5 tried-and-true tips for boosting your inclusion game
Jun 11, 2020

Having a variety of voices and world views is key to our culture of innovation, but it doesn't just happen. It takes work from all of us, every day. The path to real change starts with small and impactful actions, that end up making a big difference.

“Diversity is our people, and inclusion is our culture — the environment that we create. And the environment that we create takes practice,” explained Kayo Roehm, a 3M Design Officer who supports the Consumer Business Group. Kayo helped create 3M’s Allies to Advocates training, which focuses on helping 3Mers take the ally role to the next level, not only by showing support for people of different backgrounds and experiences, but by becoming true advocates who actively champion positive change and remove barriers for others.

Direct from the training, here are five ways you can power an inclusive culture in your workplace, one action at a time.

Pause for honest self-reflection and identifying biases

The path to advocacy begins by evaluating your personal situation and reflecting on possible opportunities to support others, so they can feel seen and free to express themselves.

“We all have biases — some that we will be very well aware of, some that we may not be fully aware of,” said Robert Nichols, Managing Director of the Middle East and Africa, and a member of the CEO Inclusion Council at 3M. He recommends asking yourself, “Where are my biases, and what do I need to do to offset and compensate for those?” Set aside a moment to consider whose opinions you take the most seriously, who you don’t always listen closely to or whose input often goes unnoticed on your team. Being honest with yourself allows you to accept break down unhelpful biases more quickly and effectively.

The willingness to ask honest questions about where you come from and what shapes your worldview will spark curiosity about others’ positions, leading to a greater understanding.

“Once you are open to learning more and are showing up in support of others, that becomes allyship,” added Kayo. “When that spark of passion happens and you are wanting to get involved to lead and drive positive change, that becomes advocacy.”

Make eye contact and say hello

Although opportunities for in-person interactions are currently limited due to COVID-19, every interaction with co-workers presents an opportunity to be inclusive and to really get to know one another. Small gestures that show acknowledgement can be meaningful, helping to build a solid foundation for collaboration and trust.

“Just practicing catching somebody's eye and smiling at them goes a long way,” said Kayo, adding that when she’s at the office, she intentionally says good morning to everyone that crosses her path. Kayo emphasized that greeting other people and being present and receptive to listening also opens the door to further conversation and connection. While in-person contact and physical distancing remain important for those working at 3M facilities, individuals can find ways to acknowledge each other through making eye contact and waving to or nodding at each other.

Take extra steps when connecting virtually

It’s important to make an extra effort to be inclusive during virtual interactions with colleagues. Because physical separation limits your ability to sense body language and moods, be as clear as possible with communication and assume positive intent from others. Tone doesn’t always carry well over email. In order to prevent any miscommunication with your colleagues, read over any messages that seem negative a second time—usually, you’ll be able to identify your colleague’s intent, and move forward collaboratively.

“When you are able, turn your video camera on,” said Felipe Lara-Angeli, Chief Learning Officer at 3M. “Being able to hear and see others provides the brain with additional data and social cues.” He also recommended starting virtual events and meetings with a brief check-in. Try asking basic questions like, “how are you feeling?” or “what might be distracting you?” or “what do you want to get out of our time today?” These friendly conversation starters can help all participants feel seen and valued before discussing a work-related topic.

Another way to bridge a virtual gap: use technology to schedule regular meetings for a brief social check-in or chat about the positive contributions being made.

“I have a recurring meeting block every Friday morning in order to dedicate time to send peer-to-peer recognition and notes of gratitude,” said Felipe. “When we approach working with others with empathy, compassion and curiosity, we help to create an environment where everyone is included.”

Advocate for every voice to be heard

Those in leadership roles are crucial to cultivating a diverse and inclusive environment — and everyone has the opportunity to be a leader, whether they’re helping new coworkers get acclimated or overseeing a whole department. When leading a discussion, pay close attention to who is contributing to the conversation. “It’s so important to be able to have the space to share your ideas,” said Kayo. “It's up to leadership to take notice and to create that safe space for our team members to thrive.” Facilitate psychological safety — an environment where team members feel safe to speak up and share their unique experiences and perspectives.

While some individuals may be more or less inclined to speak up — maybe they’re more introverted or reluctant to share because of a bad experience doing so in the past — do your best to ensure that people always have the opportunity to add something if they’d like to. Maybe this means you ask your team to submit agenda items prior to the meeting, so they can form full thoughts before being asked to share with the group. You could also try going around the group and asking for feedback, so everyone has the opportunity to speak without being interrupted — or to “pass” if they’re not ready to contribute.

Robert emphasized that building a diverse and inclusive team begins by assessing your personal role in the group. “Knowing your own strengths and preferences helps you to look for strengths in other areas to ensure that you get the right balance,” he said.

But being aware of the qualities and skill sets needed from the group is just the first step. Each team member brings a unique perspective to the table, in addition to the valuable work they contribute. “On top of the core skills and competencies that you need your team members to have, it’s important to then ensure that you and the team are truly inclusive, and listen to the various voices,” explained Robert.

Celebrate moments and apply what you learn

Acknowledging progress is a key part of keeping positive and inclusive momentum going. When a colleague does something well to foster diversity and inclusion, recognize what they’re doing and state what it means to you. “Call it out and say, ‘Wow, that was so awesome! I'm going to try to practice that next time I have the opportunity,’” suggested Kayo.

Another important aspect: Gauge whether you’re observing or promoting inclusion. “Where are you at right now? Are you in the listen and learn space, or are you actioning and modeling involvement to drive positive progress?” said Kayo. To make a meaningful difference, aim to move toward advocacy over time.

Something to try now: listen carefully in meetings. If you notice colleagues are consistently interrupted or have their ideas “taken” by someone else, circle back and acknowledge those efforts. Wording like, “That piggybacks off of ___’s idea, which was really great,” or “___ made a great point about that, I’d like to hear more from them,” can help amplify voices.

By integrating these micro actions into your everyday work routine, you can help create a healthy environment where work can be done well — and most importantly — where psychological safety is possible and expected. Without psychological safety, “you're filtering everything that you do and say, and you're not allowing your core strengths, knowledge and understanding to come out,” said Robert.

Felipe agreed: “When we feel ‘safe’ we are more likely to engage with others, collaborate and share, and experiment and try.”

3M is committed to fostering an inclusive culture. Learn more about 3M’s diversity and inclusion efforts at 3M.com/careers.

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