5 simple steps to create the right culture for your Diversity and Inclusion efforts

Real and enduring change happens one step at a time

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Looking through the Hourglass

Diversity & Inclusion efforts date back to the World Wars when there was a shift in gender representation in the workforce. Still, it started to take root as a prominent philosophy at the workplace only at the turn of the 21st century.

While we spoke about how far we’ve come as a world in creating a diverse workplace, we were woken by calls of the #MeToo movement. While we all started to ask for more equality, we realized the value of equity. While we have laws that protect more classes of people than ever before, we still acknowledge the need to protect.

How progress happens

While some professionals and organizations talk about their D&I forward policies & processes, others talk about being Diversity neutral or work in progress. It would be fair to say that not all progress has happened everywhere at the same pace, with Diversity still not viewed uniformly across the board. Furthermore, even today, many conversations are rooted in Diversity & not necessarily delving into the role Inclusion plays therein. Patti Digh, who has authored many books on life’s intricacies, once said, “Create inclusion with simple mindfulness that others might have a different reality from your own”. To me, this is the key to progress- to recognize that our intents may be the same, but our experiences will define how we execute on them. 

All Inclusion efforts are, at the heart of it, change efforts. While terms like ‘Change Management’ line the halls of most (pre-pandemic) Fortune 500 companies, we hardly ever hear about the inner workings of what makes the change, an enduring one. Change endures when it is consciously done.

Inclusion powers Diversity

Diversity is the mix; Inclusion is making the mix work

Andres Tapia

Somewhere in the scheme of creating a progressively diverse workplace, a primary part of the focus has been occupied by Diversity in the most visible aspects of gender & sexual orientation and recruitment & C-suite numbers. A brief look at awards instated in this area will confirm this hypothesis. While there has been some progress and acceptance in gender & sexual orientation diversity, the lack of representation at the senior levels clearly represents a leak along the way. Significant statistics prove that the degree of progress and the extent of breach into various areas of Diversity has is limited, and there isn’t enough conversation on the role Inclusion can play in tackling challenges in this area that are complex and nuanced.

However, how we move forward in these and other areas of Diversity, has Inclusion at its heart. Many organizations will be able to share their blueprints or even talk through hours about their Diversity agenda, philosophy, policies & programs. Still, we don’t see an equal focus on Inclusion- no metrics, no white pagers on its philosophy or even concrete plans to progress in the area. We haven’t sufficiently expanded on the role that Inclusion plays- not just in matters of Diversity but truly culture itself.

Every employee has the innate need to be accepted and wants to see the system have an organic ability to include them. Meaningful, sustainable, and conscious efforts in this direction can reinforce this belief or create an alternate perspective. That is the invaluable impact of Inclusion- it directly affects the very sense of belonging one experiences.

Defining the scope of Inclusion and how we want it to impact the success of Diversity goals can go a long way in evolving this area to its next milestone in this journey. So, where do we start? What choices will you make? And how do we ensure the focus is more holistic than before?

Starting out

When looking to create Inclusion goals, remember that this requires executive sponsorship and pledge. It is an area for the long haul that often requires patience for the culture to sow its rewards. Additionally, it can be powerful to clarify the intent to make progress as communication is vital for change. Inclusion is a change for most organizations, especially when you factor in multiple geographies, generations and groups.

Additionally, it is critical to remember that transparency is a powerful way to create allies, while strong accountability and measurement can ensure consistent efforts towards this space.


Create an index of experiences to listen. The biggest tool for any organization is its ability to listen to truly understand its people’s pulse.

Inclusion is often a complex topic for people to be open about. Therefore, it helps to employ multi faceted tools to gather information and assimilate it into a cohesive story that brings forth how your people feel about being included and where they want to be included more.

Since Inclusion is a new area of discovery, it would be impactful to keep an open mind to how you represent what you learn, how deep you dig basis what you hear and what you may discover along that journey. Sometimes, the questions people raise can bring more insights into how we can work towards the goals. It is also important to have role models who will lead from the front & be spokespersons for how important it is to be on this journey beyond the leaders.

Set benchmarks

When thinking about Diversity & Inclusion, it is easy to get swayed by existing external benchmarks. However, these can also be very limiting given the inadequate focus on Inclusion. Therefore, it is advisable to be bold and ambitious about the goals you internally develop on Inclusion. Most plans in the Inclusion space are often contained in awareness building. In contrast, the emphasis should be on how that awareness can be leveraged to amplify ideal narratives and push this space forward. Business Intelligence can supplement how Inclusion is viewed, not just as a long-term area of impact but also as digestible milestones.

Connect to business objectives

An inclusive culture can unlock several aspects of the culture that an organization wants to build.

Leading companies recognize how connecting the organizational culture to business objectives helps the latter get accomplished and accelerated.

Culture is found in the undercurrents; inclusive culture can mean that the undercurrents are pushing forward a progressive mindset which will further enhance how people come together and rally behind a purpose that they can recognize themselves in.

Bringing your whole self to work

We have often heard of the term ‘Unconscious Bias’. Being comfortable with being uncomfortable is the key to being a leader who recognizes and corrects bias of any kind at the workplace. Creating an environment that recognizes and encourages authenticity requires aligning every conversation about mindset, every process and policy towards an ecosystem that values who you are.

Final take

Psychological safety is the final step in enabling an Inclusive culture. Systematic and organized interventions over time are our best bet to move forward with Diversity goals and Inclusion milestones. Conscious efforts create change that lasts.