And these aspects of fairness are what makes inclusion difficult.
Fairness is multiple
We tend to think that fairness is, or isn’t. There is only one way to look at it: something is fair or not.
Have you ever thought that what you see as fair is just not for other people?
It is easy to understand then that when we try to be more inclusive and equitable, our view of fairness will greatly shape what we think is inclusive and equitable.
How is fairness exhibited then if it is different between people, between cultures. Well, let’s look at a few examples.
Examples of differing fairness
One important aspect of fairness is how the rules apply. In some cultures, rules and laws apply to everybody, whoever you are. Rules come first, people second. In contrast, in other cultures, people are first and rules second. It means that the rules will be applied differently, for instance towards one of your friends compared to a stranger. In such cultures, an individual is more likely to bend the rule for a friend or family member.
Another example can be around how hierarchy is viewed. In more egalitarian (low power distance) cultures, it is fair to treat people the same, whatever their rank. In contrast, in high power distance cultures, a matter of fairness is to treat people in position of power differently than people who do not have the same position.
You will probably react suspiciously towards some of the ideas above, but don’t forget the title. Fairness is subjective and all these viewpoints are fair to the people who hold them. There is no right or wrong here; there are differences.
What does it have to do with inclusion?
Among other things, inclusion is understanding, respecting and being fair to other people. But you can see that there could be many ways of being fair.
If we based an organisation inclusion strategy on our own idea of fairness, many behaviours we think of as inclusive and fair will not seem so to other people who have a different idea of fairness.
It means that any inclusion strategy and implementation need to go through an assessment of what fairness means for the organisation.
Some of it will already be visible in the current behaviours exhibited by people in the organisation. Some behaviours will be positively accepted and probably give a representation of what is considered fair. On the other side, there will be some behaviours that you know people complain about. What is behind this complaint? It is likely that these behaviours are considered unfair. What makes them unfair? What would make them fairer in the context?
How often do you think about fairness? What do YOU think is fair or unfair? How is this shaping your behaviour and how you interact with others?
Last week, I began asking people what their main challenge with diversity and inclusion was. I am still in the process of asking and gathering answers.
However, one thing appeared quite commonly right from the start. So, I decided to answer that now. I found some people actually struggling to get their head around what these terms diversity, inclusion, equity and equality mean. In this post, I am planning to give a simple explanation.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary diversity is “the condition of having or being composed of differing elements”.
Sums it up well. Diversity is numbers. It is the number or percentage of different categories you find in a group. It applies each time you look at a group of items, whether people or of other types. For instance, biodiversity is the number of species found in one ecosystem or one area. The higher the number of species, the more biodiverse the area or ecosystem.
Diversity in a business is how many people of different characteristics there is in the business. Characteristics can be ethnicity, religion, age group, education, gender, sexual orientation and so on.
Diversity in itself is not good or bad. It only gives you numbers. Then, it is all about how you analyse them and what you do with the diversity you have, or don’t have.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, inclusion is “the act of including; the state of being included”.
Won’t get you very far, will it? At least what it shows is that we are away from numbers. With inclusion, we get in the realm of action and goals.
In short, inclusion is how you show how much you care about your diversity. When your organisation is inclusive, it puts in place practices, behaviours and a language that show that everybody is a significant piece of the organisation, valued, heard and more than welcome to contribute their ideas.
Equality and Equity
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, equality is “the quality or state of being equal” and equity is “justice according to natural law or right, especially freedom from bias or favouritism”.
Again, these definitions do not give the clearest idea of how this can be applied.
When thinking of equality and equity, I like to think in terms of a task to be achieved.
Equality focuses more on the beginning of the process, the tools rather than the outcome to be achieved. Equality is “I give you what I think everyone needs to achieve the task”. Everyone is given the same tools, thinking the same tool will achieve the same result. Equality thinks more in terms of averages, that we are similar. In a way, equality doesn’t take diversity fully into account.
Equity focuses on the outcome. Equity is asking “What do you need to achieve this task I want you to carry out.”. Everyone will have different needs. The tools needed and process followed will differ but at the end the task will be done.
You may have come across this image of two persons picking up fruits from a tree. Equality is giving them the same ladder. Unfortunately, on one side of the tree, the fruits hang higher which means that one person cannot reach the fruits. Equity is giving ladders of different heights so that both can reach the fruits.
