3 ways to prepare graduates for an inclusive workplace

Mar 14, 2022 | Diversity

Graduate development programmes can help create more inclusive workplaces, says Rina Goldenberg Lynch, CEO of Voice at the Table.

Many organisations now see inclusion as a business imperative.  These companies understand the need to leverage the diversity of thought of their people for enhanced business performance.

This includes the team’s ability to solve complex challenges, to tap into creativity and innovation and to understand and empathise with various stakeholders, including customers.

To prepare graduates for an inclusive environment, and to ensure that they contribute fully with their diverse experiences, organisations ought to focus on developing them in three ways: Inclusive behaviours, inclusive leadership and disrupting bias.

I will explore how you can make these part of your graduate development programme at this year’s ISE Student Development Conference.


1. Inclusive behaviours

Inclusion is a culture.  It is an environment that welcomes and values individual contributions from each person. The more inclusive the work environment, the greater the rewards from the diverse thinking of those who work there.

Yet, while many of us think we’re inclusive already, when it comes to the kind of inclusion we need in order to benefit from the diversity of our people, we still have a long way to go.

Focusing on the distinct behaviours that combine to form a more inclusive approach to people and their diverse contribution is an excellent starting point.

For example, behaviours such as empathetic listening, mitigating bias and humility and vulnerability will increase each person’s understanding of the valuable diversity that each of us offers.

When we improve our inclusive behaviours, we become more welcoming of others’ authentic experience and make them feel more valued.  And the same works for us, too, when others are more inclusive towards us.


2. Inclusive leadership

If inclusion is a culture, then inclusive leadership is the ability to set the tone for inclusion.

An inclusive leader understands the importance and benefits of greater diversity in the workplace and endeavours to remove obstacles to increasing diversity within the organisation.

This requires leaders to create a psychologically safe environment for every team member.  It also requires leaders to be more cognisant of biases and working tirelessly towards minimising them – within themselves, their teams and their systems at work.

Becoming an inclusive leader is not a matter of simply attending a course.  It is a long-term commitment to self development that ought to start as early as possible in a professional’s career.

Graduate development programmes therefore offer a unique opportunity to sow the seeds of inclusivity and inspire graduates to start this journey early in their careers.


3. Disrupting bias

The biggest obstacle to inclusion is bias – and most of it is unconscious.  There are over 180 cognitive biases and prolific evidence exists that each one of us is predisposed to bias. The best way to mitigate bias is to become aware of it and then take active steps to break it.

A graduate development programme that introduces the subject early on has two concrete advantages in the long run: (1) the perception of bias shifts from seeing it in a negative light to seeing its mitigation as a skill to be developed, and (2) starting to think about potential biases (and working towards minimising them) at this early stage improves the chances of greatly mitigating bias in the organisation.


In summary

Helping graduates become more inclusive at the very beginning of their careers doesn’t just improve attraction to the organisation, it becomes an essential aspect of business performance.  In other words, when organisations embrace graduate development programmes that focus on inclusion, they are investing in a development journey that leads to a more successful enterprise.

Hear more from Rina about how to embed a culture of inclusion through graduate development programmes at this year’s ISE Student Development Conference taking place online on 30 and 31 March.

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