As I have taken my journey through the diversity and inclusion space, I have learned that it is easy to see why it’s so important and yet it is not always easy to translate knowing into meaningful action. While diversity and inclusion are hard to ignore in our world today, many still do. Why? Because there are no ‘silver bullets’ – change is hard and it takes time, effort, constant learning and perseverance.
At Tolko, we have taken many steps to ensure we have an inclusive workplace. But actions must be supported by culture, a culture where all employees feel safe, valued and respected. Simple right? Let’s take a closer look at these words to see what it takes to create the space for all employees to feel this way.
When talking about inclusion, the feeling of safety means you can bring your whole self to work without negative implications. It means you can share elements of yourself (e.g. religion, sexual orientation, etc.) without fear. You can have open discussions about the unique experiences that have shaped you. Feeling psychologically and emotionally safe means that you will likely share ideas that challenge the status quo, ask questions and admit when you don’t understand or need more information.
As author Mike Robbins has said, “When we don’t bring our whole selves to work, we suffer – lack of engagement, lack of productivity, and our well-being is diminished. We aren’t able to do our best, most innovative work, and we spend and waste too much time trying to look good, fit in, and do or say the “right” thing. For teams and organizations, this lack of psychological safety makes it difficult for the group or company to thrive and perform at their highest level because people are holding back some of who they really are.”
I think we can all agree that it’s important to feel valued at work. We want to go home each day feeling like our contributions matter. Let’s take it one step further. An inclusive culture creates space for individuality – a place where you feel valued and appreciated for those characteristics that make you unique. It’s more than recognition of performance. If you are valued for your uniqueness, your opinion is sought out as a diverse perspective. You are also more likely to feel connected to your peers, your team, and the company. When both of these conditions are met, you are more likely to understand your contribution to the organization’s goals.
As Mike Robbins writes, “Recognition is positive feedback based on performance. Appreciation is about recognizing the value of people. In other words, recognition is about what we do (or accomplish) and appreciation is about who we are. The reason why this is so important is that for us to connect with people in an authentic way, we have to see and acknowledge who they are as humans, not just what they do as workers. When we do both of these things and we separate them out, people feel valued, appreciated, and seen – which allows for greater trust, connection, and performance.”
Respect is one of Tolko’s values and a core ingredient for inclusion. Treating people with respect fosters a high sense of belonging within an organization. And to be truly respectful it’s not enough to follow the “golden rule” of treating people the way you want to be treated. Respect in an inclusive culture follows the “platinum rule” of treating people the way they want to be treated. Respect has different meaning based on an individual’s unique culture, upbringing, socialization, and life experiences. To treat people the way they want to be treated means we have to take time to get to know them as individuals and honour their unique backgrounds. When you take the time to understand where your team member, co-worker, or customer is coming from, and relate to them from that place, you are demonstrating the highest respect and the most authentic form of inclusion in the workplace.
Let’s keep moving forward together.