Inclusion: The “Whys” — and Why it Matters So Much
I recently had the opportunity to speak to the new members of Skillsoft’s Global Inclusion Council, a group that champions diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within our organization as we strive to enable systemic change and progress in our workplace, and also in our communities.
Councils like ours are one of the most important resources we can offer our employees, today more than ever. They give people a voice and an opportunity to influence change, advise our leadership, and make our organization a welcoming, inclusive space for all. And they allow us, as individuals, to contribute to something in which we truly believe. As with all employee resource groups, each individual participant has to be personally motivated to take part. She has to understand her personal “why.” Why now? Why this initiative? Why should I care?
Let me shed some light.
The “why” is so important because the “who” we are isn’t always visible.
To the right is a picture of my family. We are multiracial. We are Jewish. We are Christian. We live in New Hampshire, New York, and Texas. And yet, the way we are perceived, even when we are together, is far from consistent. Because, oftentimes, we can be in the same place for the same purpose and have drastically different experiences. My why? My family.
And while the focus on DEI is important to me (and many of us) personally, it’s absolutely essential to our organizations. At Skillsoft, to truly live our belief system — that every person has the potential to be amazing— we need to make sure that all, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and ability, are given the right opportunities, tools, and environment to develop their talents.
The bottom line: inclusive organizations are not a nice to have, but a must have.
- The make-up of the United States – and our workforce in particular – has shifted dramatically in the last 40 years. According to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, we have seen a significant decline in the percentage of white Americans in the workforce while “the minority portion of the workforce is projected to double.”
- According to a recent Glassdoor survey, “more than 3 in 4 employees and job seekers (76%) report a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers.”
- And the research indicated that for job seekers, diversity is paramount and the numbers bear that out: 72% of women (v. 62% of men), 89% of Black men and women, 80% of Asian, and 70% of Latinx ranked workforce diversity as important in their job search.
The data suggests that creating a diverse and inclusive workplace is critical to attracting skilled individuals who can contribute to a company’s success. But we also know that not every company is where it wants to be from a DEI perspective. While many have DEI policies in place, they may not reflect the changing views of their employees, particularly as a result of the growing social justice movement. Aligning policies to the needs of employees – and updating those policies regularly – engenders trust and employee well-being.
Change is needed. If we intend to create inclusive environments, then we need to take stock of how people feel at work. A company’s workforce may be diverse, but if employees do not feel safe, welcomed, and valued, then the organization will not perform to its highest potential. Point blank, inclusion is the degree to which employees feel “valued, respected, accepted, and encouraged to fully participate in the organization.”
Let me be clear, inclusion is not just having a seat at the table. But rather, inclusion is being able to actively participate and to be an equal partner in the conversation. Inclusion is also having your voice taken seriously. And every single voice here matters. If you remember nothing else, please remember this: inclusion is so much more than representation.
So, during my discussion with our newly formed Global Inclusion Council, I was encouraged by why each person chose to be there: the passion, interest, and excitement in helping to move our organization forward, rather than just paying lip service to the concept. I believe they will push us to be better, challenge assumptions, and take specific actions to create an environment that ensures all of our colleagues feel welcome and can do the work that makes them (and us) proud.
Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek is the Chief Marketing Officer at Skillsoft.