Are Most Workplaces Successfully Creating Inclusion?

Full Transcript Below

[ANNOUNCER]: Breaking down everyday workplace issues and diagnosing the hidden sickness not just the obvious symptom, our hosts James and Coby.

[COBY]: Did we lose a patient?

[JAMES]: No that’s just my lunch.

[COBY]: Hey thanks for joining us. I’m Coby, he’s James. Let’s get started with a question. Are most workplaces successfully creating inclusion?

[JAMES]: Spoiler alert! No they’re not. And it really comes down to the way that we think about inclusion. Or the way that we think inclusion happens I think is a better way to frame that. Because we tend to take a; “Inclusion is like the natural result that happens when we start implementing diversity and equity initiatives”. So when we seek to improve representation in our companies and we seek to make sure that the rules are equitably applied, that the natural outcome of those efforts will be inclusion. Where the natural outcomes of those are really more about integration than they are about inclusion. Because we have to really unders…, like we need to know what we’re actually talking about when we’re talking about inclusion versus something like integration. And inclusion at its core, comes down to the feeling of belonging and you cannot have that sense of belonging as a, without intention. I guess you can’t create that without intending to create that.

[COBY]: Right, and I do think that a lot of the focus when it comes to things like DEI, or EDI, or whatever the acronyms that are common in place, in your, in people’s companies. The big focus is usually around the D. Around the diversity, and I mean clearly representation matters. We fully support and agree with that. But I think where the mistakes that come with creating or with a lot of DEI initiatives especially around inclusion is because, you’re right, it’s almost like you know, if you have diversity, a diverse and a representational employee base, and you have fair and equitable policies, inclusion is the natural outcome. Where it really is not that simple. And it’s almost like… and inclusion something that, as you said, it needs to be intentionally created and I would go as far as to say it really should be created as the priority, as a main priority. And it’s something that we should be not just expecting to fall in our lap, so we should be really be… our main commitment should be around the inclusion side.

[JAMES]: Absolutely like I mean we’ve spent the last year really promoting and talking with a lot of groups about where to start with DEI. And I’ll save you know our listeners 55 minutes. It’s inclusion, is where you need to start. And so we talk about this a fair amount and we talk about the need to start with inclusion because if you work on inclusion first, if you work on making everybody in your organization actually feel like they belong, and that they’re valued, and that they’re valued for who they are, and the unique perspectives that they bring; your diversity initiatives will have far higher success. There’s no point in putting all this time energy and money into recruitment efforts to improve representation if people just walk in the door and your company culture is such that they don’t feel that they actually belong there. And that is at the heart of what we’re talking about when we’re talking about inclusion and why inclusion is so important to your diversity and equity efforts.

[COBY]: Yeah and you mentioned earlier on that, inclusion may not be present even though that’s what people are attending to do. That they may actually be creating integration. I think that’s actually a really important point that we need to really put some time into really talking about because the difference between inclusion and integration are not really that well known, broadly. And they are often considered, or sometimes used, as synonyms. When they totally mean different things. So I think I’ll just to help everybody out, I want to just create or give the definitions of each, and what their intended purpose is. So inclusion is the intentional effort designed to accept the differences of people, and make a commitment to support their unique needs, so that they can truly belong. Creating belonging is the true goal of inclusion. Whereas, integration is the intentional effort to mix together different types of people, and encourage them to co-exist. Efforts are often made to help them interact, but usually it’s only enough to create familiarity and avoid conflict. It’s like the visibility, the visible co-existence of the different people, is really the true goal with integration. Now just so you know, people know, we actually released a video on our YouTube channel: Solutions Explained by Roman 3, that is a little animated video that’s called Know The Difference. The key difference between inclusion and integration and it gets into that a little bit more detail and it’s a great summary of the whole concept. But I really think that mistake of using them as synonyms might actually be a part of the core problem that a lot of people are making when they think they have inclusion, but what they merely have is the coexistence of integration.

