by Rob Danna | April 04, 2017
What does inclusion look like within your organization today? Is it strategic? Are you going beyond the compliance-based, minimum-requirements-set-forth-by-law prerequisites to harness and maximize the potential of your greatest asset: your people? And, as a result, are you benefiting from a talent recruitment and retention perspective? If you are, great. Keep it up. If not, let's talk about how you can strengthen your culture to foster strategic inclusion within your organization. But first, hear what science has to say about it.  

Your People Long for Inclusion
Science tells us that people have a deep-seated need to belong, to be noticed, and to be appreciated. The need to belong is literally embedded in human DNA. As a species, we've neurologically evolved to depend upon our fellow humans to survive and thrive. We can actually observe via functional MRI how our brain's capacity to think more creatively and process more complex problems is enhanced by the secretion of serotonin and oxytocin. These "belonging" neurotransmitters are released when we feel connected to each other, to common causes, and to trusted leaders. In a nutshell, we're literally hard-wired to work more effectively together than apart. 

Your Culture Lays the Groundwork for Inclusion
More specifically, how your company's mission and vision translate through to your culture is what provides the foundation -- and it has to be intentional. After all, you can't mandate your culture, but you can exemplify it. It takes care and strategy to do so, though. 

Intentionally aligning your culture is what gives your people a unified purpose to stand behind in times of disruption and challenge, and times of success. What's more, when your people are emotionally connected to your organization's mission, they produce more and perform better. You know you've achieved alignment when they're putting their hearts into their work (and your numbers reflect it).

So how do you get there? Follow the waypoints of respect and inclusion to intentionally strengthen your culture through the strategic design of corporate initiatives.  

What Intentional Design Looks Like
In "Leaders Eat Last," Simon Sinek said, "If you take care of your people, the numbers will take care of themselves." And it's true. When people's diverse backgrounds are respected, they feel included and are therefore prepared to emotionally connect with your cause. But before you hang that poster and roll out your next mantra, take a step back. 

Start from the beginning and consider each employee's role and their purpose for joining the cause. Look to focus groups and surveys to objectively gauge what is most meaningful to your people as it relates to organizational culture. Different people are moved by different things, so really listen. Even if you disagree, hearing the feedback lays the groundwork for respectful debate, and ultimately, a powerhouse culture.  

Then, leverage the takeaways to begin designing intentional employee-focused corporate initiatives. Take it one step further and use them to create an enhanced brand strategy that supports those initiatives. Or, go the extra mile and craft an enhanced culture story for your organization. Whatever you do, do it intentionally in an effort to take your cultural alignment to a new strategic level. 

Attracting and Retaining World-Class Talent Isn't About Compliance. It's About Culture 
Corporate initiatives are more successful when built on a foundation of strategic inclusion. Without it, they're significantly more prone to be approached with apprehension and trepidation. And it's important to view strategic inclusion as conceptually separate from compliance-centered diversity hiring and procurement-focused vendor sourcing and, rather, see it as a framework for sustainable business success. 

Strategic inclusion posits that world-class talent flows toward inclusive organizations that embrace diversity as the best way to create great products and services for customers, innovate to solve challenging problems, generate above-market profits, and provide meaningful career paths for highly engaged and loyal employees. And isn't that what we all want? 

Rob Danna is senior vice president of sales andmarketing at engagement solutions provider ITA Group, an industry leader in events, incentives, and recognition programs. With 25 years of experience, Danna has helped hundreds of large companies strategize and implement strategic performance improvement solutions; his diverse expertise helps clients address complex business issues including regulation, compliance, competition, employee retention, and mergers and acquisitions. 

ITA Group maximizes business impact and value for Fortune 500 organizations by aligning and motivating their most valuable assets: their people.

Contact ITA Group: drivenbyloyalty@itagroup.com