Creating Inclusive Cultures: The Benefits Include Higher Engagement, Better Productivity and More

By Kim Garcia

How inclusive is the environment on your manufacturing floor? This is a question worth asking yourself and one that’s worth seriously investigating. It’s no secret that companies in all industries have been working to bolster their efforts around diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in recent years, and to make a real impact, those efforts must permeate all levels of an organization.

But DEI isn’t a switch to be flipped. It’s a journey, and one that we’re on at Quanex. Based on what we’ve learned from our experiences so far, the following are a few strategies that we’ve found effective. Hopefully you’ll find they work for you, too.

Define What Inclusivity Means for You

At its core, inclusivity is about making all employees feel comfortable being their true selves in the workplace. There is also a flipside to inclusivity, in which employees feel a sense of belonging. Both elements are important and that sense of belonging should be the direct result of effective inclusivity efforts and strong leadership.

However, there is no true, hard-and-fast definition of inclusivity and it’s important that each company define it in a way that best fits their culture. For example, our definition of inclusivity is: the achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization’s success.

We use this definition as a guide for all our efforts throughout the organization. Yours might be different, and it probably should be. Evaluate your culture and your goals while defining inclusivity. Let it be your North Star.

Inclusivity at Every Level

There’s an adage that any organizational change “starts at the top.” I’ve found this to be true of inclusivity efforts, but with a few caveats. Leadership must believe in the value of inclusivity and offer the support needed to implement change throughout your organization. But, ideally that change is driven by employees throughout your organization.

As an example, let’s say you’d like to form a panel or council to help drive and support inclusivity efforts throughout your company. Ideally, such a panel should include representatives from across the spectrum—from different departments, backgrounds and/or ethnicities, and from every level of the organization. By contrast, an inclusivity team made up of only human resource (HR) professionals or executives may lose some of that deeper insight.

Plant-level leadership has an important role to play as well, and it’s a relatively straightforward one: Be curious about your team members. Build genuine relationships with your people and work to understand some of the things they might be talking about. Perhaps a group of workers is celebrating a religious holiday that you’re not familiar with; ask respectful questions and show genuine interest in learning.

The Benefits of Inclusivity

The good news about anything related to inclusion and engagement is that there are decades of research on the benefits. Research shows that companies with more diverse and inclusive workforces perform better financially, while companies in the bottom quartile in these dimensions are statistically less likely to achieve above-average returns.

Workers who feel included are more likely to stay engaged in their work; highly engaged workforces have been shown to deliver higher productivity, higher quality and higher commitment to safety. In short, what’s good for your people is good for your business. Keep that in mind when working to develop a more inclusive culture.

Kim Garcia is vice president, chief human resources officer for Quanex Corp.

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DWM Magazine

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