Building a Culture of Inclusion Is Easier Than You Might Think

Start with awareness, then move on to the hows and whys of encouraging diversity

The active fostering of inclusion in the workplace has been getting more attention these days. This is great news, as it’s always been essential. Creating an open and welcoming work environment, and providing equal opportunities to women, people of color, and people of diverse sexual orientation, is the foundation for an ethically sound and ultimately successful organization.

I’m proud to say that I’ve worked with some best-in-class companies when it comes to prioritizing inclusivity—PepsiCo, Yum Brands, and Starbucks—and most recently, Boudin, where I was CEO and five of our seven C-suite roles were filled by women. Studies by McKinsey and Catalyst prove that companies with diverse leadership are more successful. What’s more, emphasizing inclusion is the right thing to do. So, how can you ensure that inclusivity is a part of your organization’s culture?

The good news is that most people want to be inclusive—they just aren’t sure how to go about it. Human nature tends to gravitate towards the familiar, to “people like us.” In the business world, this is compounded by a long-standing system that has traditionally been male-oriented, male-dominated, and influenced by gender bias. Working toward inclusivity starts with awareness—awareness of these trained inclinations, unconscious bias, and established societal barriers. As a leader of a company, fostering this awareness with your employees is the essential first step. From awareness, you can move to the hows and, significantly, the whys of encouraging diversity and inclusivity.

I start with this question when broaching these topics with my teams: specifically, Why is inclusivity more than a good business practice but a necessary business move? There’s more than one answer. Diverse teams tend to better reflect your customer base. They make better and more innovative decisions. Diversity is essential for recruiting, and retaining, quality talent today. And finally, the clincher: Companies with diverse boards and C-suite executives make more money, period.

Then move on to the how. Develop a plan that engages all levels of your organization, from management to human resources, and from legal departments to operations. Focus on your organization—your needs, goals, and the ways you measure success—but benchmark against other best-in-class companies. Create methods to solidify these foundations, such as considering name-blind résumés, using diverse interview slates, and implementing behavior-based tools and training on unconscious bias. Measure inclusivity at all levels. Include diversity and inclusion measurements in compensation goals and performance metrics.

Clarice Turner is the founder and CEO of Carneros Associates, an advisory firm based in Sonoma, California. She also serves on several boards, including the Delicato Family Vineyards Board, the Culinary Institute of America Society of Fellows, and the Women of the Vine and Spirits Advisory Board.