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Written by: Cindy Lynn Roche, CPHR

Inclusion means everyone has a place and each individual is welcome, celebrated for who they are, what they bring, whatever their ability. The pairing of diversity with inclusion recognizes that every individual is unique and that each has something to contribute. The idea in the workplace is that policies related to inclusion will bring people with different perspectives together and fostering an environment where they have opportunities to collaborate will drive the business to meet and exceed objectives.

In the classroom, the teacher is versed in social justice and strives to create a learning environment where each student is able to make connections on which to grow. Teachers speak the language and use it in their practice, and the impact is that students are recognized as individuals, each with unique needs and abilities. In human resources, it tends to be HR professionals who use the language of inclusion, and HR professional who ask others to use it in their practice.

That distinction between speaking the language and living what you’re talking about illustrates the challenge that organizations face to when they talk about wanting to be inclusive. Awareness programs target the gap between thought and deed in that mindfulness encourages a consciousness and commitment. Inclusiveness is bringing ‘others’ into the fold, including people so that once they’re “in”, each is one of the team. 

In the workplace, the language of ‘inclusion’ belongs to HR and is a concept removed from the realm of managers whose focus is on results. Not that managers aren’t practicing it, but they are not as likely to put words around it since what they need are people who can get the job done and that focus on results means managers’ ability-bar is set when hires are made and they tend to keep it in setting expectations for their teams. Putting words around an idea leads to people thinking about and asking question, increasing awareness and hopefully impacting action.

Inclusion or inclusiveness as concepts raise awareness of inequalities and virtuously aim to make environments more accessible for everyone. By talking about it, questions come up and conversations can happen. Sometimes you don’t know what’s missing until it’s pointed out. So while we’ve been have made headway describing what inclusion means, we still need to talk about it until it becomes the norm.  

If we can get to where inclusiveness is the expectation rather than an exception, we may not need to talk about it. But we’re not there yet. Whatever the nature of the distinctions that separate people, if we talk about them, we’ll see them and will be able to work together more effectively. I think there may be stages of inclusiveness. In the first stage, it’s a matter of asking the questions need to be raised and conversations need to take place for change to happen. At the next stage, there is a mix of people as the established group opens to others whose characteristics are different. Moving to the final stage, we there is less need to question and inclusiveness just is. That’s what we want to get to.

Where is your organization on the spectrum? Is the culture inclusive and how inclusive is it? Are you asking questions and talking about inclusiveness? Are you looking at things from varying perspectives and allowing room for different points of view? How are you doing that and how will you know that you’ve been successful at being an inclusive organization? Inclusion isn’t a new idea but it’s an idea that is getting more attention as we become aware of more perspectives to consider and discover different ways of working together. An inclusive team is more collaborative and more effective, but until all teams are inclusive, we will still have work to do before we can say we’ve succeeded. Until then, let’s keep talking about it.