Blog Post

The 3 top skills every organization needs to ensure an inclusive work culture

Cornerstone Editors

Diversity. Equity. Inclusion. Belonging.

These four words need to be at the front of every decision your organization makes. Not just because it's the morally right thing to do (because it is, and that should be reason enough). But also because it's the right thing to do to create a more successful organization.

According to Deloitte's 2018 research on diversity and inclusion in the workplace, "Organizations with inclusive cultures are six times more likely to be innovative and agile and eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes." They also found that "an increase in individuals' feelings of inclusion translates into an increase in perceived team performance (+17%), decision-making quality (+20%), and collaboration (+29%)."

But achieving these necessary DEIB standards is often easier said than done. At Cornerstone, we're still working to achieve our goals, and we made the entire third season of our podcast, HR Labs, about DEIB.

Creating a more inclusive culture requires action and a shared vision across your leadership and employees. So here are the top three skills every person and organization needs to build a workforce that supports and empowers everyone.

Active listening and curiosity

The best innovation stems from diverse ways of thinking. By leading with an inquisitive mind, open ears and genuine curiosity, your teams will become better equipped to learn from and incorporate differing viewpoints and experiences into their work.

Reframe your thought process, ask open-ended questions that build on what you're hearing and explore new concepts. When you challenge yourself to ask "why," you open the door to deeper connections, greater trust and a culture in which every person feels seen and heard.

"I've learned to listen more than I speak when someone is sharing," said Maggie Stillman, training consultant for Cornerstone University. "Their life story is valuable education. Sometimes it's a story I don't relate to, but that's how I learn and grow. That's why it's so important." Stillman continues, "I work with a diverse team, and I seek out and listen to their stories. Sometimes I follow up with questions and do my own research. I want to know more; I value their lived experiences."

Awareness of unconscious bias

Avoiding unconscious bias means asking yourself the tough questions, taking a step back and letting your paradigm evolve. Questions like:

  • Am I allowing myself to see the full potential in all people?
  • Do I help create an environment where my team members feel safe to be their complete selves?

These questions can transform a workforce and create a culture where inclusivity is at the forefront.

The reality is that ensuring equal opportunities for others is a universal responsibility. And it starts with looking beyond the surface. To effectively improve collaboration, engagement and productivity, you must first be aware of your blind spots and perceptions.

When working alongside others with differing views and experiences, incorporating unconscious bias training is a vital first step in addressing micro-behaviors in your teams. Learning how to re-train your mind can dramatically improve attitudes and behaviors across the board.

Training alone, however, is not enough. Recognizing and mitigating unconscious bias at the very first sign will allow you to effectively shift your and others' mindset in real time and for the long term. This commitment to examining behaviors must be a shared goal, starting from the top and trickling down throughout your organization.

Continuous adaptability

The strongest, most inclusive teams understand there is not just one way of viewing things. There's no single "right" answer to every question. The beauty of a diverse workforce is that it embraces input and experiences from a variety of individuals, bringing unique perspectives.

Leading with flexibility and an open mind allows for an agile team that can quickly adjust to the constant changes that the world of work is experiencing today. "In order to fully embrace others, I need to remain adaptable to new ideas and concepts," notes Stillman. "When I am introduced to a new idea that challenges my thinking, I adapt to the new information and can grow as a person and teammate."

Embrace new or "different" ideas and take yourself outside of the box where you feel most comfortable. You may be surprised at what you find when you look through a different lens.

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