We typically design HR programs for the majority. After all, it makes sense - why spend the majority of your time designing and developing programs for the minority of employees? Except those minorities are the lifeblood of a diverse workforce. And therein lies our dilemma.
An inclusive culture is a culture for all, not some. It means that you don't simply focus on a few underrepresented groups and build programs that are exclusively for them. You need to go to extremes. Why? Because minorities are extreme dwellers. They live on the edges of your traditional talent pools as the 'few' rather than the 'many'.
We would be lucky as individuals to not be in the minority at some point in our working lives. Stuff happens. And it can happen at unexpected times. Stuff like:
a physical disability
a difficult pregnancy
a relationship breakdown
the care of elderly parents
the death of a loved one
the challenges of living alone
fertility treatment; or
a mental illness.
We’re generally not that flash at having conversations about these intensely personal experiences; particularly when it comes to the potential impact they may have on someone’s ability to perform at their best. And this lack of conversation often means that the ‘ugh’ stuff can be glossed over at best, and ignored at worst.
As with any market segment (customer or employee) you need to understand their experiences intimately in order to design effective solutions. What is it like to have fertility treatment? What challenges do you face when living alone? What would make life easier when caring for elderly parents? These questions are qualitative. They seek to provide you with a rich understanding of the needs of valuable fringe dwellers. The creation of environments that acknowledge and support these experiences are central to the creation of cultures of inclusion. Cultures that enable the attraction, development and retention of diverse talent and diverse thinking.
And that's a bit extreme.