Behind equality and equity there is fairness. These two concepts revolve around what we think is fair or not. But this a whole different story, for another post.
Last week in mypost I talked about how values were not enough to define the culture of your organisation.
Your culture is shown in the behaviours everybody in the organisation exhibit. It is behaviours and actions that transcend your culture.
So, you need to define these behaviours then? Right, easier said than done you must think. I agree. To help you a bit, I share in this post 5 ways you can define your organisation behaviours. The first one is not optional.
Define the meaning of the behaviours first
Behaviours are very cultural. The same behaviour will have different meanings to different people. Different behaviours will be used by different people to express the same meaning.
So, before plunging into defining precise behaviours, define first the meaning of what you want to convey with these behaviours.
For instance, you want to show that you care about your customers. That will be the meaning. Now, how do you translate that in a way that your customers will understand. This is important because you define the behaviours with the recipient of the behaviour in mind.
Look at your current behaviours
No need to reinvent the wheel here. There are probably many things you already do right in terms of the behaviours your people exhibit. Gather these and see how you can even improve on them.
On the other hand, there will be behaviours you are not so proud of. What can you do instead? Then, take these opposite behaviours as part of your new behaviours. Give careful thought as to how you will help people showing these unhelpful behaviours to change and exhibit the behaviours you want to be shown instead.
Survey your stakeholders
In the same spirit as assessing your current behaviours, get feedback on what you do well and not so well from your stakeholders.
Each type of stakeholders will have a different view and different behaviours will matter to them. Ask your customers, your partners, your suppliers, your investors. Cast your net wide. Do not forget to ask people inside the organisation too.
Look for behaviours in other places and people
Look around. You do not have to come up with behaviours all on your own, well at least as one organisation. Look at what others in a similar context do.
What behaviours have you noticed in your own experience that you liked? Ask your people too what behaviours they have encountered that they thought were good.
Think also of the behaviours you did not like. What was wrong about them? What would you do instead?
Do you have role models? Do you have people in mind you thought were really good (with colleagues or customers…)? What do they do? What can you learn from them? What behaviours could you copy?
Go back to your values
Once you have gathered behaviours using the strategies described above, you can go back to your organisation values. As I explained in last week post, they are good to have.
As a wrap up for your behaviours, look at your values again and see if there are some extra behaviours you can think of that would make these values real and tangible.
I do not advise to do this early in the process of finding your behaviours because focusing on values will limit your thinking. If you have used the previous strategies, you will see that some behaviours do not fall under one of your values. It is not because the behaviour is not important and should be discarded. It is just that there is a lot more to behaviours than expressing values.
If this is an activity you want to go through in your organisation and need help with, just contact me.
We hear a lot about organisation culture. For good reasons: companies with a strongly defined and followed culture are just more successful at many levels: attracting and retaining the people they want, more and more loyal customers and so on.
So how do you build a well-defined and followed culture?
Many organisations have formulated a set of values. Most organisations with defined values will communicate them. For instance, you find a company values on their website. That is a good thing to have.
Values are high-level, theoretical and open to interpretation
Unfortunately, the trouble with values is that they are high-level, theoretical and lack substance. They are also too open to interpretation.
Let’s look at some examples. Many companies will have respect as one of their values. For instance, something like “We respect our staff and customers.” What does it mean? Most of us will tell you that respect is important but it will mean very different things to different people. For instance, when I was teaching biology in Universities, some students would only address me as Prof. Minois (even if I wasn’t a professor) and some would even decline a meeting to discuss something they had trouble with because they did not want to take some of my valuable time to discuss such lowly matters as their own problems. In contrast, other students would address me by my first name and drop in my office to ask questions. Both types of students were respectful, in their own way.
A second example of a value a lot of people would consider important and that many companies have is empowerment. Once again, what does it mean to empower people? Able to choose your working hours, the tasks you work on? Wide involvement in decision-making? Asking people to fill in surveys about the company?
You should now see that sharing values is not enough to embed a culture in your organisation. So what else?
It is about what people do and say
The easiest way to gauge a culture is by the behaviours, words and actions of the people belonging to the culture. These are external cues and are easier to assess.