[JAMES]: Well and it’s not a surprise to me that we confuse the two. Because we’ve been taught to confuse the two. Well, I mean I’ve talked about my background and my experiences before. And when I was, you know years ago, when I was doing my Human Resource Management and Labor Relations degree, I was working in the school system with students with special needs, and supporting them in that inclusion environment. And I think the schools are actually part of the problem with why we confuse integration and inclusion. Because we have been taught right from our primary education, and secondary education, that inclusion in that setting, is students with special needs being in the same building as the general population, right? So working in that system I would work with students with behavioral challenges or special, and a variety of special needs, and we would go into the classroom with them and support their learning there. But they were integrated into the classroom, but they weren’t included. They were doing different material, they were taught how to look like they were a part of the classroom, and a part of the process. Or depending on the teacher, the material would be given to the students and they’d be told to go somewhere else to work on it. They were physically in the same building, and there is value in that. Because, you know, without that experience a lot of the general population students would not have the experience, or be exposed to the diversity of experiences that other people go through. But it was not… even though they called it inclusion, and they promoted inclusion, what they created was integration.

[COBY]: Right actually it’s funny, I remember you telling the story a while ago, you had a student in high school with Down Syndrome, who was a very, you know, a charming guy. The way you talked about him he seemed pretty funny.

[JAMES]; He was awesome.

[COBY]: But you would say that he would sit and pretend to read in class. To look like he was a part of it. And it was that action of co-existing and looking like you need to try and fit in, was almost like part of the expectation of his experience. Which is really kind of like an example of integration.

[JAMES]: It was good for him. Because he was in the classroom and he wanted to, I love that kid, yeah he was awesome to work with. Anyways he would… he saw the other students studying, he saw the other students looking through their textbook, or reading, so he would want to do the same. He didn’t have the skills to do that. But the…

[COBY]: It’s almost like the pretending to fit in piece was like  inclusion accomplished. If they if they pretend to fit in. The fact that they actually didn’t, weren’t working on the skills that they should be working on to kind of help them achieve their own goals. It was more about that co-existence.

[JAMES]: Well his needs were not really being met in that classroom with that teacher. Because as long as he was quiet and not disruptive it was fine for him to just sit there and stare at a book that he couldn’t read. Because he was “included” in the class. But it didn’t help him, it didn’t meet his needs, and it didn’t meet his needs where he was. There’s a tremendous amount of value that does happen with integration. I’m not saying that integration is a bad thing, in especially in our school systems. I’m saying that integration is not the same thing as inclusion.

[COBY]: Absolutely and I think that it is an important distinction to make. that integration, on its own is not inherently bad, it is not the same thing as inclusion, or substitution for inclusion. Because again, so I had, so you know, going back to my history I have a Community Education background. And I would see a lot of the fallout, like almost like the normalization of integration, called inclusion, when a lot of students would leave school, or people, you know, or people in the community would kind of come back. We’d have these mixed classes, because Community Education, talk about mixed classes. But the idea is that, I do think though that schools unintentionally taught us to use the wrong term for inclusion, when it actually means integration. Because it’s almost like people feel, I think this is the problem that businesses make. They feel like inclusion has a look, there’s a visual component to inclusion, and there really isn’t. There’s a visual component to integration, because it is that co-existence. But inclusion is really about that belonging, as you mentioned earlier, and that the belonging is something that isn’t visual. It’s something that you feel, so if you wanted to say “well it looks like people are coexisting and kind of happy together, that must be inclusion”. Well no, you can’t look, it looks like inclusion is not a thing. Inclusion has to be understood and felt. And that’s really, I think why we make this mistake, is we’re trying to get the goal of that visual goal of inclusion, that really doesn’t exist.

