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The Workplace: Culture of Inclusion vs. Culture of Exclusion: What is the Impact?

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Culture of Inclusion vs. Culture of Exclusion: What is the Impact?

There is a mostly invisible minority that is present in significant numbers in workplaces across the country. I classify the gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered group as a mostly invisible as many in this group may not choose to be "out" at work. They may not feel comfortable proclaiming their sexual orientation or identity for fear of reprisal. This is unfortunate, but still a reality in many parts of the country. If an organization is not particularly diverse or open to diversity, it is more likely that those who are different will attempt to hide their diversity. This is an unfortunate result as people generally don't give 100% when they don't feel 100% comfortable. Moreover, research shows that when employees do not feel valued, they feel distracted and spend more time conducting non work related activities, including searching for other work.

Conversely, when employees feel valued and respected, they are much more likely to be engaged and thereby put forth their best efforts on the company's behalf. Leadership that inspires, rather than rules motivates employees. Employees are able to quickly differentiate a culture of inclusion from one of exclusion. This is precisely why embracing a diverse workplace is important.

Employees will connect the dots to conclude that an organization that chooses to operate in a progressive manner, demonstrating equality by employing those with diverse backgrounds, sexual orientations, gender identities is one that truly values each person's individual contribution. Therefore, all employees are more likely to feel welcome, accepted, valued and respected within the organization. Most of us have diversifying elements within our backgrounds or families. Embracing the richness of diversity makes for a much better climate than trying to avoid the diversifying elements.

I learned in my thirty years in various workplaces and varying industries that an organization is only as strong as its weakest link. A company may be spending a lot on advertising and marketing. However, money may be wasted if its employees don't take pride in the company and work to enhance the company's results. If morale is poor, employees may actually negatively affect future sales. There is a recent conference board survey that shows that 56% of workers are disengaged at work. Further 15% of this group is "actively disengaged". Organizations that find ways to connect with their employees and thereby lower these percentages will certainly be able to more effectively compete against their competitors.
One sure way to improve morale in a company is to treat each employee with respect. This means recognizing them for who they are as individuals, valuing their input and making them feel welcome in the organizational family. In my years as CEO of a bank, I ensured that we placed a high value on each of these elements. The net effect was very positive. We were able to dramatically lower turnover, boost retention and increase job satisfaction. In fact, we were voted, "The Best Place to Work in St. Louis" in 2007 by the St. Louis Business Journal for medium sized companies.

The old saying is true, take care of your people and profits will be taken care of. It is key to do more than just pay lip service to the notion of treating employees with respect. An organization must ensure by its actions that it is able to give voice to the individual. This can be accomplished by a number of tools that ensure that an organization is receiving input and feedback at each level of the organization. Examples include an employee morale committee, a social events committee, Q+A events with the CEO (that are unscripted), and interdepartmental committees that focus on process improvement within the organization.
I hope that I offered a few insights into one person's view on the importance of diversity in the workplace. Creating dialogue on a topic is a healthy way of continuing progress.

Note: William A. Donius was elected CEO of Pulaski Bank in 1997. He took the bank public in 1998 with Pulaski Financial Corp. NASDAQ listed PULB as the holding company. Under his leadership the bank grew from $168 million to $1.3 billion. Pulaski Bank is the largest purchase market, mortgage originator in St. Louis and one of the top three in Kansas City. Pulaski Bank was voted the Best Place to Work in St. Louis in 2007, received a Torch Award from the Better Business Bureau in 2008 and is ranked as one of the best performing smaller banks/thrifts by industry publication SNL. Donius retired from the CEO position in April of 2008 and remains Chairman of the bank. This essay represents his personal view and may represent the view of the bank.

Donius was appointed to a two-year term on the U.S. Federal Reserve Board TIAC Council in 2008. Donius served a four-year term on the Board of Directors of America's Community Bankers ending in 2007. In addition, he served as Chairman of for profit subsidiary, America's Community Bankers-Partners for two years.