Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of serving on a distinguished panel discussion for the American Chamber of Commerce’s Singapore chapter, along with representatives from Deloitte and Touche, Johnson and Johnson, and Littler. The topic? “The Practice of Inclusion,” covering both best practices and lessons learned throughout the process.
Here are some of the biggest takeaways from the event on the best inclusion practices—and lessons learned—that global organizations should be thinking about.
This is an extremely complex topic; successfully bringing in inclusion and diversity efforts to an organization will not be as easy as checking a box or sending a few emails. It requires a deeper understanding of where people are coming from. The hot word of the moment is “intersectionality”—those overlapping circles of race, gender, nationality, and other aspects.
Those all intersect each other in every person, and each person is made up of all these different dimensions. So, to get to understanding takes a deliberate journey; we need to have true conversations with those people we work with—connecting through stories and “crucible experiences” are a great start, for example—in order to push people and society to that needed place of understanding.
One fascinating thing that came out of the discussion? The increased focus on those so-called “soft skills” (leadership, communication) that the pandemic brought to light. As a fellow panelist explained, these skills were already going to be at a premium in the future with the increased technological expansion. However, COVID jump-started these needs. Managers needed to become more inclusive, more communicative, and more supportive for their teams, especially in an environment where people may be struggling with their mental health. It has compelled managers to focus on—or learn—those “soft skills” that can only boost inclusionary practices.
It’s tough for people to get a real sense of “belonging” to a company when they’re working over screens—whether it is with a colleague in the same country or someone thousands of miles away. That sense of “belonging” is naturally diluted when we’re not working face-to-face. That’s why it’s even more important, with the virtual distances we face, for organizations to make a concerted effort to support inclusion. Reach out to have deep conversations and really listen—especially on the executive level. Also, be sure to keep those KPIs of inclusion intact for all executives. Make sure those don’t go away!
Now is the time for every organization to take a very close look at the way they recruit. Are we recruiting in a way that reflects our diversity goals:? Are we recruiting the caliber of people that contributes to inclusion, and do our policies of recruitment and engagement reflect that? Are we open to the idea of someone being a “Cultural Add” instead of a “Cultural Fit”? These are key things to think about going forward.
Along with a top-down, macro-level look at inclusion, organizations should prioritize where individuals and teams stand in terms of their own inclusion practices. What our Inclusive Behaviors Inventory (IBI) does, for example, is allow for every individual—executive on down—to get a self-analysis and 360-degree feedback on their inclusive behaviors. It’s extremely valuable in showing the inclusion areas in which an individual is strong—and in showing where there still may be gaps. The IBI allows individuals to think about different behaviors and different strategies to build awareness and become a champion for inclusion.
Mui Hwa Ng has successfully delivered a wide range of talent development interventions throughout Asia Pacific for many executives of Fortune 100 and FTSE companies. She has developed training programs for the educational, banking, finance, pharmaceutical, electronics, manufacturing, and consumer goods sectors in various areas of Leadership – including Culture and Workstyle, Team Collaboration & Management, Inclusion & Diversity, Distance and Matrix Leadership.
Prior to Ms. Ng’s consulting career, she worked for fifteen years in a regional role for three major international advertising firms in Asia and London. During the mid-90s she also developed and conducted workshops on assertiveness and empowerment for working women in Hong Kong.
A Singaporean Chinese, Ms. Ng is proficient in English, Mandarin, and Cantonese. She facilitates in all three languages and has been consistently rated as highly engaging by past audiences.