I responded to a recent SHRM #Nextchat Question of the Day post regarding some of the greatest changes to your organization as you rebuild your business after COVID 19. To my surprise (delight and honor), I received a response from SHRM requesting that I elaborate on that response to the question of the day.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted every aspect of our lives. An unforeseen consequence that the pandemic has revealed is disparities regarding inclusion and belonging. As businesses explore options with regard to reopening, leaders are challenged with creating a workplace environment, be that virtual or face-to-face, that is authentically-based upon principles of belonging and inclusion.
A common thread in several online discussions that I facilitate has been a concern that the stress of rebuilding the business will overshadow gains in the workplace culture regarding inclusion. An outcome of these discussions is that intentional and consistent attention should be directed to these three (3) areas in the rebuilding process: 1) Revisit mission statement, 2) Review existing policies, and 3) Assess continuous improvement cycles.
Revisit Mission Statement
Mission statements are a representation of the beliefs and values...the why we do what we do statement. Examine your mission statement and ask yourself what are the responsibilities (behaviors) of each person connected with the business that make the mission visible?
Also, does everyone know how they have a role in carrying out the mission? I have been amazed at the number of times I have talked with employees who have “no idea” of the mission of their place of employment.
How is the mission expectations shared with new employees? When there is a disconnect between the stated mission and behavior, this can result in a work environment with reduced trust, confusion, and limited effort of employees.
Review Existing Policies
Policies are created to help guide the organization. At their core, they are the way in which expectations are communicated to employees on how to interact with one another and their customers. I often think of policies as a navigation system.
Some policies may have been in place for years, perhaps created when the business was smaller or comprised of friends and family members. There may be a need to ‘recalculate’ the course of the policy in order to reflect changes in the current workforce and cultural expectations.
Specifically, review policies related to areas of access and opportunity for current and future employees. Begin with how new employees are made aware of and invited to become part of your business. Look at how employees gain knowledge and experience related to advancement or the way benefits are carried out.
In a series of inclusion-related focus groups that I was conducting for a national corporation, it was learned that the existing policy related to leaving work as a result of an emergency (illness of family member) was being carried out differently for male and female employees.
Look at areas related to supervision and recommendations for promotion as well as the pattern of internal communications. Do these areas have formal or well-established informal ways of operating?
Assess Continuous Improvement Cycles (CIC)
Assessment can be time-consuming and is often carried out at planned intervals. Assessment that impacts improving an environment of inclusion is an ongoing process. I find approaching this process from a What, So What and Now What framework provides a consistent way to monitor progress.
WHAT: What are the items related to inclusion on the CIC? (If there are none, that’s a different conversation).
SO WHAT: How did the items get to be placed on the CIC? How long have these items been on the CIC?
NOW WHAT: How do you measure the impact? (NOTE: Impact can differ from intent)
How will you sustain and grow the successes you have measured?
I am not suggesting this replaces your formal assessment. I am suggesting this process as a way to gain a clear perception of what is occurring in the dynamic environment within your business.
Creating or sustaining an environment of inclusion for all employees will impact the overall climate of the workplace. This does not occur as a result of posters, slogans, or campaigns all of which have a start and end date.
It takes intentional examination and action over time. Yes, it is a journey...one that I would love to take with you. I invite you to be in touch with me to discuss what I can do to work with you to create and sustain your authentically-inclusive workplace.
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