Podcast Ep. 15 – How Building an Inclusive Company Today will Ensure Market Success Tomorrow

Jul 29, 2019

In this episode of The Forum Podcast, Laura Wendt (A.T. Kearney) discusses how unconscious biases occur when trying to build an inclusive work environment and how to take action to build a more inclusive work environment.

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Diversity and Inclusion is one of the top priorities in all big companies. However, it is still hard to successfully form teams that differ in cultural/ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientation and gender. Scientific studies show why this is so challenging: when people with different ethnic backgrounds work together more physiological stress reactions are measured in their bodies, compared to when they work in a team where everyone is alike. Cultural diversity can lead to different nonverbal interactions and as a result one cannot read the “other person” automatically and needs to invest more time to decode gestures and intentions. Add to this our human tendency to focus on our feelings and perceptions instead of statistics and significant results. When homogenous and heterogeneous teams solve case studies, the heterogeneous teams are more likely to solve the case, because diverse perspectives lead to questioning agreed upon assumptions and more discussions to find common ground. However, due to our blind spots mixed teams often feel uncomfortable while working together and doubt their performance. The homogenous teams on the other hand are often certain that they were successful, because working together felt effortlessly, even though their results are below heterogeneous teams. When working together doesn’t feel good and teams do not realize that their results were great, it can easily come across that all DEI initiatives are meaningless.

What’s more, scientists have measured a spotlight effect: the missteps of minorities are more easily noticed, remembered longer and judged more harshly. People tend to perceive for example that when a business woman shares her view she is speaking on behalf of all women and that her opinion represents her entire gender. The same holds true for LGBTQI+ individuals or racial minorities. This effect leads minorities to automatically adapt to habits and customs of the majority, to feel less different, but the constant tension of fitting in and standing out can lead to exhaustion and less productivity. Why should we then even want diversity? Because the world is flat and it is most beneficial for any global business. The more perspectives we have the better we are in solving complex challenges and the less mistakes we make. Diverse companies show increased innovation and creativity, have reportedly better customer service and public image, attract and retain top talents, are more likely to have higher financial returns and have more motivated and effective employees.

This session contains the newest scientific findings and recent cases from industries on how to discover our blind spots when it comes to working together and also delivers a practical toolkit on how to successfully implement DEI changes across the whole firm, such as establishing a new reward structure, changing evaluation and interview procedures and on how to have courageous conversations with all employees to ensure that everyone feels respected and welcome in their work environment for who they are.

Learning Outcomes
  • Learn how Unconscious Biases occur when trying to build an inclusive work environment
  • Receive scientific and industry case studies on how to attract, retain and promote minority groups
  • Take action with our five-step toolkit against “everyday biases” and improve your business culture

Presenter: Laura Wendt, A.T. Kearney

The Forum on Workplace Inclusion®
2211 Riverside Ave, CB 54
Minneapolis, MN 55454
(612) 373-5994

Photos by Sarah Morreim Photography
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