"Tracey’s Takeaways" is a regular feature that focuses on employee development, management issues, leadership and organizational culture.
This article offers strategies for building an inclusive organization from Delaine Orendorff, NRECA's director of human capital planning. Delaine works with cooperative leadership to align workforce strategies with business goals.
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Our last Tracey's
Takeaways discussed the traits and competencies of
inclusive leaders. This article focuses on strategies and tactics
for leaders who want to make their workplace more inclusive. The five areas
highlighted in this article are not exhaustive; however, they provide practical
starting points on the path to greater inclusion in your co-op or public
Culture is the starting point
for inclusive behavior in the workplace. During the most recent PowerXchange,
Simon Sinek quoted a colleague's simple equation that defines culture as "Culture
= Values + Behavior." To create a
more inclusive culture:
your employees in developing value statements that support inclusion.
together to describe the behaviors that support those values so that employees
can better understand what behaviors they should be demonstrating.
For example, a value
statement may focus on having a workplace culture in which employees
demonstrate mutual respect and inclusion. Behaviors that support that statement
treat each other with courtesy and actively encourage everyone to express their
opinions and ideas before
expressing our own thoughts. We seek out others to include in conversations,
meetings or initiatives
where they may play a role. The goal is
to create or cultivate a culture where all employees can contribute their ideas,
unique perspectives and experiences and feel a sense of belonging.
We all understand the importance of communication. Lack
of internal communication is one key issue that often rises to the top in
NRECA's culture survey.
an internal communications plan for your co-op.
transparent and communicate the importance of inclusion; what your goals are;
how you're going to achieve them; and how employees can contribute.
Use your employee
communications channels to share how things are going and include a session on inclusion
in your employee meetings.
And don't forget to celebrate wins—no matter
how large or small—across your organization.
Engaging Your Workforce
Change starts at the top. Ensure that the
co-op's leadership team demonstrates inclusive behaviors. For suggestions on how to go about
building these skills, refer to the first article in this series: Tracey's
Takeaways: What It Means to Be an Inclusive Leader and Organization Part 1. Since leaders set the tone for the organization, it
is up to them to demonstrate inclusion every day. That is the first step—but in order to experience true inclusion, you need to go beyond just this
employees on your goals around inclusion and explain why this is important for
Empower and engage employees in your diversity
and inclusion efforts.
Create a team of employee volunteers
passionate about this topic—and let them provide you with suggestions and
ideas that are actionable.
One caution here: Make sure you act on their suggestions to
increase the likelihood of success. Show employees that inclusion is a critical
factor in the success of your co-op, not a “flavor of the month”
initiative. One method of ensuring success for these initiatives is to include
goals around inclusion in your strategic plan or goals, and add an inclusion
metric to your balanced performance scorecard.
We've all been in
meetings where some individuals speak up frequently, and some voices are less
heard. Unfortunately, when this happens excellent ideas and thoughts can be
left unsaid. While this may be a personal
preference on the part of the individual, it is worth going around the room and
letting everyone have an opportunity to contribute to the conversation. Call on
those who may not be speaking up. Alternatively, if some individuals just
generally do not want to speak in front of others, pass around notepads, collect
them and then report themes to encourage participation.
Policies & Practices: Recruiting
Review your employee
policies and practices—do they support inclusion? Two critical areas in
particular are recruitment and development. First, educate your human resources
manager and/or hiring managers and help them understand your goals for inclusion.
Often it is easier to keep doing the same thing, obtaining talent from the same
places, hiring people we already know.
Reach out beyond your typical recruitment
sources to find diverse candidates.
Some questions you may ask your hiring team:
Are the job requirements truly reflective of
the minimum needs of the position?
you review résumés, are you looking for people who have gone to the same
college as you, for example, or are you looking for those who might have chosen
a different path to get where they are?
When you interview candidates, are you focusing
on those who can bring fresh, new, diverse ideas, or individuals who think the
same way as you do?
Are you involving diverse individuals in the
Are you equitable and inclusive across your
organization when preparing your employees for potential promotion or future
Having an individual career plan for
each employee can help you build a more inclusive employee development program,
and another benefit is building the skills your co-op needs for the
future. An individual career plan helps
employees plan and implement action steps to achieve their career goals. The
plan is a foundational tool to use when having development discussions. It typically
includes a self-assessment and specific goals the employee needs to achieve and/or skills the employee needs to learn to move toward the next step in their
career, whatever that may be.
strategies and action plans in these five areas will help you get started on
your path to greater inclusion in your co-op. We would invite you to develop
additional ideas that will build inclusion in your unique environment.
Want to learn more?
Check out these articles:
Check out these resources, programs, services and courses from NRECA:
Delaine Orendorff is recognized as a results-focused executive known for driving organizational excellence by aligning workforce strategies with business goals. Prior to joining NRECA in 2019 as director, human capital planning in the Business and Technology Strategies group, Delaine worked for a distribution system. She has over 20 years of experience in leadership roles and specializes in high-performance cultures, workforce and succession planning, change management, organizational development, performance management, 360-degree assessments and compensation plan design.
Tracey Steiner is NRECA's senior vice president for education and training. Her 29-year career at NRECA has spanned a variety of roles starting in communications and marketing positions, then 15 years as an attorney focusing on cooperative governance and public policy issues before moving to Education, Training & Events in 2012.
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