Workplace inclusion: recognize individuality and respect difference

  • Posted on September 8, 2014


This is a guest blog post written by Avanade alum, Vikki Leach.

People often ask me, what do you do for a living?  I say: “I drive inclusion.”  And their reply is always: “What does that mean?”

The real answer is that I ensure business performance is strong at Avanade by employing diverse candidates and treating diverse employees equally to ensure they are integrated into the workplace. This can only be done when we recognize different cultures, when we lead inclusively and behave inclusively.

The more open minded and universal in our thinking, the more successful Avanade will be. Open mindedness is about seeking out more information before making a decision.  The decision will be more thorough and potentially more creative.

Workplace inclusion is likely to be one of the most important business strategies an organization can have.  The cost can be phenomenally exorbitant if there is no focus.  Demographics have shifted, which means that the best talent doesn’t look like it used to.  If an organization is not appealing to a wide range of diverse candidates, then it is losing out on talented and valuable workers.

Workplace inclusion has a tangible cost to it.  For example, when gay employees remain in the closet, they are less productive.  Yet, in America alone, 41% of LGBT workers remain in the closet. Therefore, if gay employees are comfortable enough to come out in the workplace, the organization will benefit from that added productivity.

Often it is those who have the greatest ideas who don’t speak up.  The most important directive is to listen to all employees and value their input. In a team setting, if the same people  are talking  and are the only ones being listened to and getting attention, this causes something called “group think” and it is a business risk.  What a loss of innovation.  It’s even harder when teams work remotely or only phone conferences without video.  Body language is taken away and it becomes harder to “get a word in edgeways.”

Today, the younger generation (our future) actively seek out ‘diverse and inclusive’ organizations because they associate them with creativity, stimulation and fun. At Avanade, we ask ourselves, “How are we attracting and including the younger generation?”

The answer: Lead inclusively and behave inclusively – recognize individuality and respect difference and everyone will follow you.

I want to close this post by stating a simple fact: we don’t know what we don’t know. If you aren’t seeking something out, you won’t find it.  I urge you to take the world-famous awareness test from Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris. What do you see?

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