Creating an engaged and inclusive workplace may be all the trend these days, but with the buzz comes plenty of misconceptions about what that means. Whether you’re planning to kick off 2024 with new talent engagement goals or reevaluate your current strategy, you’ll want to know the most common myths surrounding the creation of a workplace where employees feel a sense of belonging. After all, the assumptions that people have about creating an inclusive organizational culture can hold employees back from advancing in their careers and through the leadership pipeline. To build a truly engaged workforce for everyone in the new year and beyond, we debunk the top 3 myths we’ve seen about creating an inclusive workplace.

Myth 1: Inclusion is only about representation

Many organizations believe that achieving inclusivity is solely about increasing the representation of underrepresented groups, which is an oversimplified view. Our approach at Orange Grove is that building inclusive workplaces is not only about increasing representation and focusing on underrepresented groups, but also about creating a feeling of a sense of belonging, safety, and engagement for ALL demographics of employees. 

That’s because we’ve found that feelings of belonging and engagement aren’t always solely influenced by demographic identities. The challenges of not having an inclusive workplace can exist in all organization, regardless of the range of identities of their workforce. For example, we did an inclusion assessment for an organization which was fairly homogenous, but yet we found that they had problems with employees not feeling engaged and included because of in-group and out-group issues that led to feelings of exclusion and isolation – something common in many organizations. 

Focusing on inclusivity helps create an environment where people can openly share their ideas and work together constructively. A truly inclusive workplace inspires more innovation from employees and gives employees more opportunities for promotions and development – so that no one gets left behind in the pipeline. 

Myth 2: Inclusion efforts only benefit underrepresented groups

Creating an engaged and inclusive environment isn’t just about helping underrepresented groups get ahead – it’s about benefiting all employees by creating a more innovative and transparent workplace. That’s why our strategy at Orange Grove includes a talent management process that benefits everyone. When we work with clients, we suggest transparent performance reviews, open communication, and equal development opportunities for all employees. 

Oftentimes we see companies employ general annual performance reviews, for example, that are just fill-in-the-blank forms with minimal effort. The lackluster performance reviews don’t really give employees feedback on how they’re doing and how they can improve. In fact, one of our managing partners has forthcoming research out that shows that when organizations have traditional top-down, non-transparent promotional processes, men are more likely to feel the processes are unfair – even more than women. Without an effective and thorough talent management process, employees can quickly become distrustful of leadership and feel a sense of exclusion, even within organizations without diverse demographics. With thoughtfully implemented inclusion efforts, every employee will feel the positive effects of a more transparent and fair development pipeline

Myth 3: You need a high budget and large headcount to make progress 

The final myth we come across is that a significant budget and large size to successfully implement initiatives for belonging and inclusion. And most organizations are not measuring the cost of a non-inclusive workplace. But the truth is, organizations of any size with limited budget can set goals and make progress. One thing you can do on your own is collecting or organizing your organization’s data so that you can review what trends are occurring in your business. For example, you could review previous engagement surveys to reveal what employees are saying and what you could do that would make the biggest impact in terms of inclusivity. To help clients through the process of reviewing data and surveys, Orange Grove offers organizations a consultant coach that can be hired on an hourly basis – which is a cost-effective way for organizations without large budgets to choose effective initiatives.

If you believe your company is too small to begin this work, the truth is that you’re big enough to invest in inclusive efforts even with just one employee. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a small or large company – all organizations will reap the benefits of engaged employees who feel a sense of belonging. Instead of believing that a high budget or a large-sized company are roadblocks to implementation, organizations should make sure that they have leadership support for their efforts to improve engagement and inclusion. Without committed leadership, it’s extremely difficult for organizations to start creating an inclusive environment since leaders won’t be invested in the initiatives that make a difference.

Debunking the myths surrounding creating an inclusive workplace is pivotal for organizations committed to fostering changes in the environment. With the understanding that inclusion isn’t just about representation, benefits all employees, and is achievable regardless of budget or size, your organization will be ready to build a workplace where all individuals feel valued and included. 

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