[JAMES] Yeah and I mean diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts are done with the best of intentions. And I’m not saying that there’s no, that nobody’s having success with DEI initiatives. We’re thinking about things, we’re often not thinking about things in the proper light, or considering it in the proper light. And that’s really, if that’s really the point that I hope people take away from our conversation today, is that if we want to get the most out of our efforts with diversity, equity, and inclusion, then we need to start with inclusion and make sure that its our priority. That everybody feels that sense of belonging. It’s not the visual aspect, it’s and the challenge is that it’s difficult to measure. Because it’s difficult to measure a feeling. It’s easier to measure visual aspects. You can count how, you can actually run the numbers and make sure that your organization is representative of the populations that you serve, and representative of the communities that you serve. But you can’t run that same data on a feeling. Which is, I think, part of the challenge that businesses have. To really focus on inclusion, you need, we need to dissect what that means and what goes into that. And I think this is a good time to reintroduce to people our Workplace Culture Hierarchy. Because there’s a core foundational piece that needs to be in place to really get the most out of inclusion, and that’s called psychological safety. And we’ve talked about psychological safety on this podcast, we’ve talked about it on YouTube, we’ve written articles about it, we’ve talked at conferences, and it is something that is fundamental to your inclusion efforts.

[COBY]: Yeah and I think that the reason why inclusion is probably overlooked or thought of as being kind of the natural result of DEI efforts, or at least diversity and equity efforts, it’s partially because, I say that hard to measure of a feeling of a culture, or climate of a workplace. And because the problem is though that just because it’s hard to measure it, doesn’t mean it’s not essential. Because a lot of the time, a lot of DEI efforts are focusing on the visual representation and the visual, you know measurable parts of it. But then what happens is that the DEI efforts become less about improving the workplace culture and improving opportunities for everybody, and it becomes more of a reputation management tool. It’s about how a company can build their brand as being a diverse employer, and all that kind of stuff. And that stuff is important, but if that if you only want to look like that, if the visual part is how you check the box, you know, Harmony achieved, let’s move on. Then you’re actually doing far more harm than good. And what happens when you do this is something that we talk about, again in some of our other videos, it’s called “Add Diversity and Stir”. Which is the idea of you hire for representation, then you kind of stir in a little bit of  anti-bias training, and cultural awareness training, and you kind of encourage people to kind of intermingle, and then they can coexist. And then you’re like; “Cool! We’ve achieved DEI, now let’s move on to something else”. And all that really does is help people achieve integration, and integration is not going to give you the benefits that come with hiring diverse talent, and making people feel included. So many, especially younger workers, want that sense of belonging. Because I think the one thing that needs to be spelled out is that belonging is the secret sauce to turning integration into inclusion. And without that effort to create belonging then you end up with just Add Diversity and Stir, and your efforts are never going to fully realize to what you want them to be.

[JAMES]: So there’s a couple points that you made there that I really liked. One is the fact that if you’re using DEI as a reputation management tool, or as a box to check, you’re doing it wrong. Full stop. There was another piece that I wanted to jump on, it’s really hard not to cut you off every time I have a thought you know.

[COBY]: Yeah, well… but, was about the Add Diversity and Stir piece?

[JAMES]: Yeah it was on the, you know I’ll come back to it if I think about it. This is this is the joys of an unscripted format folks, you have to listen to me ramble.

[COBY]: But yeah I do think though that we really need to make sure that when when we’re asking the question, are most workplaces successfully creating inclusion? They often aren’t, but it’s not that they’re not trying. They’re often acting in good faith, they’re making good commitments, and they’re in it for the right reasons. But because they misunderstand the vital role of inclusion, they are unintentionally making the mistakes that will hinder every success they have afterwards. And so one thing that, there’s a great quote that we use,  from our training it’s from Khalil Smith who’s from the NeuroLeadership Institute, who said that “Diversity without inclusion is a revolving door of talent.” and it’s the idea of when you have Add Diversity and Stir and you hire people, kind of as a reputation management tool or you’re not fully knowing how to do it right, even if your intentions are great. If they don’t feel connected, heard, that they belong, they don’t have psychological safety, and you’re not making the effort to include them, that you might have put into hiring them, then they’re going to jump ship the first chance they get. Because you’re not giving them what they were expecting.

