Welcome to the final blog in the Experience Economy series. This blog focuses on the critical topic of supporting inclusion. Generation Z is the last generation in the history of the US where the majority of the population is white. As such, this generation of employees is incredibly diverse, not just demographically, but also culturally. Gen Z employees are accustomed to individuals from different backgrounds, religions, and sexual orientations. In fact, Gen Z employees seek out diverse backgrounds, skills, and education to create optimal team environments. Furthermore, 77% of Gen Z employees said that a company’s level of diversity affects their decision to work there. This high level of importance on diversity and inclusion means that companies need to foster diversity and support inclusion throughout the organization if they want to succeed in the experience economy. So, here are some ways to ensure inclusion is at the forefront of your company culture:
Shift the Mindset By Talking About Bias: The world is becoming a bigger melting point, merging cultures, orientations, and points of view together in the workplace like never before. While we would like to think people’s attitudes have evolved, the reality is being aware of and overcoming bias is something everyone needs help with, some more than others. To help people get more comfortable with differences, changes, and other points of view, you have to first make them aware of these issues. This requires a conscious approach in ensuring everyone is aware that all humans are inherently biased. This takes place through training sessions focused on facilitating discussions, providing opportunities to hear others’ stories, and fostering empathy and understanding. The next step is to make everyone aware that their unconscious or inherent bias affects important decisions, such as hiring, managing, and promoting individuals. Knowing this is the first step in helping people stop and think about how their decision may be influenced by bias.
One area of bias we see often is in the preconceived notions employees have about how other generations work and communicate. While each generation may have their differences, it is important to focus on and promote the message of what they have in common, which is working towards the company’s mission and objectives. Leaders should promote the idea that there is something to be learned from each generation and they should set the expectation that inclusion among different generations is necessary to achieve success. One way to do so is through having cross-generational brainstorming meetings to discuss new ideas and share insights. Another way to foster inter-generational collaboration is to assign multi-generational task forces to work on a specific project or solve an issue.
Train Managers on How to Engage an Inclusive Workforce: Provide managers with the tools to engage in inclusive leadership, which focuses on involving others and making employees feel safe. Inclusive leadership means taking a personalized approach and getting to know each member of your team. It means involving and listening to employees on key elements of their employee experience, including how they prefer to be recognized and rewarded, their communication preferences (including how they’d like to be heard), and their career development. Managers must show a genuine interest in the individual and their story, including their background, ethnicity, orientation, traditions, beliefs, and groups they relate to. This requires managers to step outside of their comfort zone and have meaningful conversations that create a sense of truly knowing another person. It requires leaders to have an open mind and to be aware of how their own assumptions or biases may be making them less inclusive than they think.
Engagement should also include fostering creativity and creating opportunities for everyone to contribute their ideas. This means collecting ideas from all employees, not just the employees who always speak up. This includes actively seeking input from all employees during meetings, and having regular one-on-one conversations with all members of the team to get their input. Managers should support employees to challenge current practices, and come up with creative ideas and solutions. This means that managers should not immediately dismiss or ridicule ideas. To truly foster creativity, no idea can be off limits for consideration. Create a safe space where everyone is involved and can share their input.
Teach Managers How to Recognize and Address Non-Inclusive Behavior: The focus for managers should be on building one team that respects each other, their backgrounds, and their ideas. Leaders must be able to recognize when employees are not being included and must have tough conversations with those who made others feel left out. This means explaining what you noticed and setting a clear expectation that being rude or dismissive towards others will not be tolerated. During the conversation, provide the employee with some tips to help ensure inclusion, such as inviting others to share their opinion during a meeting or getting to know a co-worker better by asking them what they are passionate about outside of work. Remember that inclusion starts at the top, which means that executives need to place an emphasis on inclusion and implement ways to support this throughout the organization.
Evaluate and Update Common Recruiting Practices To Reduce Bias: How a company goes about recruiting and hiring employees can be easily influenced by bias. As such, a thorough evaluation of these practices is needed to understand if there is any potential of limiting certain individuals from having the same opportunities as others. In regards to recruitment, this means casting a wider net when recruiting and connecting with potential employees through various channels (i.e., job fairs, online job services, college campuses, job placement agencies, etc.). Regarding hiring, this means ensuring a job description that focuses on the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities of the position. It means ensuring any pre-employment testing is 100% job-related, valid, and reliable. It means asking each candidate the same questions to keep interviews consistent. It means getting more people involved in the hiring process, possibly using a diverse panel of current managers and employees to help assess candidates.
Fostering diversity and inclusion is not only an important part of attracting Gen Z employees, but it is also critical to retaining these employees. Companies with high diversity and inclusion are typically more innovative and more successful. So, make diversity and inclusion a priority and reap the benefits of having a high-performing culture where everyone feels welcomed and valued.
Thank you for reading this blog series. Remember that employees have more influence on companies now than ever before, so make the necessary adjustments to provide your employees with an optimal work experience.
Connect with me to see how we can help support your organization in today’s employee experience economy.