Organizational Culture

Creating a Culture of Inclusivity at Work Q&A

We had so many questions for the first episode of our Diversity and Inclusion at Work webinar series that our expert presenter, Milton Corsey, graciously agreed to provide answers to more of the questions we didn’t have time to address during the webinar!

If you haven’t had a chance to view the webinar yet, be sure to check out this quick and insightful 30-minute conversation here.

Keep reading to learn how to address some of the pressing questions that HR and L&D leaders like you are asking about creating a workplace culture of inclusiveness.

Inclusivity at Work Q&A With Milton Corsey

Founder & Principal, The Kaizen Group, LLC
Chief Training Consultant, Straxo

Hello, and before I jump into answering your questions I just have to say that I was excited by the enthusiasm and engagement during the webinar, and when asked I jumped at the chance to continue the conversation with you via this blog post. I’m looking forward to this only being the beginning of our conversation – I’m more than willing to keep the momentum going if you are!

So, let’s get this party started! Here are my responses to some of the questions we didn’t have a chance to get to in the webinar.

Q: What is the first step to improving diversity and inclusion? To review policies? To talk to staff and determine the current mood of the company?

It would be my suggestion that the first order of business is to answer the “why” question. 

During our live conversation, I mentioned the four most typical reasons that companies start a diversity and inclusion initiative (compliance, conscience, business case, talent acquisition).

Once you’re clear on your company’s “why,” you can address the very important issues that the question raised in the proper context. If the program is going to be successful you need to know where you’re going first!

Q: What are good questions to ask individuals or small groups to facilitate and discuss perspectives? What’s the most appropriate descriptor when speaking of race/ethnicity/color – Person of Color, African American, Black?

This is a two-part question, so for questions to ask a small group to facilitate a conversation on D&I, I would suggest the following topics:

Respect – Inclusive workplaces recognize and value individual differences.

Belonging – Belonging refers to the perception that you are part of a workgroup and an essential member of that group.

Empowerment – A common misperception is that inclusion involves treating all employees the same. Rather, inclusion involves recognizing that different employees face unique challenges at work.

Progression – Ultimately, the extent to which an organization is inclusive is reflected in its development and promotion of diverse talent and the diversity of its leadership team. 

For part two, thank you so much for this question as it allows me to bring up a vitally important issue that I didn’t give the attention it deserves during our conversation, and that is the vital issue of trust

Let me start by addressing your question directly – from my perspective, all of them are acceptable. It’s been my experience that people/organizations get into trouble with descriptors and other potentially sensitive areas when there is a lack of trust between the person/company and the employee/stakeholder.  

So how do we create trust… I mentioned this briefly at the end of our conversation, but in a professional setting the three elements of trust are competence, consistency, and compassion. It depends on the unique circumstance as to which of these three you need to focus on, but if you have developed trust both as an individual and an organization, and you listen to your employees, you can’t go wrong.

Q: How do you sustain a culture of inclusivity in the workplace when local communities may be antithetical to the cause?

I typically never answer a question with a question, but I just can’t resist in this instance. For all of you who are parents and have struggled getting your young children to eat their veggies, when all else failed what was your go-to to get the job done? Mine was apple sauce. My daughter absolutely loved apple sauce when she was a baby, so all I needed to do was to mix her spinach with apple sauce and mission accomplished! 

What can we substitute for “apple sauce” in this case? Well, I would think it would be good old-fashioned self-interest. So, if we go back to our four “why’s” from earlier in our discussion, the third why was a business case. 

So, my best advice would be to build a case for your diversity and inclusion initiatives in such a way that stakeholders see the value in it for them. A few useful statistics can be found in McKinsey research from January of 2015 on what they referred to as the “diversity dividend.”

Their research found that companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely (15 – 35% respectively) to have financial returns above their national industry medians.

Thus, a successful D&I program is highly likely to enhance the bottom line, and it’s been my experience that just about everyone likes money!

