When disruption occurs, organizations often lose their focus on diversity so they can manage what they deem as more urgent and important matters. And it is that decision, that moment, which clearly tells employees diversity, engagement, and inclusion are not integral aspects of their organizational culture. This is also the moment when leaders diminish their ability to help the entire organization most effectively meet the challenge they are facing.

Though leaders often believe they are focusing on key issues, they may not realize that in a crisis, old behaviors and organizational schism may come to the fore.

  • Unconscious biases can re-assert themselves as leaders and other employees rush to action.
  • Leaders may be unwilling to hear new voices and varying perspectives, leaving them dependent on stale thinking and approaches.
  • Differences in the experiences of employees because of demographics, abilities and/or organizational role may be overlooked resulting in poor decision-making and lingering distrust.

Yet, rather than defaulting to old behaviors, leaders can use disruption to pull the organization together. Executives and managers can keep employees informed, actively soliciting new ideas and purposely using difference to organizational advantage.

For instance:

  • Have those who are tech savvy – including millennials and others – buddy with employees who are less technologically skilled.
  • Hold skip level meetings so all within the organization are informed of what is going on from a senior official.
  • Ask employees for their ideas.
  • Hold some meetings without video so the impact of race, appearance and physical abilities are minimized.
  • Have meetings with video so those who are deaf and hard of hearing can more easily follow the conversation.
  • Recognize that disruptions will impact employees differently. Losing your savings is frightening. Losing your home is terrifying. And both experiences will deeply impact employees and, thus, the workplace as a whole.

Being an inclusive organization is more than declaring your intentions to be diverse. It is acting in inclusive ways regardless of the circumstances. It is understanding that being an inclusive organization is not what you do, but who you are. It is about creating a pathway to success and building a bridge into the future.