Lisa Bonner | ,| By
Companies are putting a renewed focus on getting employee engagement practices right in 2013 and are striving for a new level of inclusiveness. Traditionally, inclusion was pair with diversity (as in Diversity & Inclusion) and implied a sense of “feeling included’ regardless of skin color, origin, culture or sexual orientation. Forward thinking executives have re-positioned inclusiveness as “unleashing the full potential of all.”
Inclusiveness is about allowing employees to be their true self in the workplace and fostering formal and informal connections, which intrinsically ties them tighter to the company. Inclusiveness is about creating a space for risk taking and “fast failures’- making mistakes, but quickly learning from those errors, and moving on to the next level. Inclusiveness is about encouraging employees to move outside their “comfort zone” and encouraging diversity of thought, behavior and reaching out to someone who they know peripherally.
Several companies have created circles of inclusion by encouraging workers to have lunch with a colleague that they don’t know or are from a different part of the company- even across the globe! Boerhinger Ingelhiem created ”Lunch Roulette” app that pairs employees from different departments. Employees feel energized, connected and often learn from one another, regularly spurring new ideas.
Corporations are leveraging enterprise social networks to connect geographically dispersed remote workers to share knowledge and cultivate outside interests. Often theses informal connections lead to jam sessions, uncovering hidden talents and individuals feeling valued.
“Reverse Mentoring” has been used by hundreds of companies on numerous topics to engage early career talent and leverage their skills outside of their day-jobs, erasing traditional hierarchies and flattening communications. The Hartford leveraged a reverse mentor program to generate awareness and understanding of social media and emerging technologies with C-suite executives. This program was very successful- effectively educating executives and generating more than 100 ideas to improve sales, internal and external branding, collaboration and knowledge management across the organization. Creating an inclusive environment means believing that the next big idea can come from anywhere!
Another trend in inclusiveness is how best in class companies are treating former employees as “alumni” vs. “traitors’ and creating online communities for sharing knowledge, offering supporting and providing direct yet informal communication. Studies show that former employees are a great source of product and employee referrals and often are open to re-hire.
Embracing unique perspectives, experiences and approaches will build an inclusive environment and drive unprecedented business results. But it’s a journey.
What is your company doing to foster inclusiveness? What can you do to “be the change you want to see”? I look forward to your comments.