So what an organisation needs to do to build a strong culture is define the behaviours and actions that will translate the culture in everyday activities.
Behaviours and actions are not processes and procedures. Processes and procedures are function- and department-specific. They are rules on how to do a job. They are different from behaviours.
Behaviours are actions that everybody in the organisation will follow and enact, irrespective of role, department, function, seniority level. It is how people will behave towards each other within the company and also towards customers and other stakeholders.
Then, the values become clearer. Respecting clients can become “I will contact a client when I said I would do it.” Empowerment can become “A team can decide for themselves on such and such matter.”
Behaviours and actions do not need to be linked to values. Linking them is actually limiting because many behaviours you would wish people to follow may not fall under one of the organisation values.
Behaviours can foster inclusion
Behaviours are particularly important when it comes to inclusion. Inclusion is really something employees, customers, partners, collaborators are more and more looking at before deciding to forge a relationship with a company.
They may first look at the information available on a website or social media sites about how inclusive a company is.
But at the end, it is the behaviours everybody in the organisation exhibit, the messages they send when they communicate that will show how inclusive the company really is. This is what will make the difference.
Don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk too when it comes to inclusion.
This blog post has been co-authored by myself and Michael Broadley. See at the end of the post for contact details.
Today’s fast paced knowledge economy places an ever-increasing requirement to support the creative and innovative potential of employees. In this context, a company which can tap into the diverse skills and experiences of its people will undoubtably adapt faster than its competitors.
Thanks to technology we can now work in ways unimaginable a generation ago. Cultural attitudes to work and life are shifting. It is not a coincidence that the latest generation of business software emphasises bottom-up collaboration and greater information sharing across teams. Consequently the greatest benefits are found in upgrading cultural practices and technology in tandem.
Tip 1: Empower People to be Creative
Diversity can boost creativity. Different people will bring different ideas, different ways of thinking, of seeing the world. When properly channelled, this creativity will lead to more innovation, adaptability and overall better performance.
So how do you empower people to be creative? Allow them the space to express themselves. However, it is not about letting loose any idea on any topic. At least not all the time. Managers and leaders need to be responsible for the direction on which to focus creativity. It should be used to solve a specific question.
Ensure that you have a process that will allow creativity to blossom. Having a meeting to discuss something will usually not be enough. Creativity relies on all the senses, it needs to be an experiential event. You probably want to develop real workshops or similar events.
To keep ahead of the game, you need new ideas regularly. Why not have a channel where ideas, however crazy they may seem at the time, are gathered?
Create communication channels for people to discuss new ideas. This could be a simple chat channel within your workspace or purpose-built app for sharing and voting on ideas. Office 365 has a free Power App called “Employee Ideas” which can be installed with just a few buttons. Trello is a common tool to visualise progress made in implementing chosen ideas. People know they have been heard and know when to expect a change. This also saves time in update meetings.
When planning complex work use a collaborative task system. This technology allows broader aims to be set at an executive level while the granular details are compiled by those who will undertake the work. The result is a more accurate plan which can be reviewed and adapted by all involved.
Tip 2: Appreciate that Everyone is Different
As a staff incentive or by law, companies offer flexitime, home working and other reasonable adjustments. However these are viewed as an exception to the norm and usually only certain people are eligible.
There is now growing evidence that giving people more choice over when, where and how they work leads to higher productivity. Put simply there is no “normal” way to work – no one size fits all method. Some people need to pick up their children or support older relatives, meaning 9-5 office culture isn’t practical. People are physically and neurologically diverse and may have different ways of working.
Manage your culture around outputs and behaviours and let people work how it’s best for them within your culture.
Work management tools should track outcomes not hours. Agree a list of deliverables and give people the freedom to get the work done. The conversation then focuses on working together to achieve better outcomes, rather than rewards for being present for long hours.
As a normal part of the continuous improvement process, staff should feel comfortable sharing personal barriers alongside the usual IT/supplier issues which impede workflow. An example might be a dyslexic member of staff suggesting it would save time if some internal emails could be sent as a voice message. For those who follow Agile practices these conversations can take place during the Retrospective meeting.
Tip 3: Design Clear Guidelines and Behaviours to Follow
An important aspect of inclusion is to ensure that people feel they belong, and that they can see how to contribute to the organisation. This begins right from the start. Are new recruits left to fend for themselves and locate information for themselves? A good onboarding procedure ensures that a new recruit knows in advance of joining what the organisation is about.
