Build a More Inclusive (and More Profitable) Company by Breaking These Six Barriers

Build a More Inclusive (and More Profitable) Company by Breaking These Six Barriers

Inclusive companies are much more profitable than their non-inclusive contemporaries. Research pegs the difference at 21% greater likelihood of increased profitability for gender-diverse companies and 33% greater likelihood for ethnic/culturally-diverse companies, according to McKinsey and Company. If your company is going to reach those levels, you’re going to need to make some targeted in-house changes to broaden access and increase opportunity.

Understand that barriers exist in your company. These barriers suppress the success of your people, which in turn drags down your bottom line. The more you know about these hinderances, the more ways you’ll find to eliminate them.


1. Supervisory Inconsistency

Do some people in your organization get a little more leeway than others when mistakes happen? That type of inconsistency is inherently biased and should be avoided.

Consciously or unconsciously, people have a tendency of giving more chances when they feel a connection to the person that made a mistake. If you wouldn’t give all of your employees the same second chances, then you shouldn’t be giving any at all. It’s best to adhere closely to your company’s policies consistently for every situation, regardless which employees are the subject of supervisory action.


2. Exclusive Input

From the bottom up, your company is full of diverse thought processes and ideas. If you’re partitioning your teams into their respective lanes or are gathering input exclusively from a handful of key people, then you’re cutting off a large percentage of your potential thought stream.

Gathering ideas and feedback from every level of your company is easy and it has a lot of benefits. In the best-case-scenario, one of your people might have an idea that could be incredibly successful for your business. But aside from that, employees feel valued when management listens and this can significantly improve employee performance. In fact, one study from Binghamton University in New York found that “fostering an inclusive work environment can lead to higher satisfaction, innovation, trust, and retention among employees.”

Following the implementation of a more inclusive input process, be sure to have a subsequent plan to take action on any shared ideas for improvement. The translation of ideas into action is a powerful step that demonstrates a company’s commitment to its people. Otherwise, it’s all just talk.


3. Comfort-Zone Mentoring

Meaningful guidance and mentoring can be tremendous assets for career advancement, but far too often mentors remain rooted in their comfort zones. It’s a natural inclination to want to mentor someone that you feel invested in, as relatability builds relationships that create more opportunities for coaching. But what about other members of your company that may have fewer connections like these?

The best mentor relationships are ones that form on their own, without being assigned or forced. Senior staff members that are in a position to be mentors need to build more relationships with potential mentees, particularly those outside of their own demographics and life experiences. Thus, more chances for mentors to get to know less-experienced employees can be a great first step in building these new relationships.


4. Selective Objectivity

Books, like many employees, are far too often judged by their covers. An evaluator’s perception of an individual can have an impact on their determinations, and this can narrow many opportunities for advancement.

As explained by Natalie Holder-Winfield, employment lawyer and author of several works on diversity and inclusion, “Visible characteristics can distract managers from truly valuing the employee’s work. When your subjective perception about how someone will work interferes with their objective performance, everyone loses.”

The most successful inclusive companies take steps to separate the person from the performance, particularly when conducting evaluations. If possible, consider implementing blind evaluations. These are similar to blind hiring and recruitment practices, where individuals are assessed based on skills and performance while omitting personal details from the process.


5. Homogeneous Leadership

A not-so-diverse corporate leadership roster is a major problem when trying to build an inclusive company. When everyone is alike, the growth of bias is too easily enabled. Employees under this kind of leadership will perceive this bias quickly, and it can ruin any sense of an inclusive company culture.

According to the Harvard Business Review, “For those working around a leader, such as a manager, direct report or peer, the single most important trait generating a sense of inclusiveness is a leader’s visible awareness of bias. We find that what leaders say and do makes up to a 70% difference as to whether an individual reports feeling included.”


6. Poor Approachability

One of the more easily remedied barriers to inclusion is the level of leadership approachability that exists within your company. Survey data from McKinsey and Company found a strong correlation between meaningful interactions with senior leaders and career advancement for employees. Researchers noted that “exposure to leaders is linked with a sense of inclusion: respondents who say interactions with leaders aided their advancement are 1.2 times more likely than others to feel very included.”

The solution to this barrier is straightforward. Make time to interact with your people. These interactions will help your employees build their careers and will ultimately strengthen your company.


Six to Fix

These six barriers are by no means the only barriers that prevent companies from being inclusive places to work, but they are exceptionally common and fairly easy to correct. If your goal is to enable success within your company, then eliminating these six problems and seeking out further issues to address will be a great starting point.

Becoming a more inclusive company is a worthwhile endeavor. Beyond being the morally correct thing to do, there is a wide assortment of great benefits to be gained including increased profitability, better retention, and an all-around better work environment.

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