When it comes to the new White House administration, there really has been no policy more controversial than immigration. Even with the second iteration of policy changes announced last month, there is still widespread concern that we may be doing more harm than good for our country. This is particularly the case for many CEOs who believe a diverse community of employees and partners is what drives growth, ignites innovation, and helps impact change in our neighborhoods, our nation and in our world.
As an immigrant who started my own business, I have always believed in the power of diversity, but more importantly, I believe in the power of inclusion. While diversity, in its simplest form, is having respect for and appreciation of differences in ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, education, and religion, inclusion is the state of being valued, respected and supported. As one study stated, “Diversity is the mix; inclusion is getting the mix to work well together.”
How do you create a culture of inclusion? Here are three things I have learned:
Become Culturally Competent
As the CEO, you need to take the time to learn about different cultures, ethnicities, religions, and lifestyles that exist within your company. This is an ongoing process of learning all to develop a frame of reference for how others want to be treated, not necessarily how you want to be treated. Being culturally competent also means being able to acknowledge your cultural beliefs and unconscious bias, finding strategies that break bias (an excellent article about breaking unconscious bias can be found here). It is important that your company reflects what matters most to your employees.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Make sure your diversity goals and vision are a regular part of employee training programs and staff meetings and that they are connected to your overall business objectives. This allows team members to see how diversity impacts the growth and success of your company. Also, make sure you communicate your concerns should you feel external factors are interfering with your internal values. When the first executive orders regarding immigration were announced, I sent a company-wide email to team members reiterating our company’s core values and when we felt Uber’s values didn’t match our own, we looked at other transportation options.
Be a Driver Of Change
One of the most powerful things you can do to promote inclusion and celebrate diversity is to lead change regarding issues that may not necessarily be your own. If you have employees with immigration concerns, consider sponsoring H-1B visas or helping connect them with immigration attorneys. If you are a male CEO, support policies around women’s health care and verbally address sexism in the workplace and our society. When you amplify the voices of others, you are validating them as individuals and showing them just how valuable they are to you and your company. Remember, it is more important to demonstrate your values rather than just verbalize it.
During these challenging times, make it a priority to shift your business from a focus on diversity to a focus on inclusion. When all employees feel accepted and appreciated and when their personal values align with your company values (and are lived up to each day), you are not only positively impacting your business; you are changing our world.