How To Create a Culture of Inclusivity That Benefits Everyone

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There’s talking the talk, and then there’s walking the walk. We all recognize it when we see the latter. But how does learning and development (L&D) actually affect company culture when it comes to inclusivity? 

It’s both as complex and as simple as you’d think. 

We recently had the privilege and honor of hosting a panel at Inkling Illuminate 2021 with esteemed women L&D  leaders representing a variety of our customer companies, and they shared stunning insights about how they’re walking the walk. 

Demonstrating Inclusivity Across the Organization

One of our executive panelists from a national boutique fitness studio franchise shared that her company has worked hard to create a culture of inclusivity that’s sustainable and healthy for everyone because it’s critical to the brand promise it makes to customers. 

She emphasized that people can’t innovate if they don’t feel safe and valued. She said that at her company employees feel that they can be themselves and that they’re valued so they’re more likely to share ideas and suggestions that the leadership takes seriously by putting them into action. 

Specifically, she told the audience that inclusivity is built right into business goals. The team and leadership do this by breaking goals down and looking at what processes need to be in place to support inclusivity—and KPIs play a big role in each process and goal so it can be reviewed to make sure everyone is hitting the target. 

Another executive panelist from a large, global digital media company mentioned that her company has a lot of training around diversity and inclusion at several levels. There’s everything from mandatory training for all employees that focuses on awareness to more involved training that targets diverse up-and-coming leaders designed by women, facilitated by women, and supported by women. 

She added that her company also goes beyond simply training. When troubling current events were happening in the news, leaders created roundtables to create a safe space where employees could bring difficult topics to the forefront and talk about them. She emphasized that it’s critical for leaders to model the behavior they want employees to engage in like being vulnerable and transparent about uncomfortable things. 

Handling the Challenges of a Global Pandemic

A big opportunity and challenge for these L&D leaders to keep inclusion in mind occurred during the outbreak of the pandemic. Recent numbers from a Brandon Hall Research survey reveal staggering statistics about work during the lockdown: 

  • 75% of organizations said their women employees experienced remote-work challenges that conflicted with their responsibilities outside of work
  • 70% of organizations said the challenges their women employees’ faced led to extended leaves of absence or resignations
  • 50% of organizations that were flexible in handling these challenges were able to retain those women workers or get them to come back

Another executive panelist, from a multi-national pizza chain, saw evidence that women employees at her company faced more challenges during the initial months of the pandemic than men because of additional responsibilities outside of work including childcare or family obligations. 

How To Create a Culture of Inclusivity That Benefits Everyone

She added that her company made it a priority to show that they understood what their women employees were going through. During Zoom meetings, everyone just accepted that there would be interruptions from children or pets but that didn’t mean that business couldn’t continue to move forward. Leadership provided support by encouraging women to take time when needed to handle family and also discovered that people didn’t have to be tied to a desk or to fit things in during traditional work hours to get things done. 

Leveraging Technology While Maintaining Culture 

One of the biggest tests companies had to face during the pandemic was how to maintain company culture when a lot of employees had to move to a virtual, remote work environment. 

The executive from the national boutique fitness studio franchise confirmed that it was truly difficult since much of the collaboration at her company was done in person. She said leadership at her company launched innovation teams who took ideas directly from employees through virtual processes that included feedback and voting. Of course, this couldn’t happen without technology.

The executive from the multi-national pizza chain shared that the pandemic turned out to be a perfect time to roll out Inking across all their locations. Not only did it fill the immediate need to get critical content and training out to employees, but the urgency made it easier for executives to buy into the technology. The instant communication, collaboration, and relevance of training content with Inkling became immediately valuable. 

The executive panelist from one of the largest global fast-food restaurants perfectly summed up the nature of technology when she said that the moment you get comfortable, something changes so you have to be able to adapt and evolve quickly.

Get all the insights, advice, and tips shared by the panelists by watching the replay, Creating a Culture of Inclusive Leadership Through Influence and Adaptability.