You may have a set of written company values but has this filtered down to the department or team level? Values are good to have but they are very theoretical by nature and definitely open to interpretation.
How are people expected to exhibit company values in the course of their specific work? More than values, it is essential to define the behaviours you want everybody in the organisation to exhibit, the behaviours that will transcend your values, make them lived by every single day.
Having written guidelines helps to describe what teams do, but also why they organise and interact in a particular way. However just as culture changes over time, so the guidelines should be a living document. Start simple and add more detail if it’s required.
Communications technology can be configured and used in many different ways. So it can be a useful exercise to reflect on how it’s currently being used. Most companies will now have email, post chat, private chat, chat on tasks, in file chat, and multiple channels.
Agreeing when to use each tool saves massive amounts of time looking for messages. Some forms of communication are more transparent and inclusive than others, so it’s important to embed the company’s values. You may also wish to allow different teams to have different guidelines which are customised to the work and style of each team.
An organisation’s values relating to inclusion, flexible working, innovation, staff empowerment or productivity should align with how collaborative tools are configured. Considerations include: who can update plans and access information, how to use busy or available status, where to store files, how to suggest improvements, when it’s okay to turn the video or notifications off, and how work is assigned and tracked.
Teams can create their guidelines within a team Wiki or company knowledge base. Even a simple document pinned to the workspace will suffice. Just having the conversation written and agreed can be the difference between a workplace which is stressful and confusing, or welcoming and inclusive.
Yesterday I posted a quote on LinkedIn. It was about hidden diversity and mostly about cognitive diversity.
I got a lot of comments of people liking this topic so I decided to write a longer post about it today.
When we think about diversity, we think about race, gender, age and mostly characteristics we can see and identify. For sure, we are a visual species and we can easily spot differences between people.
But what about everything we can’t see. And here I am talking about what I alluded to at the beginning: cognitive diversity. To me, it is what diversity is about and the power that diversity brings.
In terms of marketing and messages to potential customers, partners, collaborators, showing visible diversity is a way that different people can relate to your organisation: they can see people like them. Studies have even shown that diversity has more of an impact when it is visible.
I will argue it is not just about looking different. There is so much more that people bring than how they look like.
Let’s take the example of religion. There will be some external signs that can tell you a person’s religion. Not always, I definitely agree. As an organisation, we may decide that you wish to have a wide range of religions represented in your people. Is it to look more diverse? This is a limited aim if it is the only aim.
You want different people because they have different ideas. People from different religions will have been taught different things. They will have a different way of seeing and interacting with the world. They will think differently. They will have different views on what interactions and relationships are about. I could add many other aspects. Each individual will bring all these different aspects and will increase the creativity, innovation, flexibility and adaptability of your organisation.
How can you assess the cognitive diversity of people? It is not something you can ask on an equal opportunities form in an application. Actually, most of us are not aware and conscious about how we think for instance really.
You need to understand what the differences are, what differences you already have in your organisation, what differences you want to add. When looking for new recruits, you need to include questions in applications and interviews that will allow to assess this aspect of diversity.
Yes, easier said than done, but we can discuss further about it, when you are ready.
We hear a lot about diversity and inclusion, how important it is to be an inclusive organisation.
Yes, inclusion will benefit a lot your organisation. When people belong, are heard, valued, feel every day they are an important part of the group, your organisation performs better, gets better results.
But sometimes, this concept of inclusion can be a bit hard to understand and knowing how inclusive your organisation is can be tricky.
So, in this article, I am taking inclusion the other way around. Instead of looking at how inclusive your organisation is, it can in fact be easier to spot how excluding or divisive your organisation is. It can be easier to spot dysfunctional behaviours.
Here I am looking at some examples of behaviours that lead to dividing people in your organisation.
The different departments, teams do not work together
Do you work in silos? Each department pursuing their own agenda with minimal consultation and communication between departments and teams?
It can also be that people do not think that people in other areas have something relevant to say and contribute.
Each area fights for their part of the cake but do not collaborate.
Can you also see some tension and lack of cooperation and working together from the leadership team?
