It was a bold, bright April day in Lahore, Pakistan, in my earlier years, when my elderly father told me something valuable, broodingly narrating an insightful episode from his past. “When I left my father’s house in a small village to make a living in the big city of Lahore, I had only 20 rupees in my pocket and no impressive degree. But I had a passion that kept me awake every night until I graduated from a leading university of Lahore to become a lawyer working over 16 hours every day.”
“There was one more thing that I had in my mind,” he elaborated in a gentle murmur. “Space,” he said. “There was ample space and no inhibitive biases or negative thoughts in my mind that my brothers harbored mercilessly. They still live in the same village in our dilapidated ancestral house,” he added. Meanwhile, he stretched out his right hand, slowly opening his wrinkled fingers, and moved them in the air. “Look at your fingers; they all have different heights and shapes,” he said. “These fingers belong to me, and no matter the height, shape, color, or look and feel, I will leave no stone unturned to keep them safe.” This is the best definition of belongingness that I learned many years ago.
All the magic words — diversity, equity and inclusion — have gained currency in recent years. Never before has needing to establish inclusion, equality and belonging at the heart of society felt more urgent. The question is: Where will it end if it ever will?
I kept thinking about it when my younger daughter, who works in a food company, helped me find the answer. “Dad, if you support me like you did last year, teaching me how to drive a car, even though Mom did not approve of it, I think we can do it,” she said with a lovely smile. Voila!
This is a great solution, or at least part of the solution: Let us find mentors in the right place at the right time.
The other part of the answer is to “listen deeply and act boldly.” While it is impossible to erase inequity overnight, listening can assuage deep feelings of unfairness by making people feel heard and understood. More importantly, listening can help organizations understand how their cultures affect employees and provide a roadmap for needed changes.
Another powerful tool available organizations can use to their advantage is the listening circle, a session in which employees are invited to speak, one at a time, while others listen with empathy and minimal judgment and commit to understanding. People are free to talk about whatever they want leaders and others to hear, including their thoughts and experiences about equity, belonging, inclusion, race and more.
All of this requires humility and a growth mindset. For leaders and employees alike, deep listening necessitates finding the strength to receive difficult feedback graciously, especially if what they hear is not what they expect.
The next step would be how to measure our journey.
Measurements like the composition of the workforce and the pay gap offer solid direction for measuring and improving diversity and equity. Still, to measure inclusion in business effectively, a traditional approach — such as running an annual employee engagement survey or pulse surveys supporter by focus groups — followed by a focus group discussion, must be used.
As every business leader knows, what gets measured, gets managed. Inclusive Future answers the question: How should we measure inclusivity in the workplace to achieve organizational impact? Over 57% of employees think their company should be doing more to increase diversity (Glassdoor). Help them understand what you are doing and take them where your organization wants to go.
Diversity, equity and inclusion are critical components of every organization’s culture. It is complex and rapidly evolving. Get inspiration and advice to ensure you are not falling into potentially offensive cliché traps that can backfire on your employee trust, customer perception and bottom line.
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Get involved and continue the conversation with IABC’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Shared Interest Group. Learn more.
Rauf Hameed is an IABC member for the past 10 years and a corporate storyteller and communications expert — fostering engagement and loyalty by making sense in the corporate world. A plain talker, adept at distilling strategic messages and commercial initiatives with trust and professional zeal, he uses cut-through approaches to drive engagement and brand love. Creative at heart, he loves finer expressions and, even more so, lovely images to tell a story with an impact. He is an experienced communications specialist with a demonstrated history in the consumer goods and pharmaceutical industries in numerous global markets. He is a valued communications partner to the CEO and executive leadership team.