What is an Inclusive Employee Experience? I would define it as an experience by which every employee feels positively connected to their organisation by being consistently recognised as a valuable individual. If you think this is easy to obtain status, think twice. Why? Because most of your processes, even if often designed with all the best intentions, are made to make people feel all but valuable individuals. Way too often, we adopt efficiency criteria to develop one-size-fits-all approaches, that ultimately neglect each and everyone individuality.
I think that the crafting of Inclusive Experiences for employees is truly the next step of Inclusion and Diversity programmes that aim a building a real sense of belonging for the employees. And I think this is an essential element of the Intentional Design Process we want to carry forward, as it creates the connective tissue between the individual and the organisation.
With this post, I want to quickly cover the practical aspect of aligning the Experience of an organisation to its diverse employee base. The first aspect to consider is the revision of policies and processes to make them inclusive. This is the “hard part”, the essential plumbing that is needed to make
June has been named “Pride Month” since a couple of years, and I’ve decided to use this occasion to examine what’s up with LGBTQ+ rights on the workplace. In a series of posts, I will try to explain my view and personal experience trying to see it from the different angles that I use in my blog.
I will also publish two book reviews on topics that are connected with Inclusion and Diversity. I’ve written more on the topic in the past. Two good places where to start are: The Business Case for Diversity and Belonging and From Diversity and Inclusion to Belonging.
The reason is simple. We all react differently to events. A one-size-fits-all approach does not serve us well as human beings. Unfortunately, the excessive focus on pure efficiency has driven us away from the Human Touch necessary for many of our HR processes to deliver value.
This is further amplified by the diversity connotation of each individual. My propensity to interact with the organisation might be impacted by my gender, racial Belonging, marital status, sexual orientation, religious and political views and so on. To give a current example, some studies already show how the Covid-19 pandemics is impacting different communities differently. And this will have a significant impact on the return to work, especially where mental health concerns are met.
So how do we design Inclusive Experiences? There are two steps: fixing the policies and processes to remove any discriminatory content, and then genuinely reflecting on what Experience means through the concept of the Moments of Truth.
When we think about diversity in Employee Experience, we often immediately think about “Service Alignment”. The basic idea is to ensure that what you offer to employees is not discriminatory, and you try to extend services and benefits to all diverse employees. Let’s see some examples.
On e of the area where this alignment needs to take place is around Life Events. From a policy perspective, the adjustment might seem simple, as in many cases, it is just about extending existing practices. However, there are a few concerns to mention. If we focus on LGBT+ diverse employees, for example, the significant alignments should be around the following items:
The area where a lot of focus needs to be given is Benefits Alignment. I want to concentrate on two aspects which are very important here specifically:
The alignment process can be a lengthy one. Many companies often face the issue of asking “do we really need this?” just because they never had a concrete case. The case of Gender Transition is a perfect example. There are so many cases of people who chose to leave their job, to avoid inquiring for support internally. In my experience, the step of creating inclusive policies and making people aware of this will help prepare yourself when there is a case.
Policy and Process alignment is only the first step. The reality is that we need to consider, as we have already discussed, the real Moments of Truth. But which are the one that matters from a diversity perspective? Here a (not final) list of possibilities:
This is probably the most challenging moment to describe in terms of process and steps. Also, because we often assume that diversity is always visible. But we know it is not always like that. Recruiting is often the process where this might happen, and the first live interview is where people live this Experience. But there are cases where the MOT occurs later. Let’s see a few examples of where things might go wrong (based on my experience).
The common aspect here is How good will the employee feel about the consideration of their diversity during these moments? What do we do as an organisation to ensure these become positive moments for the employee? BTW, I have used examples on LGBT+ cases, but the same can happen in case of disabilities, changes in religious confession and so on. Managers play an enormous role in these Moments, confirming how important they always are in the management of the Experience.
This is probably one of the essential Moments of Truth for any relationship between an employee and an organisation because it tests the culture and the leadership capability of a manager. When thinking about this moment, there are two aspects of inclusion that we should consider:
The aspect here is How good will the employee feel about the consideration given to their voice? A critical moment, which is not linked to the acceptance of a different perspective, but rather to its inclusion and attention in the discussion.
This Moment of Truth aligns in many ways with the first one we have just covered. However, there is an additional element to be considered here—the perception of fairness in the selection process. I am mainly focusing on the internal one, because it is the one where employees collect more “impressions”, from career movements they see, gossips and feedbacks from colleagues and so on.
Internal career management is already a complicated issue for any organisation to manage. Fairness is a very complicated issue to manage internally because it is mostly based on perception, not solely hard facts.
Also here, one of the aspects that organisations need to manage is the propensity of individuals to apply for the next steps. We are aware, for example, that women typically think twice before proposing themselves for a new job. This can be amplified by other diversity factors.
The factor to observe here is How good will the employee feel about their opportunities to succeed in obtaining the job? The process needs to be fair, but above all, the narrative around it needs to support the fairness of every selection. BTW, one of the issues for many companies in trying to retain diverse talent is precisely linked to the fact that many feel there is not enough fairness, and don’t even try the internal application process route, preferring to leave the company.
This is always an exciting Moment of Truth (and one for which tons of articles are written, often purely from a negotiation technique point of view). I want to see it from a particular angle though: an employee that ask for a raise because he has evidence of a diversity pay gap.
In many countries, there is emerging legislation both around equal pay and pay gap, particularly around gender. Although these phenomena are different (equal pay refers to the fact that people are paid equally for the same job, whereas pay gap refers to the fact that group of people are paid, on average, less or more than other groups considering an entire organisation), they have been driving a lot of action from many companies. Gender Pay Gap reporting is now mandatory, for example, in the UK. With data now available, there is now the question on what can I do with the information?
Fixing pay gaps is particularly not comfortable. The cost impact of an immediate alignment would be challenging to manage for most businesses; plus, there are also other elements to consider linked to career access.
In any case, I wanted to simply raise the awareness that discussions around pay gaps can become more frequent, and often will encompass the demand for fairness and equality in pay.
The factor to observe here is How good will the employee feel about equality and fairness in pay?
Deloitte reports that the behaviour of executives and managers can drive a difference of 70 percentage points between the proportion of diverse employees who feel included and those who do not. Recognising the Moments of Truth where diverse employees interact with specific expectations with the organisation is critical in ensuring that there is a defined and positive perception of respect. This is the only way we can truly drive a sense of belonging, which is our ultimate goal.
Middle Managers, as usual, have a truly vital role to play in this. Particularly with their ability to recognise bias in what they do. Again, the issue is about Intentional Design of all the aspects of the organisation. Even if we design the correct cultural artefacts (values, diversity statements), and run the appropriate training to the entire population, we need to develop the touch-points so that they are consistent in carrying the inclusion message.
The journey is complicated, and so far, I have not yet heard enough attention and focus on this specific angle of viewing Employee Experience.
With this article, I also conclude my “Pride Month” series. I started with my personal story, have looked at the concept of Value of Diversity and how the Organisation Evolution Framework can support an intentional design for Belonging. I hope to have stimulated some discussion and a bit of awareness on the topic.
Please feel free to add your notes and comments below.
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