Q: What are some actions managers can take to help incorporate newly hired or promoted employees into long-time employee groups that have already been in existence for years?

We all want to help new employees acclimate quickly, so both they and the team can reach their performance potential.

Here are a few suggestions on how to proceed:

Don’t keep it a secret – Once you’ve made the hire or promotion, be proactive and inform the team/group who will be joining the team.

Introduce the new employee to formal stakeholders – Help the new hire/promoted employee understand who the critical stakeholders are who they need to get to know in the short term. Make these introductions in person if possible.

Let the new employee know about the “informal network” – Spend time explaining the informal network, the go-to people, the gatekeepers, and the people who know what’s happening before it happens.

Break the code and explain the jargon – I’ve yet to find a company that doesn’t have its own secret code — organizational and industry jargon that is lost on the outsider.

Sweat the small stuff – It’s the little things that can be the biggest frustration when we are new to a team and wanting to be at our best. Let new employees know that no question or concern is too small to discuss.

Q: What are the three most important actions small and mid-sized employers can/should do to create a solid foundation for inclusion, diversity, and equity in their organizations?

1. Identify key stakeholdersThis starts with the CEO, but there must be buy-in both up and down the organization. Know who your sponsors and objectors are. Identify and prepare for those who are not excited about the initiative.

2. Identify business needs – Without a strong connection to how the organization achieves its business goals, the initiative likely won’t succeed. Think about this stuff from the perspective of the CEO: “Who are we? How do our people work together to meet our business objectives? What do we need?”

3. Keep it simple – The diversity and inclusion initiative must be focused and easily understood to be executed well. It doesn’t have to be massive in scope, especially at the outset.

Q: For organizations that are green in the space of diversity and inclusion, what strategies are effective in shifting executive buy-in to truly make this a priority, beyond simply requiring employees to just take a training course?

Many of you already know that to make a strong argument, you’ll want to leverage the research and data out there. Here are a few statistics from research reports that show diversity is good for the bottom line:

  1. Gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform (have financial returns above their respective national industry medians) non-gender diverse companies, and ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform non-ethnically diverse companies. (McKinsey 2015)
  2. Companies with at least one female board member had a return on equity of 14.1% over the past nine years, greater than the 11.2% for those without any women. The stock valuations are also higher for gender-diverse boards versus all-male ones. (Credit Suisse 2018)
  3. Diverse and inclusive workforces demonstrate 1.12 times more discretionary effort, 1.19 times greater intent to stay, 1.57 times more collaboration among teams, and 1.42 times greater team commitment. (CEB Global HR 2018)

After making a compelling argument for why diversity and inclusion matters, you should make sure you know exactly what you’re asking for. Don’t let your effort be a missed opportunity for resources and budget!

Consider these ways in which your executive team can support your diversity and inclusion efforts:

  • Giving protection, support, and assurances from retaliation
  • Participating visibly
  • Being receptive to input
  • Creating a budget (this one isn’t easy but it’s good to know that you’re thinking about it)

Those were some great questions! I sincerely hope you found these answers helpful and thought-provoking. I would love to continue this conversation with you, so please feel free to reach out with your questions, thoughts, or feelings on this topic. I can be reached via email at: or you can connect with me on LinkedIn, or follow me on twitter @kaizen_group1.

Be sure to register for BizLibrary’s multi-webinar series, Real Talk: Diversity & Inclusion at Work. You’ll get access to each of the episodes to view live or on demand!

Milton Corsey is the founder and principal of The Kaizen Group, a consulting firm headquartered in Cherry Hill, NJ. The Kaizen Group works with clients from high-growth start-ups to Fortune 500 companies to help them align the skills and behaviors of their employees with their firm’s strategic needs.

In addition to the Kaizen Group, Milton also serves as the Chief Training Consultant for Straxo, a corporate training company headquartered in Red Bank, NJ, where he is responsible for the design and implementation of all instructor-led training, both in-person and virtual.