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When It Matters Most: “Inclusion”​ Should Include Everyone

Current events continue to impact the emotional and physical health of our workforces, from election stress, law enforcement controversies, racial tensions and hate crimes to the ongoing and widespread impacts of the pandemic. We may not always know how or when, but we do know that events that impact psychological health and well-being will continue to happen.

The challenge for anyone involved in workforce management is to put a plan in place to help people manage issues as they arise: How do you create a safe environment where people can work through difficult circumstances? Where they are encouraged and enabled to support their coworkers and those who report to them? Where they feel informed enough to speak in good faith without getting “political?”

These questions have come up a lot in the past year. To provide some insights, we revisited some of the effective steps taken at Talent Solutions, along with some of the client best practices we’ve observed and training efforts at Consciously Unbiased.

Lead from the top and make clear what you stand for – We’re talking about serious national and global issues that have the potential to affect significant portions of our workforces. People need to know their leaders have their backs.

Example: It doesn’t take more than a minute of looking at the social media accounts of Jonas Prising, Chairman and CEO of ManpowerGroup, to get a sense of our leadership’s priorities. You’ll see posts about the future of work, reskilling, upskilling and the return to workplaces. You’ll also see messages about voting rights, the Derek Chauvin verdict, women’s equality, systemic racism, climate action, reactions to specific acts of senseless violence and concern about how people are managing the realities of the pandemic. This isn’t just a message to Twitter or LinkedIn followers. It’s a message to everyone at ManpowerGroup. And it matters.

Strengthen line leadership capacity – Direct supervisors and day-to-day line managers set the tone and define the level of support people feel on a daily basis. But even the best managers may lack the training and experience needed to deal with sensitive external issues. Invest in opportunities to prepare line managers to be inclusive leaders. For example, Right Management offers INCLUDE leadership training that provides clients with scalable and customizable experiences to enable leaders to drive meaningful DE&I change. This kind of training prepares leaders at all levels to recognize how circumstances might affect workers and gives them tools to support people.

Put the tools in place to engage in real time – Most of the things we’re talking about are unexpected. The targeting of specific groups has become a devastatingly common occurrence. This presents a unique set of circumstances for members of the targeted group, allies, and those who may lack exposure to the challenges members of a targeted race, ethnicity, religion or identity might face. You need to be able to react and respond in real time.

At Talent Solutions and across ManpowerGroup, we have business resource groups (BRGs – other organizations call them employee resource groups) that are committed to our sustainability pillar of “integrating and including.” We also partner with Consciously Unbiased to drive a series of Courageous Conversations to engage, educate and motivate dialogue, even (or especially) when it’s difficult. Our employees contribute to designing, driving and facilitating inclusive dialogue whenever it’s needed.

Include your whole workforce – The “I” in “diversity, equity and inclusion” doesn’t care about employment classification. When it comes to health and well-being, we need to ask ourselves: How do our efforts include the contingent, SOW and gig workers we often work side by side with?

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Fortunately, addressing this level of inclusion should be quite easy. When you send the all-company message, include the contingent workforce. When line managers get trained, include staffing providers and contingent hiring managers. When inclusion events are scheduled, invite contingent workers and clarify they’re on the clock, just like everyone else. Invite all workers to be part of resource groups. Put simply, make it a priority to include everyone.

Don’t try to fix everything at once. Encourage microprogressions™  – Consciously Unbiased promotes the idea of microprogressions, or small action steps individuals can take that help bust bias, build inclusion and create a big impact over time. These are key for creating cultures of belonging in the workplace. Examples of microprogressions might be to make a conscious effort to let people finish their thoughts in meetings if you’ve become aware that you tend to interrupt; to listen to truly understand another’s perspective versus listening to respond; committing to invite someone who normally doesn’t get included to meetings, or to make connections with people outside your inner circle.

The events and issues we’re talking about aren’t business as usual. You can’t pretend it isn’t happening. And you have to realize how today’s environment is contributing to new workforce recruitment, retention and new risk factors. When leaders at all levels of an organization communicate inclusivity, the message to the people who work for you will come through loud and clear.