No strong onboarding procedure
An important aspect of inclusion is to ensure that people feel they belong to the place and that they can see how they contribute to the progress of the organisation.
And this begins right from the start.
How is your onboarding procedure for new recruit?
Are new recruits left to fend for themselves and find the information for themselves? Do they have to go meet people themselves?
A good onboarding procedure includes amongst many other things that a new recruit knows even in advance of joining what the organisation is about. They have meetings scheduled with all the relevant people in the organisation for their position in the first few days. Short- and longer-term objectives and goals are set and agreed and expectations are clearly explained.
No written behaviours to follow
It is in daily behaviours exhibited by everybody in the organisation that inclusion is shown, or not.
Not having written behaviours to follow will lead to a lack of inclusion.
Do you let people build their own behaviours? Are behaviours exhibited in your organisation inconsistent? Do they vary between departments, teams, level of the organisation?
Have you let behaviours such as making fun of people, making inappropriate jokes, excluding people from events or getting information creep in?
For sure, some behaviours will be different and be linked to the job people actually do.
However, there will be some overarching behaviours that can be followed by everybody.
Blame, self-defence and lack of accountability
Do people tend to blame each other? Do they pass accountability on others? Is accountability not well set at the start?
Do people tend to find excuses for missing deadlines, targets?
Does it often seem to be someone else’s fault or responsibility?
We all have biases. They are a natural part of how our brain works. It doesn’t mean that biases are good.
The problem is not with the biases themselves; it is with their ignorance.
A lack of inclusion will show up in letting biases dictate actions and outcomes.
Who do you hire? Are they similar types of people? Look at who you short list. Do you tend to not include some people in the short list?
Do people tend to label others?
Do people form groups, clicks based on characteristics that exclude some people from those groups?
Here are just a few examples. It is hard to recognise and accept that such behaviours can be seen in your organisation. No organisation wants to see such behaviours. There will be some of these behaviours exhibited at some point in almost any organisation.
If you take an objective look and find that you can spot some of these behaviours in your organisation, then it is time to do something. Behaviours can be changed to become more inclusive.
The first thing to do is to get in touch and see what and how you can improve.
This is the last aspect usually covered in where cultures differ. This one is about the relationship of a culture to its environment in general, to the world around it.
There is a strong continuum here from having total control over things to recognising many things are out of our control. The three main parts of the continuum are control, harmony and humility.
The control orientation means you believe you have control over everything in your life and beyond. It is very empowering as it pushes you to act to achieve what you want. It makes for pro-active individuals and societies, a can do it attitude. However, there is a flip side to this. First, if you don’t achieve what you want, because you think you are in control of it, you are likely to blame yourself, guilt and decreased confidence in your abilities may creep in. In such societies where achievement is everything, not achieving will come at a cost. A second flip side is that such control cultures will also have a tendency to control things that are actually not in their control, i.e., the external world. Such a control view point of societies is leading to a less than optimal management of our world. We have been and are still destroying our planet. In many cases, even when well meaning, our lack of understanding of ecosystems and how the natural world really works has had damaging consequences for our planet.
On the opposite side of the continuum, we find humility cultures. These cultures recognise that many things are out of our human control. There are some limits not to trespass. Such an approach removes the bad feelings from not achieving. It also is in general more considerate of the world around. It usually makes people more grateful for what they have instead of always searching for “something better”. However, pushed to the extreme, it can mean a lack of action if people think they are really powerless, and accept passively whatever comes.
In the middle of this continuum, there is an approach to life usually described as harmony. Harmony is about balancing the control and humility approaches, understanding objectively what you can control and work on this and leaving aside what you cannot control. It is also about listening to ourselves, our feelings. It is recognising the complexity of the world without giving up what good we can do in this world. It is about balancing our apparently contradictory aspects.
As you have guessed, this is a very important aspect of culture. It does not only influence your interaction with people around you but your interactions with the whole world. As it is so wide-ranging, it will also have widespread consequences when people from a different side of the continuum come together.
If you are more on the control side, make sure you understand the consequences as much as you can of your actions. Refrain from thinking it is all about you and that you have to do what it takes to make it happen. Take into consideration others’ views on a situation and allow room for external factors to intervene. Do not push people with another view point to take action if they are on another side of the continuum. Accept that they will take the actions they think is appropriate for them.
