We Don’t Serve Inclusion Here…
April 15th 2018.
I recently spoke at a conference for senior leaders of a large organisation where throughout the morning there were a number of inputs on how far they had come in terms of creating a inclusive workplace and I was impressed with some of the achievements and said so during my own talk.
Then we broke for lunch which was a buffet. The food was the usual fare of finger foods. I then happened to noticed that the sandwiches were set up in two separate sections, one marked ‘Vegetarian’ and the other marked ‘Meat’. Out of curiosity I asked what meat it was? The answer I got was “Its just meat.” I then said what if someone doesn’t eat a particular type of meat for example pork for Jewish or Islamic faiths?
I was then told “Well thats never been a problem before and besides this is what the client paid for.” This was said with a look of disgust that said how dare such question be asked. There was no acknowledgment of the issue I raising such as “I’ll look into that” or “Thats something to consider.” Just a straight forward dismissive attitude. I wasn’t even patronised..
Later I spoke to the Diversity manager of the organisation thinking they would be aware and the response was, “Would you like us to put a complaint in on your behalf? I was stunned after a morning of celebrating diversity they could not understand my point. They made it about me!!
Now the interesting part is not that they were being dismissive or disrespectful they were unaware, they had inclusion blindness. Their words and actions were out of sync.
Many large organisations shout loudly about how inclusive they are. They talk the talk, produce beautiful brochures with photos of people of differing colours and cultures but actually when you take the time to look deeper its not hard to see how inclusive they really are ? The devil is in the details.
I always make it a point to look at noticeboards when I enter any organisations because they can give an indication of the culture. I’ve at times seen that they will have a LGBTQ, religious or some other diversity strand article etc which is tattered or out of date or even worse adorned with graffiti.
I’ve even seen nothing about inclusion on a board marked ‘Diversity Matters’. That sends a message that can lead to an indication of the underlying culture of that organisation.
At the very least it gives a starting point to the inclusion conversation. Image counts not just on brochures also in what is seen and felt, the day to day experience.
I was once told in a workshop that the policies say challenge however the culture says don’t you dare. The sad thing that was told to me by a middle manager!!!
Inclusion is more than a big conference or a glossy brochure, its more than having a diversity or inclusion department or manager to ‘do the diversity stuff’ Its about how you show people who enter your domain that they are valued, what is the reality of the shop floor experience?
Policies say how inclusive they are however the truth is there’s no inclusive choices on the menu apart from lettuce leaves and carrots. Those with differing physical abilities may only have access to one toilet on one floor in an 5 storey building nowhere near the staff social areas such the canteen or coffee room. Meetings are held in the basement where there is no lift access etc. Asking for Christain names instead of first or forenames.
Inclusion is about the culture, the lived experience of ALL your employees and clients. Has your organisation really done all they can to show how that everyone is valued or are they ‘unconsciously’ only considering people that think, look act like them.
Foe example it doesn’t have to be called a Prayer room, it could be called a Contemplation room, you don’t have to make every meal Halal/Kosher/Hindu but you can have the facilities to offer other options.
Foods could be clearly marked to consider nut or other allergies, These are among the gestures that will enhance loyalty, encourage staff to go above and beyond thus aiding retention and reputation.
What does the day to day experience of all your staff and visitors say about the inclusion reality of your organisation?
Real inclusion says you care about people and want the best from them.