Why Even the Best Companies Fail at Inclusion


Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the WorkHuman regional forum at deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Mass. I particularly enjoyed the session delivered by Great Place to Work®’s Sarah Lewis-Kulin, vice president certification production. She presented some fascinating data behind the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list, which shows even in the best company cultures, disparities can exist in employees’ experience at work based on gender, ethnicity, age, and hourly vs. salaried status.

This raises some interesting questions: Does focusing on averages – in engagement and retention scores, for example – misrepresent certain employee groups? Has our profession become so focused on scores that we diminish the importance of the individuals behind the numbers?

Great Place to Work CEO Michael Bush elaborated on this data in a recent interview with Conscious Company Media, explaining that the differences in survey results led to the addition of the words “for all” at the end of the Great Place to Work mission statement. He added, “For the 2018 list, we’re going to measure disparity. We’re going to be sure it’s a great place to work for all. You’re not going to get the label just because a group of people are having a great time.”

The chart above shows one example of the differences in survey data between men and women at an anonymous company on the Best Companies to Work For list.

You can see that men and women have different experiences when it comes to fair treatment, management’s approachability, and emotional health of the workplace.

This illustrates a growing trend in HR and business to focus on more than diversity for the sake of compliance. Just because you attract and hire a diverse workforce doesn’t mean every employee feels included and a part of your culture.

So what makes a work culture more inclusive of every employee? The Center for Talent Innovation conducts research in this area, and recently published four levers that drive inclusion:

  1. Inclusive leaders. “This kind of leadership is a conglomeration of six behaviors: ensuring that team members speak up and are heard; making it safe to propose novel ideas; empowering team members to make decisions; taking advice and implementing feedback; giving actionable feedback; and sharing credit for team success.”
  2. Can your employees bring their whole selves to work without expending energy surface acting?
  3. Networking and visibility. Are you encouraging senior-level leaders to be sponsors and mentors for diverse employee groups?
  4. Clear career paths. How are you communicating with employees who may have non-traditional career paths – such as women who off-ramp to take care of children or aging parents?

Inclusion isn’t a simple challenge to solve, and it’s one we’re committed to exploring at our annual WorkHuman conference later this month with some of the best minds in business and HR. Steve Pemberton, global chief diversity officer at Walgreens Boots Alliance, will be joining us again this year, along with:

  • Namrata Yadav, head of inclusion at Bank of America
  • Cynthia H. Bowman, chief diversity and inclusion officer at Bank of America
  • Rita Mitjans, chief diversity & corporate social responsibility officer at ADP

It’s going to be a great event, and if you’re committed to building a more diverse, inclusive workplace where every employee feels like they belong, I hope you’ll join us in Phoenix.

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Sarah Payne Sarah Payne (160 Posts)

As Managing Editor, Sarah manages Globoforce’s blog and writes content about making work more human for people and organizations worldwide. She has a BA in English and Writing from University of Rhode Island.