Over the almost two decades that we have been doing work with Fortune 500 companies on building inclusive cultures and leveraging the power of inclusion as a business imperative to boost employee engagement, productivity, innovation and retention, and as a means to sell more goods and services and reach emerging growth markets.
That work has been rewarding as well as infuriating. We see improvements in fits and starts, along with frequent backsliding to old ways of doing things. Recently we wrote a white paper about what we've referred to as "the stuck state"—the frustrating tendency for organizations, despite their best intentions—to fail to make the progress in nurturing an inclusive culture that we would all like to see.
The tendency to slip into that stuck state is high right now.
During Difficult Times We Tend to Retreat to Our Comfort Zones
These are stressful times. In fact, it's fair to say that these are likely the most stressful times that any of us have ever had to deal with in our entire lifetimes. Business leaders are worried about the long-term viability of their companies. They're worried about the lives and livelihoods of the people who work for them. They're worried, on a personal level, about themselves and their families.
During difficult times we all have a tendency to retreat to our comfort zones, to the things—and the people—we find more familiar. The result is that we regress back to surrounding ourselves with those who are most like us, instead of reaching out to and encouraging input from people who are not like us. Losing out on these diverse inputs, though, is likely to harm rather than help us in an environment where innovation and creativity are needed more than ever.
Practicing Inclusion Mindfulness During COVID-19
At a time when many businesses have transitioned to a remote workforce it can be very easy to lose touch with others and to lose the value of diverse insights and perspectives. Staff and leaders may feel isolated, perhaps even ignored. Out of sight, can be out of mind, if we allow that to happen.
What we can, and should, do instead is to practice inclusion mindfulness. Recognize the critical ongoing need for input and perspectives from a wide range of voices. Then actively seek that input and perspective.
Now is not the time to backslide. Now is the time to double down on proactively taking steps to gather diverse inputs, celebrate inclusion and leverage that inclusion to weather this crisis.
Avoiding the "Stuck State"
Organizations and their leaders are well-intentioned, yet many are still languishing in a stuck state. The key is for businesses to understand that leveraging diversity and inclusion to nurture a strong bottom line are long-term goals that require long-term efforts and cannot be solved through short-term initiatives. It's a marathon, not a sprint.
Our recent white paper, Overcoming the Stuck State, offers some insights into the steps that need to be taken to get unstuck. These are trying times, but these are not the times to back away from the business imperative of building an inclusive culture. Inclusion matters! Download a free copy of our most recent white paper here.