Leading and Sustaining Your Inclusion Eco-system



By Simma Lieberman


Everyone’s success in your organization is predicated on how you include employees in the mission of the organization, and how you instill the mindset that  their work makes a difference. This is important as you hire new people into your organization that may be different than the majority of your employees in some way: culture, race, age, gender, etc. Hiring a visibly diverse workforce is not enough.

If people don’t interact in meaningful ways with each other, if there are no opportunities to solve problems with people from different backgrounds, departments and functions, your employees will stay stuck in silos. All of your good work to increase diversity could potentially go to waste.

Culture change has to be driven by your vision and leadership along with the rest of the senior management team and HR. Too often, organizations rely on quarterly lunch and learns, off-the-shelf training, or one-time off-sites to affect change or to build inclusion. All of those are useful, but in order to get results, you need to think of inclusion and culture as a whole ecosystem. Diversity is an ecosystem with many parts that are aligned and driven by the need to create and sustain the best workplace.

It is a continuous process. Based on sharing best practices with diversity and inclusion thought leaders, twenty-five years of work in the diversity and inclusion field, and interviews with executives, managers, and employees, I’ve synthesized this process into six steps that I call the “Six I Steps.”

The  “Six I steps” are:

  1. Insight

  2. Inclusive work culture

  3. Implementation of culture change

  4. Individualized convenience perks

  5. Immersion

  6. Integration


Step 1: Insight

Keith Chapman, former vice president of Diageo, says that an organization built on employee insights, will be inclusive and productive. Insight can be only be gained by taking time with one’s team members - and also giving them an insight on you!”

An insightful diversity and inclusion leader is willing to participate in an organizational assessment that includes customers. The report will measure the impact that executive leadership and overall organizational culture have on employees and their motivation to do their best work. That means you have to pay attention to, trust employee responses, and be prepared to take action for change.

Don’t take analysis of the data personally. In order to get honest participation and objective results, don’t try to conduct your own assessment or give it to human resources. Use an outside source.


Does the following example sound like your organization?

A global manufacturing company in the US was concerned that the most talented female and non-white managers were leaving the organization, recruited by their main competitor.

An outside firm conducted an assessment throughout the organization that included former employees, using written surveys, focus groups and interviews.

Results showed that women and people of color perceived that they were passed up for promotion. They felt management overlooked their achievements without any reason or feedback as to what they could do better. Assessors told them the diverse professionals didn’t think like executives in the organization.

Excellent recommendations for improvement were made that would take minimum investment.

Instead of paying attention, the president called the participants whiners, claimed their issues were personal, not work-related, and did nothing. As a result, many talented people became discouraged and left.

If you don’t take the first step to use the data for change, you’ll waste the organization’s money.


Step 2: Inclusive Work Culture

After you’ve assessed the current state, define your desired condition for diversity. Create a clear picture or vision of what the organization will look like, including how people will behave.

This is the crucial time to enlist your whole leadership team.

The key to your first meeting with your team is to be clear, focus on the business case, and how moving towards an inclusive culture will benefit them individually, and as an organization.

Identify fellow champions by the passion they display, either in words, or action.

Identify anyone who may be a potential obstacle, and/or will try to undermine you,

Once there is a shared vision, you’ll be ready to develop a plan for implementation at every level of your organization.


We’ll explore the next six steps in the process of building a diversity and inclusion ecosystem in a follow-up article.

Since 2003, EmployDiversity has been helping employers connect with diversity professionals through its online employment service. Post a job opening for your organization at EmployDiversity.com with a just a couple clicks. And go to EmployDiversityNetwork.com to read helpful articles and resources for Diversity Managers.