When I was six years old growing up in Los Angeles, my parents put me into a public school with a Spanish immersion program. I was not allowed to speak English all day until 2pm, even at recess and lunch.
When I first started classes I was miserable. All the other kids had already been in the program for a year; I was supposed to speak Spanish to them but I didn’t yet know Spanish!
In a short time, however, I learned the basics of the language because it was everywhere. Even our school plays were in Spanish. In other words, Spanish was not a separate thing. It was in the flow of everything I did, everything I thought about. At times, even my dreams were in Spanish.
Fast forward to the present. In the workplace, more organizations than ever are paying attention to engagement, equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging because it is and always has been the right thing to do.
It also makes business sense. Studies show that employees who feel their voice is heard on the job are 5.3x more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.
But to get those results, we need those elements of engagement and belonging to be in the flow of everything we do, not separate things. Just like in my immersion program, my Spanish classes were not separate from the rest of my life. The language was in the flow.
I would like to invite you in to explore this phrase today: Inclusion in the flow. You could place any of the key words above there, depending on your priorities: Engagement in the Flow, Equity in the Flow, and so on.
Inclusion in the flow means putting inclusion into the flow of our everyday work, decisions, meetings, and ways of being. Rather than a separate thing, it is integrated into all that we are.
We need DEI structures like our ERGs, diversity councils, and programs — they help organizations move DEI forward. They are the champions, the support, the ones often doing the work. But it can’t stop there. We need easy pathways to behaviors that feel like wins.
Here are three examples:
- If you hold All-Hands meetings, rather than having the same leadership speak every time, ask your team “what new and diverse voices can we amplify this month?”
- Before telling an employee to work on “executive presence” ask them to define what that phrase means to them; make room for non-dominant definitions.
- When you plan a meeting, rotate the time zone so that the no single location is always impacted.
These simple changes do not replace the hard work of racial justice or gender equity. But small behavior shifts in the flow are sometimes far easier entry points for people and generate positive outcomes.
How do you put inclusion in the flow?
To learn more about how Highroad, in partnership with Chat with Leaders Media, helps clients put inclusion into the flow of All-Hands meetings, contact me at [email protected].