There’s Both An “i” and a “u” in Inclusion

diverse teams

Have you ever relocated to a different part of the country?  If so, you will likely notice what I like to call ‘regional differences’.

I have lived in the Northeast, Midwest, and the South.  And while it’s unfair to generalize and paint everyone with the same broad brush, there are definite differences in how people speak (and I don’t mean accents) and interact and engage with you.  Folks in the Northeast are quick and fast-paced, while the cadence is somewhat slower in the South.  You’ll find people holding doors open for you in the Midwest and South (and expect you to do the same) and not so much in the Northeast.

People in the Midwest may make eye contact and say ‘hi’ to you as they pass by, while those in the South will always make eye contact and say ‘hey’ to you (unless, of course, they’re mad at you).   🙂

The State of the Workplace

Being a student of psychology, I notice these ‘regional differences’ in the workplace.  Beginning with the interviewing process, it’s helpful to try to ‘flex’ and align one’s  approach a bit so the out of area applicant will feel welcome and comfortable.  If the person is hired and relocates here, meet with them and see how they’re faring.  It’s definitely helpful if the transplant has friends or family in the area, and also ‘reaches out’ to others.  By doing so, they can usually find some level and means of connection in their community.  Fellow transplants can be more receptive to meeting new folks as they are (or were) also new themselves.

Recently, while doing some research for a talk I plan to give on employee retention, I learned that HR folks (OK, I’m guilty) and organizations who attempt to screen applicants for cultural fit may be wasting their time.  Mark A. Stein and Lilith Christensen in ‘SuccessfulOnboarding‘ say “…while ‘hiring for fit’ is important, people are actually quite adaptable.  What people share in common far exceeds the differences that divide them.”  Those words got me thinking, as they’re not currently in vogue.

Our goal is to find ways to capitalize on these ‘shared commonalities’ and that’s where opportunities for inclusion comes in.

Today’s workplaces are different from those of the past.  Not only might we employ  people hailing from different parts of our state or country, but we’re starting to see five generations in our workplaces.  And while on the surface these appear to be good things, disagreements and differences of opinion will arise in our mini melting pots – after all, we’re only human.  When both people can candidly talk about any disagreement and  commit to make some changes and ‘meet in the middle’, it usually results in a satisfactory resolution being reached.

Build Social and Emotional Connections

While organizations offer diversity & inclusion training to help raise employees’ awareness of their differences, the real benefits are realized when the many traits we have in common are identified and leveraged.  And how does that happen?  When work teams comprised of folks with different perspectives feel valued, appreciated, and included.  These types of teams respectfully challenge each other and the status quo, are catalysts for change, and are the engines that move their organizations forward.

Remember, there’s both an “i” and a “u” in inclusion.  Each of us should challenge ourselves to reach out and get to know someone who is different than ourselves.  I’m confident that both you and the other person will be glad you did.

Good luck.

the HRMeister

Do You Have a Learning Culture?


I don’t know about you, but I can’t help but notice how cultivating a ‘culture of learning’ is growing in importance in our organizations.  The formats available cover the gamut from one-on-one coaching and traditional classroom to ‘on demand’ online training, team-based, learning management systems, net forums, and blogs.

What is a Learning Culture?

“A learning culture consists of a community of workers instilled with a “growth mindset.” People not only want to learn and apply what they’ve learned to help their organization, they also feel compelled to share their knowledge with others.” (How To Create a Learning Culture, by Robert Grossman, HR Magazine, May 1, 2015.

The Business Case 

The research linking learning to business success is compelling. “Companies that learn fastest and adapt well to changing environments perform the best over time,” says Edward Hess, a professor of business administration at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business and author of Learn or Die: Using Science to Build a Leading-Edge Learning Organization (Columbia Business School Publishing, 2014).

“Some jobs are disappearing due to the increasing use of technology and automation, and the positions that are emerging require quick thinking, creativity, and high social and emotional intelligence, Hess says, making the ability to learn more important than ever. Companies with nimble learners can react quickly to disruptions, adapt to meet the demands of a changing business climate, and harness a wealth of ideas for new products, services and processes.”

Creating the Culture

Hess suggests that we define the behaviors we want and the behaviors we do not want. For example, if you want employees to challenge the status quo and be candid with their colleagues at all levels, we must teach employees how to do that.  We need to incorporate it into our organization’s approach to learning.

In Mark Feller’s 8 Tips for Creating a Learning Culture, he states that in a learning culture, everyone is expected to improve their knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs).  It’s more than training; it’s where learning permeates the culture.  Learning needs also differ between individuals, generations, and topics.

