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Words Can Stop Us From Making Real Change in Diversity and Inclusion

Updated: Oct 26, 2022

If the world is looking for something more in their work, more respect, more balance, more engagement, more inclusive culture — then the companies that invest in knowing their employees will be where people want to land and stay.

Employees are seeking genuine engagement and a place where they can bring their whole selves.

These are not just words– we get so caught in words — we don’t say diversity and inclusion because people are tired of “it”, we don’t talk about team building, growth mindset, culture, employee engagement because we are surrounded by preconceived notions of what they are.

So, we spend our time renaming and finding “workarounds” to say it in a different way — while the workplace continues to be riddled with disengagement, bias, discrimination, and cultural inequity.

No different than the stereotypes we have for people, we have stereotypes for words — which ones are you avoiding because you think you know what it is or looks like or does?

What are the words you are tired of?

Like changing Human Resources to People and Culture — we just put a new window dressing on old stereotypes and assumptions.

What if we took all the energy it takes to find the workaround, follow the buzzwords and jargon and put our energy into real change.

1. Leaders get out of your office (virtual and in-person) and be accessible, which means you make time in your schedule every day where people know you are available for them. This can be walking down the hallways or in the warehouse or making virtual time office hours where people can come and talk to you. This is CEOs, line managers, project leads, division leaders — if you lead open your door — and listen.

2. Ask people their stories not just their sales numbers, spreadsheets, and strategies. In a single interaction, you tell people they are more than their work.

3. Open the floor to ideas from outside of dividing lines like HR, Finance, PR, Marketing, Accounting. This is where inclusion meets innovation. Employees have unbelievable skills and ideas, but we box them into silos and say “you can’t possibly understand…” when it is possible they have the next solution.

Committing to inclusion, engagement, workplace culture does not mean finding someone to put out fires and prevent litigation. It means starting at the foundation, and changing 1% at a time, today employees are 1% more engaged than they were yesterday because of small acts of respect, inclusive leadership, and belonging that builds trust.

1% better, add one thing at a time.

Great coaches know that you do not give 5 instructions at once because making that many changes at one time never works. Single change, success, proceed — not 6 changes, failure, frustration.

You are not tired of diversity and inclusion, cultural transformation, etc. you are tired of the words — not the process — you are tired of trying to slog through all the crap to get to something real. The words do not mean anything if they have just become a check the box, off the side of your desk, or something someone else does. These are not just HR initiatives they are the responsibility of every person in an organization.

If you are tired of the words add any title you want — but making people feel respected, safe, included, supported, and valued is a business strategy you cannot afford to ignore. It is in those single acts, every day that create real change.

Diversity, inclusion, and engagement are constantly changing a work in progress, there is no finish line.

When you see it and feel it, you will know what it is, your workplace will be the place people want to come to and stay.

When everyone is considering leaving — be the place they want to land.

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