I love that feeling of a brand new year – a fresh start, and anything is possible. At Capgemini, this chilly week in January is all about re-affirming our focus on Active Inclusion, specifically looking at how we continue to encourage the involvement of all of our people. We’re asking everyone in our UK business to think about what their #InclusionResolution is, and to make a commitment in support of Active Inclusion going forwards. It could be something as simple as undertaking Unconscious Bias training, mentoring someone new, or getting involved in an Employee Network Group.
Our brilliant leadership team are providing some great inspiration by sharing their thoughts on Active Inclusion and our journey so far. One of the biggest supporters of Active Inclusion, Craig Mill, EVP, has written this blog about his “lightbulb” moment of 2016, when he attended a session run by Stonewall aimed at encouraging a more inclusive approach for our LGBT+ community at work. Powerful stuff, and huge thanks to Craig for allowing us to share this more widely...
“As I finalise plans for 2017 and consider this year’s challenges and opportunities, I also look forward to continuing our journey in supporting Active Inclusion. I reflect on some of the great work we did in the Active Inclusion working group last year. The launch of the Work Life Harmony Policy and support of the implementation process was interesting, but it wasn’t the big ‘thing’ that I look back at. For me, the biggest benefit I gained from my participation and my ‘wow’ moment came as a result of a session with a Stonewall representative which was aimed at providing a much better understanding of the difference between being excluded and being included. And that’s what this blog is about.
Inclusion vs. exclusion
Before I listened to the Inclusion talk from James Haq-Myles, from Stonewall, I hadn’t really got it. I had always thought that if an individual wasn’t being excluded then they must, by definition, be included. Logical? I thought so. But during a description of how an individual feels in different scenarios around the workplace it became starkly obvious that I’d been wrong for the last 40-odd years. (OK, I am older than 40 but the idea was probably a bit complex for under 10s!).
So what is the difference? ‘Excluded’ is easy to define. Synonyms like ‘avoided’, ‘ostracised’, ‘blanked’, ‘ignored’ are some of the hard and soft words that can adequately define exclusion. But inclusion is a bit harder.
Inclusion is not just about ‘taking part in the conversation’ or the opposite of the words used above. Inclusion is about having common bonds and shared experiences that – taken together – form a connection between individuals and foster camaraderie. The problem in any workplace or social gathering is that for people to be properly included you have to have an understanding of their reality, of their lives and expectations. Without that there can be no authenticity in your interactions.
Take an example of a wheelchair user, and all the talk is about running and football – not very inclusive is it? But at least this is visible and you can make ‘adjustments’ to create a more inclusive environment. Twenty years ago, accessibility wasn’t such a high priority as it is now. We are now used to having people living with disabilities around us. We make reasonable adjustments by providing ramps and enabling wheelchair users to have their own access.
Now let’s consider LGBT+ colleagues where there is no visible differentiator. How do we know? Do we make people feel generally comfortable? Do we make adjustments when everyone else is talking about their families and what they did at the weekend that might, just might, be a bit exclusive? This is what I learned, and once I got it, I got it!
What is a reasonable adjustment? Well I probably can’t get it right all the time but it was really easy to change to simply asking about ‘partners’ – with everyone, all the time – without resorting to assumptive gender equivalents like husband and girlfriend. Easy enough?”