If you are more on the humility or harmony side, you may think that people on the control side are “pushy” or arrogant in their abilities. Still, allow them to express themselves and discuss with them that they see further than the control they think they have. If you are really on the humility side and feel that you may let decisions to a great extent to external factors, you may want to think on how you could take a little more control and maybe move more towards harmony where forces are more balanced.
So, where are you on this continuum? How is this affecting your actions, your interactions with other people and the world?
We all have our boundaries, what we will agree to share with others or not for instance. It is normal to have boundaries and when we are not able to keep these boundaries, we feel stressed because we feel our space is invaded.
But do you know that acceptable boundaries are mostly cultural?
There are several types of boundaries, what I would call for simplicity physical, psychological and group boundaries. The last one is sometimes refers to as diffuse or specific continuum of boundaries.
The physical one is relatively easy to understand. How far, or close, do you need to physically be from somebody else and be comfortable? Of course, it will vary from individual to individual and the person you interact with. However, there are norms and rules in every cultures that dictate what is an acceptable distance. In some cultures, it is normal to hug people, even your colleagues sometimes. Not doing so would seem rude and you would appear very distant. In other cultures, people just shudder at the idea of touching somebody they are not very close to. Even when it comes to interacting with your spouse/partner, cultures will dictate what is acceptable in terms of behaviours in public places: can you hold hands, kiss? Where are your and your culture physical boundaries?
What I call the psychological boundaries are what you keep to yourself and family/very close friends and what you are comfortable sharing with a wider group of people. Again, this varies from culture to culture. In some cultures, it is absolutely acceptable to share how much you earn, things about your private life and in some cultures, it is absolutely a no-go. Again, think about what you are comfortable sharing and where it comes from.
Finally, the group boundaries are how much distance you put between the different areas of your life. We have touched already on sharing about your private life. But then there is another aspect. How much overlap do you have between the different groups you belong to? In some cultures, it is normal to have a very strong bound with your colleagues and doing things together outside work is normal, even required. In other cultures, your friends and colleagues are completely different people and these two worlds are completely separate. A last aspect of this is how much roles and hierarchy transfer from one part of your life to another. For instance, would you do something personal for your boss because she/he is your boss? Would you consider your boss still has more knowledge than you on an outside work topic just because of the status?
Now it is important to be aware of your own boundaries, and I hope you answered the questions in the post, and important to understand others’ boundaries. Trespassing boundaries will prevent the building of relationships, trust. If you let people step your boundaries, you feel stressed, your confidence will decrease. What do you do to prevent people from trespassing your boundaries and not stepping into others’ private space when uninvited?
Each culture has a smallest unit of focus and identification. You may think that it has to be the individual. However, this is the way it is in only some cultures. Other cultures will have the group as this smallest unit. It is called being a more individualistic or collectivistic culture.
In individualistic cultures, the person is the main entity. People identify first with themselves. In such cultures, the needs of the individual are taken care of first, self-care is very important. It is the “Put your own mask before helping others” safety message in planes. People are expected to be independent and self-reliant. This in turn will guarantee the well being of the groups they belong to. Happiness and self-realisation comes from the individual.
In contrast, collectivistic cultures consider the group as the primary entity. The needs of the individual are met by fulfilling the needs of the group. Identity is through group membership and people are more interdependent. It is much more normal for people to form strong bounds and responsibilities towards each other and stay together, particularly families. The bound can also be with your company for instance. Harmony is a key word for such cultures because it is from the group that the individual will ensure his/her well being. Collectivistic cultures focus on promoting selflessness.
As usual on these cultural differences, it is not one side or the other, black or white. An important aspect of well being is the sense of belonging. So, even in quite individualistic cultures, people still need to belong to groups they can identify with. In the same way, people in collectivistic cultures also need to look after themselves and do not leave everything to the groups they belong to.
From a more practical point of view, what can you do to make your interaction with people from a different side of this continuum positive?
One thing you can do if you are more individualistic is not to force somebody from a collectivistic culture to rush into making a decision on their own. You need to accept that such a person needs to consult with other people and that the decision will be taken as a group.
Another example can be that if you are more collectivistic, you may need to understand that more individualistic people will need time on their own and that they may not always welcome group activities.