[JAMES]: Well in camping out on that Khalil Smith quote, its good because one of the benefits, one of the big benefits, that companies are looking for from diversity, equity, and inclusion is talent attraction, right? Talent attraction and retention, workforce is a problem for everyone. Every industry is struggling to attract and retain. Everyone is fighting for talented workers, they’re trying to attract new talent. They’re trying to keep the people that they have from going to their competitors. It is very challenging right now, from a workforce perspective, for many, many businesses. And diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives are seen as one way that we, as an employer, can showcase how much we care about people, about everybody. But if you are focused on checking a box or you’re focused on merely bringing people through the door, then you’re going to… you’re causing a lot of problems for yourself. Potentially, you’re actually damaging your reputation, depending on that culture that your company has. Because bringing people into your workplace is not, yes there’s challenges involved, but it’s not difficult. And it’s not complicated, we’ve known how to recruit people for years, right? Recruiting somebody, you know, having a… meeting a head count is achievable. But if your culture is driving people away, then it’s damaging your reputation in the Labor Market.

[COBY]: Yeah and I think that the, I think the problem that comes when we’re trying to incorporate inclusion, and diversity, and equity, and all that sort of stuff, is that we’re not considering it as being something we have to fundamentally change down to the culture. We’re thinking it as sometimes more of an add-on. Okay we need to, we need, we know we need to do this, so we’ll hire somebody in to kind of help take lead on this, or we’ll or pass off to HR. And then it’s kind of like a new initiative that we’re going to put on top of everything else that we’re doing. When the truth is, we can’t just paint over our workplace culture and hope that the new coat of paint will take. We actually need to like realize that inclusion, and diversity, and equity need to be, you know, built into the foundation. We need to tear down the walls, and sand out the rough spots, and we might really need to rip everything right down to kind of the bare Foundation; if you really want to create the change, and actually not make DEI just an appendix to everything else that we do. Because DEI, inclusion specifically, isn’t a new coat of paint, it’s a total remodel.

[JAMES]: I like that analogy with, you know, kind of likening it to a home. Because if your workplace culture, your culture is structural. And if you have structural problems in your home, a coat of paint’s not going to do a thing for you. I like that analogy that you use, because I think it is accurate in how we view DEI initiatives, and how important they are to our organizations.

[COBY]: Yeah absolutely, and I think that like if I was to give advice to people who are trying to navigate the job market, around you know companies that are talking about their commitment to DEI and everything else like that. I think that that it’s important to kind of really find out how committed are the companies. Like maybe even in the I interview they say “Well do you have a question?” to say “Well you stated that, you know, diversity and inclusion are important. How committed is your company to inclusion?” And because the question is, do they see DEI as an outcome, as a box to check? Or do they see it as part of their company’s DNA? Is it a new coat of paint? Or is it the studs in the wall that holds everything up? Because I think that knowing that when you’re trying to get into it, a lot of people get burned by the poor follow through when its a reputation management tool. Someone’s like, people are realizing that you know people, everybody can have a good shot, and that all workplaces should look differently, so I’m more inclined to find a place where I can fit in and belong. Then they come into this idea or maybe even the recruitment process was very, you know, supportive and inclusive and everything like that. But then they get to the job and the job’s not. They only changed the recruitment process, they didn’t actually change the culture of the workplace. Then they’re just in a situation where they’re set up to fail.

[JAMES]: I do think it’s important to investigate the company, well I mean you should be doing your homework on any company that you’re applying to anyways. However I’m not sure that your question will actually get the information that people want. Because if you were to just ask an interviewer, a manager you know, provided you’re actually sitting down with the manager and not  just a recruiter, I’m not confident that they would understand the distinction naturally. Because companies enter into these practices with the best of intentions, they believe that they are doing things properly, they believe that they do have a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, I like that  idea, I don’t know that the question would accomplish what we want to. So I’m not quite sure what the question would look like right off the top of my head. But that’s something that I think is an important piece for us to expand on, either if we don’t get to it in this podcast, maybe in a video or an article because I do think that there’s tremendous value in that. And I liked what you said about the recruitment efforts as well. Because that’s often where we put a lot of our focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion, is in recruitment. Which goes back to Khalil Smith’s quote because if you, it’s the bait and switch we’ve talked about the bait and switch in so many bloody podcasts. Because companies keep doing the same stupid things. But if you have this great inclusive, representative  recruitment process that really speaks to the values that you have as an organization and where you’re going, and the culture that you provide. And then you’re setting people up with a certain expectation. The second you don’t live up to that expectation, they’re going to be annoyed with you.

