to provide your management team with training and guidance about the importance of inclusion to improve and strengthen your company’s overall culture and financial health. Train from the top to retain the bottom.


Dianna Lyon-Wagner, SPHR, M.A.


Reference Sources:

Podcast 195: Buying Into the Belonging Experience

HR Works: The Podcast for Human Resources

Listen on Apple Podcasts:

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