In June, Gallup released its annual State of the Global Workplace Report, which examines the experiences of workers worldwide. The news was not good: 60 percent of people are emotionally detached at work and 19 percent — nearly one in five — are downright miserable.
No wonder there came an exodus from the workplace dubbed the Great Resignation. If you have paid any attention to the business headlines over the last several months — or sat any time in the c-suite — you know leaders in every sector are worried about keeping talent. One answer to companies’ people challenges is building an inclusive workplace culture. Diverse teams outperform more homogenous groups — and teammates are happier when inclusivity and belonging are watchwords their bosses live by and are comfortable modeling.
Below are some steps for turning the Great Resignation into the Great Appreciation. But first: a reminder about why diverse teams matter.
How Much Do Diverse Teams Outperform Others?
Workers who prize diversity are onto something. In the State of the Global Workplace Report, Gallup CEO Jon Clifton pointed out business units with engaged workers have 23 percent higher profit compared with business units with miserable workers in part because these companies enjoy higher customer loyalty.
Worker belonging also contributes to a strong bottom line by helping businesses save money. High belonging was linked to a whopping 56 percent increase in job performance, a 50 percent drop in turnover risk, and a 75 percent reduction in sick days. For a 10,000-person company, these outcomes would result in annual savings of more than $52 million.
And for companies particularly worried about the Great Resignation and finding and keeping talent, consider this fact: Employees with higher workplace belonging also showed a 167 percent increase in their employer promoter score. They were much more likely to recommend their company to others.
Addressing employee disengagement also is a health care imperative. According to Gallup, workers who say they are burned out are 23 percent more likely to visit the emergency room. Health care expenditures are nearly 50 percent greater for workers who report high levels of stress.
Now, how do we turn the Great Resignation into the Great Appreciation?
Personal Well-Being Is Key To Keeping Talent
In my last column, The New Business Case for Inclusion, I outlined five forces driving the new business case for building an inclusive workplace culture: global factors, public policy, enterprise demands, the need to better serve customers, and talent competition.
We will take a look at attracting and keeping talent in this column.
Today’s workers are challenging organizations to make progress when it comes to equity, inclusion, and belonging. According to a Society for Human Resource Management report, 76 percent of employees would consider looking for another job if they discovered there was an unfair gender pay gap or no diversity and inclusion policy at their company. Applicants and employees today recognize that diverse teams outperform homogenous ones because heterogeneity facilitates creativity, authenticity, and personal security and safety. In other words: inclusion not only improves the company’s bottom line; it enhances employees’ own well-being and development.
Well-being is in short supply today, which is why keeping talent is difficult.
While U.S. workers are some of the most engaged and satisfied globally, in its survey Gallup also identified some distressing signs. Half of all Americans say they experience stress at work on a daily basis. Nearly a quarter, 22 percent, say they experience daily sadness, and 18 percent experience anger at work each day. The numbers are even more worrisome in health care. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation/Washington Post survey, 52 percent of health care workers feel burned out; 43 percent are anxious; and 21 percent are angry.
Women, people of color, people with disabilities, and gender diverse and gender nonconforming people have an especially hard time achieving personal security, safety, and well-being at work, particularly when employed in the health care field. Barriers to entry and advancement include:
- Cost of education and access to academic preparedness programs
- Limited exposure to health careers
- Stereotype threats and microaggressions
- Lack of mentor
These individuals also face isolation. When they look around, they often are the “only” — the only woman, the only transgendered person, the only person of color. According to George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health, while about 12.1 percent of the entire U.S. workforce is Black, among 10 health professions studied, Black representation ranged from just 3.3 percent for physical therapists to 11.4 percent for respiratory therapists. The diversity index of Black workers in the health care professions studied was 0.54, meaning this group is “very underrepresented in the health professions.”
One quarter of all U.S. employees are “the only” in some dimension. One-third of women “onlys” are thinking about leaving their jobs in the next two years even though these employees often are more ambitious. Forty-five percent of “onlys” one day want to be top executives at their companies.
Keeping talent will be easier if employers they devote themselves to building an inclusive workplace culture, starting with their recruiting policies.
Steps To Building An Inclusive Workplace Culture And Recruiting Process
Belonging is a feeling of security and support. It happens when there is a sense of acceptance, inclusion, and identity for an employee. As companies begin to focus on this goal, a “great appreciation” is becoming the new normal for organization striving for inclusive culture and its benefits.
As I advised in a recent column on reducing health care disparities, building an inclusive workplace culture is not just a numbers game. In its State of the Global Workplace Report, Gallup agreed. Reporting environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics matters, but companies that focus solely on pay and demographics are missing something. The “real fix,” Gallup concluded, is “better leaders in the workplace. Managers need to be better listeners, coaches, and collaborators.” Almost eight in 10 workers, 79 percent, told Gallup that they think this type of workplace is a “pipe dream.”
But it is not. Starting with their recruiting policies, companies can set the tone for building an inclusive workplace culture that is sustainable and yields immediate results.
As I discussed in The New Case for Business Inclusion, the first step to building an inclusive workplace culture is to examine their own unconscious bias. Unconscious bias is apparent at leaders’ first encounter with applicants. In 2021, economists at the University of California Berkeley and the University of Chicago released results of a study where they sent 83,000 job applications to Fortune 500 employers. Half the applications had traditionally white-sounding names. The other half had distinctively Black-sounding names.
Applicants with Black names were called back 10 percent fewer times across the board.
Firms can ensure bias-free hiring by ensuring:
- All candidates are assessed in the same manner and have the same opportunity to demonstrate and be judged on their job-related skills
- All candidates are objectively assess against the same job criteria
- All barriers that adversely affect qualified candidates from diverse communities, backgrounds, and identities are reduced
Leaders also need to evaluate the prevailing behavior within their firm. Are leaders, managers, and employees suspecting or respecting to one another and to new applicants?
Respecting behavior models curiosity and information-seeking, listening, joining, problem-solving, open-mindedness, giving the benefit of the doubt, and a willingness to advocate for colleagues who are “the onlys” in the group. Suspecting behavior is a defensive posture. We see it when people label and when they avoid and when they hold on to past grievances (real or perceived) and talk about teammates behind their backs. This behavior erodes inclusion progress and can make the efforts seem like brochure-ware: inauthentic and less genuine.
Leaders model respective behavior when they acknowledge and support differences rather than pretend they are not there. That starts in the hiring process.
Firms should advertise their inclusive values to candidates, and deeply discuss their commitment to culture, equity, diversity and inclusion in their recruiting efforts. These values also must be lived experiences within work culture in order to weave them into the fabric of the organization. Strategies to consider include:
- Assessing your current recruiting and retention efforts and uncover gaps and challenges
- Implementing training and experiential learning across your entire organization with initiatives to support all employees
- Investing in inclusive leadership training to upskill all leaders on the business value of difference so they can make the connections that will drive retention
- Identifying goals and metrics that will indicate progress
Keeping talent is harder than ever, but there is an answer to The Great Recession: even “Greater Appreciation” and building an inclusive workplace culture.