How to create an inclusive culture

DEI isn't just a 'nice to have'

How to create an inclusive culture

When companies think about implementing a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) policy, it’s not something that should remain in the background, it should be in plain view, says an engagement expert.

“It’s not a nice to have. Many companies see it as ‘Oh, that’s nice to have, that’s the thing over there, where once a week, once a year we do something back to DEI,’” says Sidoney Samuels-Buckridge, director of employee engagement for North America R&D at AstraZeneca in Gaithersburg, Md. “We need policies that put DEI in the centre of the business: it’s the business imperative.”

When people “feel like they belong, they’re going to show up, they’re going to do the best job for you,” says Buckridge.

Buckridge will be a featured speaker at the upcoming HRD Employee Engagement Summit Canada and she provided Canadian HR Reporter with a preview of what she will be focussing on.

Inclusion is hard

Many companies have achieved a level of diversity, according to Buckridge, but that’s the easy part. “It’s the inclusion part that companies need to pay attention to because we want people to show up as their authentic selves.”

“Companies are made up of unique individuals that feel like they’re a part of something and that’s the piece that as employers, we have to get right. We have to get it where people feel included and they feel like they belong,” she says.

Developing this type of culture might be made more difficult with a hybrid workplace but all classifications of employees must be considered. “Now you have different audiences, you can’t leave out anybody. You have to focus on the people who are on-site, you also have to provide for those who are working remotely as well and it’s not easy because they’re two different audiences with different needs, but you have to provide an environment where it’s easy.”

For now, employers should be fluid and flexible, says Buckridge, and “meet people where they’re at and go with good intent; always assume good intent.”

With the hybrid environment, it’s important to go to each employee and talk to them but people also have to walk the talk.

“If we want a hybrid situation where we want people in the office as well as remote, then we have to go into the office. We also have to be remote because we can’t tell people: ‘We have hybrid but then we’re in the office five days a week.’ Then people are going to think, ‘I need the flexibility but my boss is in. Do I need to go in?’” says Buckridge. “The most important thing is listening, listening, listening, listen up.”

Leaders must also take an active role in finding out what might work best for their people, she says, in order for that inclusive culture to really stick.

“We can’t sit in a boardroom and make decisions for people without hearing from the people. We’ve have to listen [and] we have to listen to what they’re not saying and as good people managers, we have to be asking the right questions and meeting people where they are. I’m a people manager and I have different people on my team with different needs. I can’t have a one-size-fits-all because that’s not going to work.”

Register for HRD’s Employee Engagement Summit here.

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