A New Year’s Resolution For 2023: Commit To Building An Inclusive Organization

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The Greek philosopher Heraclitus taught more than 2,000 years ago that “change is the only constant in life.” That was the case in 2022, and it will certainly be in 2023 as well.

Few could have predicted the course of the past year. January started with a degree of cautious optimism, vaccines rolling out, borders gradually opening, and an abundance of government and private capital. Then Vladimir Putin started a war in mainland Europe, China went back into and then exited lockdown, and the macroeconomic environment began its marked deterioration, with inflation, interest rates, and currency fluctuations all on the rise.

As economic growth slows around the world, executive response will vary market by market and company to company. Change-oriented leaders—those willing to challenge the status quo, take bold action, and act with agility and flexibility—are committing to real brass tacks sustainability gains in 2023, an important step toward successfully managing this uncertain period. Inclusivity boosts an organization’s capacity for change in a number of ways.

Research into team dynamics and performance has found that diverse and inclusive teams make better decisions and are more innovative, critical aspects of managing a shifting business climate. A focus on inclusion in particular helps retain high-quality talent. Based on interviews and surveys of more than 10,000 people, of whom 4,500 were women—in seven different countries and across all levels of their organizations—a recent Bain & Company study found that women who feel excluded at work are three times more likely to quit than those who feel included. Inclusive organizations, on the other hand, have an easier time attracting and retaining talent across demographics. The study found that employees experiencing low inclusion were up to six times more likely to actively pursue new jobs compared with those in similar demographics experiencing high inclusion. Those who felt “fully included” were also much more likely to promote their place of employment to others than those who feel “not at all included”: +71% vs. –83%.

Those respondents working in more inclusive organizations were also much more likely to feel free to innovate and to challenge the status quo. Respondents who viewed their organizations as both diverse and inclusive were the most likely to feel comfortable bringing new ideas to the table.

How can a company create and foster a culture in which everyone feels they belong, is treated with dignity, and is encouraged to fully participate as themselves? Julie Coffman, Bain & Company’s first Chief Diversity Officer, recommends three specific actions that can help any company progress on these issues wherever it operates:

1. Set a holistic Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) ambition.

Successful DEI strategies focus both inside and outside an organization’s four walls. They include an equitable talent journey, an inclusive culture, and fair wages and benefits, as well as strong external engagement in the marketplace and in the community. And they require explicit goals and tangible measurement of progress.

2. Listen to all of your stakeholders, focusing on amplifying marginalized voices.

Studies have shown the enormous value of employee listening through tools like employee engagement surveys. Listening to external stakeholders requires the same effort. And, of course, it’s important that the marginalized groups you are working to better support are a central part of any teams seeking to make change, whether in an employee onboarding process or a new marketing strategy.

3. Remember that DEI is a journey and not a destination.

DEI is different from other transformations—it is deeply personal, it’s inherently subjective, and it’s difficult to know the end state. Making progress on DEI often requires going slow to go fast; taking the time to deeply understand the challenges, fully define the problems, and recognize the highest impact opportunities is critical. Meaningful change will take continued focus, effort, and time.

As you look ahead to 2023’s continued market and geopolitical volatility, consider a New Year’s resolution to build more inclusive teams. They will help navigate the road ahead. And if you are interested in reading more on diversity and inclusion, please check out “Three Actions That Will Help Foster Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” and “Building A Workplace That Women—And Others—Find Inclusive.”



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