Inclusion isn’t passive

The past six months have brought a focus on social and economic divisions that is greater than probably any other period of my lifetime. And with it comes the talk of the need for greater cohesion and the inevitable use of the word inclusion. Every aspect of our life needs to be more “inclusive”.

The joy of the word inclusion is that it has a very personal appeal. Greater inclusivity offers the promise that I, myself, may be better involved, better consulted, better represented in the aspects of life where I feel the outcomes don’t match with my personal agenda.

It is why many business have honed in on the inclusivity tag over and above diversity. The psychological inference of diversity is about others, about difference and about the things that we need to change. Whereas inclusion can be seen to have something in it for me, without an imperative to do anything different.

The value of inclusion starts with understanding your relative position of influence in the system. We all have an inherent desire to be included in things, that’s the constant nagging of our ego, the genuine reason for FOMO. The value only manifests if we understand our role and our contribution and how we can effect change for those that are around us.

With the positive connotations of the use of inclusion, we must not avoid the practical implications, the systemic and structural requirements that are needed to achieve it. Rarely will we view our own “system” as being exclusive, most people believe themselves to be welcoming, to be tolerant and to contribute in a way that allows anyone to prosper and succeed. Instead we look to the actions, the behaviours and beliefs of others.

At the heart of any change is action. If we want to see a different result, we need to do different things, behave in different ways and adopt different beliefs. That is true for all of us, for “them”, for me and for you. And in turn that means that there will be give and take as the system moves and adapts to accommodate a new norm.

Inclusivity isn’t soft, it isn’t passive, it isn’t a polite middle class way of addressing the needs of society. It is real and gritty and challenging and meaningful. It requires us all to assess our own
role and contribution. For more voices to be heard, more people need to listen, for more difference, we need less conformity and for more giving, we need less self. And for all of that, it needs to start with I, not you.

Your corporate culture is dead

Do you feel like you belong at work? Do you want to feel like you belong?

What is the role of organisations in creating a sense of purpose and belonging? Is there one, or is it all a waste of time?

When employment was for life, or as near as, there was a sense of belonging and identity. Families worked for the same employer generation after generation, towns and communities were built around industries and employers.

But that time is past and now we move as freely between organisations as we do between pretty much every other aspect of our lives. And with the increase in those that work for more than one employer, can we really expect them to feel any sense of identity with multiple paymasters?

When people no longer come to the same workplace, from the same background or even the same country, can we really expect people to feel a sense of commitment and identity beyond the payslip?

Whats clear is that the way i which we view organisational culture needs to change. No longer can we tell people what our culture is and expect them to adhere. Like the condescending finger wagging of authority that we saw in the wake of this weekend’s rugby result, we can no more tell people how they should or shouldn’t react in defeat than we can tell them who we are as an organisation and how they need to behave. The management of corporate culture is dead.

Yet at the same time, people can feel identity and belonging without being present or managed into doing so. Beatlemania showed that you didn’t have to have ever visited Liverpool or even have seen the band to find some depth of association and belonging, Manchester United have fans that buy their shirts across the world without ever having set foot in Old Trafford. And of course, people are travelling across from across the world to fight and support ISIS without ever having any connection with Syria or the fighters that are there.

What does this mean? I don’t know. More questions than answers once again. But it suggests that the way in which we think about organisational culture needs to change. It is no longer a static managed product that is delivered top down, no matter how many bottom up exercises and listening groups you hold.

It is fluid, transient and needs to appeal more than it needs to dictate. It exists because people say it does and it lives because people want it to. It’s a sum of the parts of the hopes and dreams of every single person that wishes to exist within it is. And it is entirely voluntary, for better or for worse.