The Transformative Power of Values-Driven Inclusion

January 2, 2013 | Diversity & Inclusion, Employee Engagement, Innovation, Organizational Culture

Life gets in the way of our values. Responsibility and work gets in the way of values. Values, dreams, and goals that once defined us, have a way of slipping through our fingers. Daily challenges and life’s curveballs can compel us to reorganize our priorities. When that happens, our entire perspective can shift. Change, growth, transformation, are among the countless ways to describe the phenomenon. The extent and nature of the shift’s significance is not always apparent.

Hindsight often reveals the importance of the lesson within a lived experience. You know it when you see it. Consider the transition between a crawling infant and a walking toddler. The infant’s goals include satisfying her immediate needs: hunger, thirst, warmth, nurturing care…and perhaps, getting that shiny object at the foot of the crib. When that infant starts walking suddenly a whole new world opens up. Yes, the immediate needs are present, but now Baby has options. The baby can stand in her crib. She can see more of her surroundings and propel herself toward the objects she desires. More options and new goals exist beyond the crib. Suddenly her perspective and priorities have changed. The child is transformed through the experience, new perspective, and new relationship with the external world. She grows, transforms, expands, and changes through the singular, complex experience of graduating from crawling to walking. A similarly profound transformation can happen in the midst of a well-facilitated workplace or community dialogue, as part of a comprehensive D&I strategy. As with the infant, the external shift may not appear nearly as pronounced as the internal paradigm shift, yet it remains a life-altering and mind-expanding experience.

Diversity and Inclusion is not a destination, it is a journey. D&I is a constantly evolving phenomenon with the capacity to facilitate real growth, transformation, innovation, and change. Resisting organizational diversity and inclusion is a losing battle. People intrinsically need to be who they are, be included and respected- even at work. Who else should they be? If they could really be someone else, their parents, spouses, and friends might have already influenced significant changes that define the character you behold. People may try to fit in and stay employed by ignoring their values, but such behavior can undermine morale and increase turnover.

If organizational values, risks, and rewards resonate with the individual, then change is a possibility. When individuals and organizations lack clearly stated values, unethical behavior can propagate rapidly and adversely affect organizational culture. Conflicting values undermine organizational efficacy. Leaders need to clearly articulate and reinforce organizational values. Leaders should also develop incentives and accountability for values-driven workplace behaviors so employees and stakeholders don’t make unfortunate values assumptions that compromise organizational mission and integrity. I believe that if individual values align with organizational values, the potential for innovation and loyalty is limitless.