Building a Road Map to an Inclusive Culture

5 min read | Gretchen Sussman


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In a recent blog, I addressed how to change the culture of your company to be more inclusive for all, and the four steps organizations must take to make a real and lasting DE&I impact: 

  • Assess Current State
  • Align Leadership & Develop Your Roadmap
  • Engage & Develop Your Team Members
  • Deploy & Embed Revamped Mechanisms

These four steps are critical to your DE&I journey and cannot be overstated. Remember, to make real progress, people, and the organizational cultures they are part of, must change.

When you think about the seemingly daunting task of building a DE&I strategy, here’s an easy way to help simplify it. Think of your strategy like taking a road trip, with the ultimate destination being a culture of inclusion. 

In other words, if you approach the whole process as if you’re mapping out your trip –– when does it start… what vehicle are you going to use... who’s going on the trip with you... what sites do you want to see along the way… and what is your final destination –– using this analogy will help build your strategy in a way that makes the journey more manageable and, dare I say, even enjoyable. Without question, it will be worth the trip.

In this new blog series, I’ll be delving into some of the specifics that will help you reach your destination (aka your inclusive culture), starting with steps #1 and #2. 

Your DE&I road trip begins with these five (5) things:

  1. Level-set with a Cultural Assessment -

    This is not the same as an employee engagement survey. A true cultural assessment will help you better understand how your employees experience the organization, and whether their perspectives are aligned with those of the leadership. It’s likely they aren’t, but this is the critical information needed in order to baseline and measure the ROI of the DE&I work, and more surgically address the areas of opportunity to create momentum, proof points and trust in the process.  You can’t begin your road trip without this assessment, or you will never reach your destination.
    Download more information about our Inclusive Culture Assessment

  2. Align with your Executive team -

    Make sure your leadership is prepared to support the culture work necessary to truly make it inclusive. Share the information you learned from the assessments with your team, align on the DE&I priorities and shifts required to be seen and felt as inclusive leaders. Are they open to the stops and challenges that will need to be addressed along the way? The assessment will identify the hurdles, big and small, that you’ll need to address.  It’s important that leadership is aligned and genuinely committed to addressing their own inequities guided through insights on how others in the organization perceive them.  Without their alignment and buy-in, reaching your destination is impossible.  

  3. Develop the Road Map -

    Once you’ve gotten the leadership team’s buy-in, you can develop your roadmap and identify the stops along the way. The first stop on the map is often addressing the mindsets and behaviors within leadership that create cultural barriers. Should you put leadership through a diverse mentoring program because they don’t understand how they are seen by others? Do they need to be taught how to become allies to all? Do they need to understand how to model inclusive behaviors? These are all potential stops along the way in planning your roadmap for the trip. Ask yourself, how do people really feel, and what do we as an organization need to do to address their concerns? The answers provide direction for plotting the starts and stops on the roadmap. An important part of the roadmap is to identify and address the inequities you learned from your assessment. 

  4. Identify and address the inequities within the company -

    When you look at the policies and procedures you have in place, make sure they’re equitable across the organization. Things like pay gaps, succession planning, performance reviews, who gets development opportunities, equal family leave time for new parents, etc.––these may all part of your roadmap. Consider these stops along the way the vehicle to create a solid baseline of equitable treatment for all on your journey to inclusion.

  5. Focus on developing diverse talent -

    Work on leveling the playing field for your diverse talent. While you may think you’re treating everyone the same, in all likelihood, the assessment will indicate that you’re probably not. Make sure in your roadmap that one of the things you’re going to do is provide development opportunities for your diverse talent that includes providing them with a mentor. This will help prepare them for future opportunities within the organization. From your diverse talent’s perspective, the journey to feeling part of an inclusive culture will be well underway with a champion/sponsor along for the ride.

I’ll be sharing more information about building a DE&I strategy that works as we continue this blog series in the coming weeks. Buckle up!

In the meantime, if you’d like to have a conversation about how Leading NOW can help you implement a culture assessment to help get you started on your own road trip, let’s talk. #FutureForward

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