Leaders need to model the behavior they want to see.  They need to allow employees to experiment and to fail.  Experts say that failure is integral to learning.

Make It a Core Value

From the time someone is hired and on-boarded into an organization, HR and line managers need to ‘talk up’ the culture of learning, and training and development opportunities.  Frankly, it should become one of your organization’s core values.  

One way to tell if you are making an impact is to survey your employees.  For example, if you conduct engagement surveys, see if there is any improvement in answers about employee development and learning.  If you offer an online library or a learning management system, assess whether employees are taking advantage of this format to learn.

Readiness for a Learning Culture

Many of us will need to begin to infuse the mindset of a learning culture into our organizations.  We can expect to receive resistance from some, and support from others who enjoy the benefits of this approach.  Leverage your early adopters and position them on key projects and other initiatives, so their behavior can ‘rub off’ and begin to permeate throughout your organization.

Reward ‘how’ someone has accomplished something and not just ‘what’ was accomplished.  This will reinforce that we value what we say we value.  

The Bottom Line

Like it or not, we need to hire smart and look for candidates who have a penchant for learning and are comfortable sharing their knowledge and learning from one another. Using behavioral interviewing and assessments, find out if applicants are inclined to take calculated risks and whether they like demanding tasks.

Risk taking or “failing forward” needs to be supported by your organization.  And yes, we need to encourage mistakes as long as they support learning and growth.  If there are repercussions for making mistakes, employees will become ‘risk-averse’. 

Give teams stretch assignments requiring them to innovate and master new skills. Recognize teams rather than individual performance.  Reward what we say we value.  

Finally, model the behavior you’re seeking to achieve by becoming a lifelong learner yourself and continuously monitor outcomes of learning programs to ensure everyone is engaged and challenged. “You can’t take your learning culture for granted,” Hess says. “Maintaining it requires rigor and daily vigilance.”

I think Kim Ruyle, president of Inventive Talent Consulting, LLC in Coral Gables, Fla., sums it up best, “In a learning culture, you’ll find people learning because they want to.”

the HRmeister


How To Create a Learning Culture, by Robert Grossman, HR Magazine, May 1, 2015.

8 Tips for Creating a Learning Culture’ by Mark Feller for SHRM, July 20, 2017





To Fit or Not To Fit


Organizational Culture Fit

Last week, I attended two webinars.  One was entitled, ‘Hiring for Team Fit’ by Ann Hogan Consulting, the other, SnackNation’s ‘2017 State of Company Culture.’  While many of us (myself included) are trying to hire folks for our organizations who will ‘fit’ and mesh well with our cultures, we might wish to take a step back and reflect on this for a while.

SnackNation made the point that “Myth #2 – Culture is all about hiring for the “right fit” and finding people who all get along.  Reality: Neither your culture nor your company benefit from an organization of only like-minded people.

Hmm…I thought organizational culture fit = retention of our talent, no?

SnackNation states: “In fact the opposite is true. Your organization benefits from a diverse team who bring in outside viewpoints that augment your culture with new ideas, rather than entrench existing biases. Diversity helps you eliminate blind spots and pitfalls like group think.  Likewise, a healthy level of dissent is necessary to arrive at the right solution, not just the one of least resistance.  Think of it this way – culture isn’t the absence of problems, culture is the way you solve problems.”

While this appears to make sense, will ‘different-minded’ people be satisfied and/or engaged in an organization where they may be perceived as ‘outliers’ by others?

If culture is the way an organization solves problems, and ‘different-minded’ people help solve problems quicker, better, and, perhaps, in a more cost-effective manner, will that trump whether they will be accepted and ‘fit’ (and play) well with others?

That’s the $64,000 question.  Think back to a time when you were working on a project team where someone’s contributions and style were quite different than yours and others.  If we’re truly honest, at times, particularly under tight deadline pressures, some might have found the ‘different-minded’ person to be a bit irritating at best, and a down right ‘know-it-all’, at worst.

And how might this same person feel about the team or organization he/she joined if some or all of the team did not appear to truly value his/her contributions?

This brings us back ‘full circle’, where if an individual does not feel some level of value, connection, and inclusiveness with the team and organization, over time, they may well leave – and then nobody wins.

Is it possible to find a ‘happy medium’ or the ‘sweet spot’ of ‘different-mindedness?’  How do other teams and organizations, who successfully engage ‘different-minded’ individuals do it?

Today, we have four generations in our  workplaces, which, on the surface, one would think might offer some measure of different-mindedness, so, in effect, maybe we’re not so ‘like-minded’ to begin with?

What do you think?

the HRmeister