Inclusion: What Is It and How Can We Become More Inclusive

By The Intersect Group

So we’re still talking among ourselves – a lot – about diversity and inclusion in hiring. We wrote here a couple of weeks ago about hiring for cultural fit, and how it can sometimes result in hiring for “unconscious bias.”

We’re not done.  Our virtual “water cooler” discussions are ongoing, and we’ve found that we tend to have different ideas as to what “inclusion” actually is.

Aha! A topic presents itself because if we all have different ideas as to what constitutes inclusion in hiring, we bet others do, as well.

And away we go!

So just what is inclusion?

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has a tidy definition:  inclusion “describes the extent to which each person in an organization feels welcomed, respected, supported and valued as a team member.”

Simple, right? Looks so on the surface. But here’s the kicker: EACH of us probably has a different definition of what makes us feel “welcomed, respected, supported and valued.”

You, for example, may like it when you get recognized on the company intranet for your work anniversary. Even if your boss doesn’t say “thank you for all you do.” While your colleague might be absolutely fuming that the Big Guy/Gal never even said “Congrats on your anniversary, and thank you for everything you’ve done for the company,” even if he did get the same public recognition.

And what about the excellent executive assistant with a hidden disability who asked to work from home  (pre-pandemic), who always got her work done on time, every time; who came up with an excellent and highly successful employee retention program that saved the company tens of thousands of dollars in just its first year of implementation; yet who was STILL told she had to come into the office more regularly because her co-workers thought she was getting unfair special treatment. (A true example, BTW.)

How “welcomed, respected, supported and valued” do you think SHE felt?


And we haven’t even touched on inclusion for POC, LGBTQ, etc. ….

….groups historically discriminated against who more often than not definitely have been made to feel unwelcome, disrespected, unsupported, and not valued!


Here’s our definition of inclusion

Don’t get us wrong: we think SHRM’s definition is pretty good. But we found one from that we think is much more appropriate for the remainder of 2020 and beyond (considering all that has been happening this year).


Inclusion is:


Supporting and embracing diversity in a way that clearly shows all individuals are valued, recognized, and accepted for who they truly are. This involves demonstrating respect for the abilities, beliefs, backgrounds, and cultures of those around you and engaging those with diverse perspectives, so that others feel an unconditional sense of belonging for who they are.


This sounds GREAT. We want it!

So how can we be more inclusive?

It starts with “demonstrating respect” and moves on to “engaging those with diverse perspectives.”

Those two phrases, we believe, are key. Both require ACTION: “demonstrating” and “engaging.” Doing, in other words.


Actual strategies to help your company become more inclusive


  • First, your leadership MUST be fully on board. Nothing happens (there will be no “doing”) unless your company’s leadership makes it a priority. Leaders should learn from inclusivity experts – in a private and judgement-free setting in which no embarrassing or awkward questions are too awkward or embarrassing – on what an inclusive business looks and acts like.Once leadership understands its importance and what it will take for your company to become more inclusive, the stage will properly be set for inclusivity initiatives that truly will work for all employees.


  • Get feedback and ideas from employees. This step probably is the second-most important strategy (second only to getting leadership aboard).  Doing so will help a great deal when it comes time to implement your new/revised initiatives/policies/programs, etc. 
  • Start using inclusive language. Ask employees (and even contractors and clients) what pronouns they prefer (they/them; she/her). Use “partner” or “spouse” rather than the gendered “husband/wife.” 
  • Create safe places in the office and make it OK for those who ask for them…to ask for and use them. Could Muslim employees use a quiet space where they may pray to Allah during the day? Do you have gender-neutral restrooms? What about a quiet office for a lactation space for new moms or even distraction free offices for workers who are highly sensitive to the overstimulation often created in open offices (making sure there’s no stigma attached to the use of these offices)?And, taking the example mentioned above about the worker with the hidden disability: ensure that employees who ask for ADA-compliant physical accommodations receive them without judgement.


  • Ask for feedback regularly moving forward. Ask for it often. Welcome it.


Your leaders, managers and employees are going to make mistakes. Everyone will face challenges no one could have anticipated. The idea is to ensure that everyone feels free to express their needs and discuss the challenges they’re experiencing.


Chances are great you’re already moving toward more inclusivity at your company!


After all, this topic has been in the news pretty much constantly for several months now. So, let us know: what are you doing to ensure your business is more inclusive?

Let us know!