How Inclusion Will Keep Your Millennial Employees From Walking
Diversity isn’t enough. Inclusion is essential to creating a company culture that will keep people sticking around.
7 min read
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If you think back 10 or 15 years, “maintaining diversity” meant getting people of color, women and other underrepresented groups around the table. But just getting them through the door does not mean you get to keep them, and it certainly doesn’t accelerate their growth as employees.
In fact, in today’s millennial-driven society, more and more workers will merely “ghost” the workplace rather than endure working for a company they’re not happy with, according to the Washington Post. This might mean a job candidate agreeing to take a job and just never showing up, or a full-time employee walking out one day, never to return.
This drives recruiters crazy.
What’s interesting is that ghosters tend to be young, and one reason for their alarming actions may be the historically low unemployment rate. Another big reason is simply that they’re unhappy with their current work setting, particularly its lack of diversity and inclusion. In fact, this is something many millennials prioritize: According to a study our company conducted with the Institute of Public Relations and KRC Research, 47 percent of millennials surveyed said they considered diversity and inclusion an important factor during job searches.
Need more evidence that these efforts are worth pursuing at your company? McKinsey & Co. found that gender-diverse companies examined outperformed their peers by 15 percent, while ethnically diverse business did so by an amazing 35 percent.
As an entrepreneur, then, you should probably see these as important statistics that might mean the difference between your company thriving or dying. Not only that, but using inclusion metrics can speak to enhancing your retention rates, promoting diverse individuals and improving overall employee engagement.
To ensure your own company is not only diverse but also inclusive, use these strategies:
1. Leave the dictionary at home.
You need to establish the difference between diversity and inclusion before you can move forward with any plan, and that doesn’t mean cracking open the Oxford English Dictionary. According to Gallup, millennials have a broader definition of “diversity” and “inclusion.” Because so many of this age group are the ones “ghosting” jobs and because 75 percent of the workforce will be made up of them by 2025, it’s important to establish your own definitions.
How do you define “inclusion”? What indicators will be meaningful to your organization? Consider your size, location and demographics. For example, startups tend to have informal cultures, which can accidentally leave out new employees or make the founding employees into a kind of clique.
Don’t let this happen: Redefine diversity and inclusion for your company by being self-aware about what makes you susceptible to risk.
2. Break out that No. 2 pencil.
Measuring inclusion can seem nebulous; you might not know what to include in your assessment. And you wouldn’t be alone: Most run-of-the-mill employee-engagement surveys barely tackle inclusion, or do it inadequately.
Some questions, such as “Are you satisfied with your advancement opportunities?” touch on it, but the data is rarely segmented by gender, ethnicity, age, tenure or other demographic categories.
Writing in the Harvard Business Review, diversity/inclusion consultant Karen Brown described a company that had to both break down its engagement surveys by segment and send a secondary questionnaire, just to learn why there weren’t as many women in a client’s partner roles.
Instead of creating multiple team surveys at your company, create a custom set of metrics based on the way you’ve defined inclusion for your specific culture. Questions should ask how attentive team members are during meetings, whether all employees are invited to informal get-togethers, etc. Without these assessments, you may have programs in place that don’t address your organization’s needs.
3. Follow the syllabus.
Just as teachers create lesson plans or a syllabus for a class, companies need to create strategies for building inclusive environments. This includes making a continued investment beyond hiring a set number of women or people of color.
Now that you’ve evaluated how your own company is doing with inclusion, create programs that will put embedded biases to bed. Consider AT&T’s strategy: The company has created employee resource groups that help employees learn more about, and support, communities across various demographics. The widespread participation that’s occurred in these groups proves that employees find them valuable.
Then, once you have programs in place, create an internal performance review system that measures your leaders following the initial assessment. Ensure they’re being put on the hook to sponsor across lines of gender, age and ethnicity. Make sure they’re leading teams that allow everyone — not just one particular group of people — to speak up and contribute.
4. Ensure everyone is involved.
Create three different training programs: one for managers only, one for everyone but managers and one for all of your employees. Managers need to know how to conduct an inclusive meeting to ensure everyone’s voice is heard. All-hands meetings that train employees how to identify scenarios where others are being mistreated and how to intervene will help guarantee your strategies are followed.
In addition, provide assertiveness training for employees so used to being ignored that they feel they can no longer speak up. This one might be more difficult, as speaking up can destroy relationships with supervisors or result in negative performance reviews, according to Harvard Business School behavioral scientist and author Francesca Gino. Your own culture might not be toxic, but a company’s previous culture may still affect how your employees react now, so be patient with this training.
5. Showcase inclusivity in action.
After you’ve established a strategy and offered training for your whole team, you need to monitor your company’s progress. While you want to keep an eye on noninclusive behavior, of course, showing your team examples of inclusivity will also help demonstrate what the concept looks like in action so that employees are more conscious of their own behaviors.
According to an MIT study that discovered the brain circuit needed for observational learning, learning by example is a critical part of the human experience — and that includes social behaviors. You can provide these examples by filming meetings and pulling out the “best of” moments to showcase inclusivity in action. You might also hire an improv or comedy troupe to demonstrate the difference between inclusive and noninclusive behaviors with humor.
While diversity seems pretty straightforward, inclusion is a critical part of the equation for creating a company culture that people want to work for. Don’t just invite people to the table — ensure that they can speak and are listened to as well. If not, you might watch some of your best employees walk out the door, “ghosting” you for forever.