Setting the tone for Inclusion early

By Rina Goldenberg Lynch

To reap the benefits of Diversity for our organisations, we need to start working on Inclusion early in people’s careers.

So, two weeks ago, I posed the question of how to engage those at the start of their careers with Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) and embed inclusive behaviours they will carry through their working lives.

This is a crucial challenge to address, as these people are the leaders of the future and will be responsible for the working culture of that future. For this reason, it is important to get EDI on the agenda early in their careers and to make it part of their business learning rather than a later add-on.
Why does it matter?
The business opportunity arising from a more diverse workplace is well-established: from the necessary engagement of all voices around the table so they can share their versatile experiences, to employing empathy in understanding customers and stakeholders, to producing creative, innovative solutions to complex problems. In order for a business to continue to grow and thrive, benefiting from the diverse thinking and experience of all their people, it is vital to embed a culture of Inclusion that allows us to tap into these benefits.

Embedding inclusive behaviours is particularly challenging in the wake of COVID, as many graduates and emerging talent have not been exposed to much face-to-face working and may lack the depth of interpersonal experience or the ‘soft skills’ their predecessors had – skills that are harder to develop when working remotely. Any training in these skills should also build in an awareness of inclusive behaviours – we all need to be inclusive whether we are writing emails, having team meetings on Zoom or gathering in person.

There is also the onset of Artificial Intelligence (AI) that might well replace some of the ways in which we practise our relationship building skills – from how we ask for others’ input, to how we think creatively to come up with solutions, to how we programme technology that serves the entire population.   To ensure that our AI tools don’t impact us negatively by accelerating the demise of inclusive behaviours, and that we don’t develop AI that is blind to the diversity of our societies, it’s important to impress these skills on those starting out – both early and frequently.

Rising to the challenge
Some of our clients are incorporating Inclusion as part of their onboarding or graduate programme training.  In fact, we often get involved in this, providing crucial career progression skills training through the lens of Inclusion.  We run training days on topics such as emotional intelligence, growth mindset, imposter syndrome, career management and inclusive communications.  Others have training on similar relationship building skills.

For organisations that don’t have training programmes for their new starters, we have developed a practical solution that addresses these challenges: our new training tool for emerging talent – Stepping Stones to Inclusive Behaviours in the Workplace©.  A series of short videos that introduce and explain our 8 Inclusive Behaviours©, and use challenges to help the participants understand and practise them in their daily lives.
What else can be done?
Videos like the Stepping Stones provide a foundation that can be built upon with further workshops and training. Adding to this a mixture of EDI-related training – such as how to address the most common biases in the workplace, or how to see, think about and implement EDI practices – will help convert the various training topics into a culture of inclusion and belonging.

If we want our future workplaces to be more diverse, inclusive and equitable, we need today’s emerging talent to get on board. They will be the ones setting the tone for culture in the future, not to mention strategies and protocols around hiring, progression and compensation. It makes sense to help them understand at this early stage how being inclusive benefits everyone in the business – and the business itself.

In what ways do you engage your emerging talent in EDI and maintain a culture of inclusive behaviours?