[COBY]: Yeah, right and then all the effort you might have put in bring in to great diverse talent it’s just gonna go away when they realize that…

[JAMES]: You guys don’t actually care, you just pay lip service to it. Even with the best of intentions if you have that discrepancy between your recruitment process and the day-to-day functioning of your workplace and your workplace culture, it feels like you’ve been lied to.

[COBY]: And I think that the best thing that we need to do as businesses is, well first of all we need to realize that representational recruitment, combined with anti-bias training is a part of a good solution, but it is not a solution into itself. There’s so much more, because they are usually the bare minimum that kind of creates the Add Diversity and Stir problem. That there’s so much more that has to be done around building a culture that will actually support it. And maybe going back to the the comment about the interview, maybe the ownership shouldn’t be necessarily on the job seeker to ask the question about how company how communities competitive recruitment or to inclusion. Maybe it needs to be that the company needs to make it very clear their commitment, that DEI is part of their DNA, not just an appendix, or not just you know an outcome to check.

[JAMES]: Just to follow up on that, that does not mean you’re only reading your diversity commitment statement. That’s not enough to show commitment, anybody can write a statement of intent, a diversity statement. Like there’s lots of language for it, that’s not enough. You have to actually, like how does diversity, equity, and inclusion play out in your company on a daily basis?

[COBY]: How do you walk the walk?

[JAMES]: Exactly.

[COBY]: Yeah sounds good. All right so I think I’ll jump into a summary, do you have anything else you want to add before I do James?

[JAMES]: Well the every time we talk about inclusion or diversity, equity, and inclusion, I really, I absolutely love a Verna Myers quote. Verna Myers is an American activist, brilliant speaker, I really recommend, she’s got some great TED Talks, check them out. And one of her quotes that I really like, and I’m going to try to get it correct from memory, “Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance”. And I think that quote just summarizes what we’re talking about so well. Your diversity efforts will bring people in, it’s the invitation and the invitation is very, very important, But there’s a big step between invitation and being asked to dance.

[COBY]: That’s good I’m glad that you thought of that quote, because that is an excellent quote, and you’re right she’s she’s brilliant. Okay so let’s just kind of summarize this whole talk. So I think it’s important to remind people the difference between inclusion and integration. Inclusion is largely about creating belonging as its true goal. Whereas integration, the visible coexistence of different people is the true goal. And that we kind of, we’re kind of blaming a bit on the school systems,  on the confusion of the two, unintentionally mind you. But there is a sense that they played a part in normalizing integration and calling it inclusion. And that’s kind of how, and that’s kind of built into our basic understanding and why most of us in business and in our daily lives  make that mistake. A lot of DEI efforts are unintentionally, or intentionally sometimes, used as a reputation management tool or as a brand building effort, rather than a true call to change the culture. Because it’s so important to realize that DEI is not a new coat of paint, it is a total remodel. And that we need to really be clear about how committed our companies is to inclusion. And again, is DEI an outcome or is it part of a company’s DNA? We strongly encourage people, if you find this area of conversation interesting, check out our videos on our YouTube channel: Solutions Explained by Roman 3. We have a video on the difference between Inclusion and Integration, and we also have a video on Add Diversity and Stir, that explains that in in great detail as well. And again we love the quote by Verna Myers that James mentioned and the one from Khalili Smith about, “Diversity without inclusion is a revolving door of talent”, and we really want to make sure that anything we put into our workplaces, it needs to be for the long haul, the sustainable action, not just a flash in the pan.

[JAMES]: Yeah no I think that’s a good summary.

[COBY]: All right so that about does it for us. So for a full archive of our podcasts and access to the video version hosted on our YouTube channel visit our website at Thanks for joining us.

[JAMES]: Thanks everyone.

[ANNOUNCER]: For more information on topics like these don’t forget to visit us at Side effects of this podcast may include improved retention, high productivity, increased market share, employees breaking out in spontaneous dance, dry mouth, aversion to the sound of James’s voice, desire to find a better podcast…

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