Inclusion Comes First

Topics: HRExaminer, Joe Gerstandt, by Joe Gerstandt

Joe Gerstandt, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board Contributor.

Joe Gerstandt, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board Contributor.

I have been digging and continue to dig the idea of “humanizing” the workplace. I am a fan of many of the folks thinking, writing, and speaking about it. I also feel that we are rapidly turning “human” and “humanizing” into some of our newest and most fashionable buzzwords, as much of what is said and written in their name has little to do with humans.

Our currency is not insights into the human condition, we continue to trade in practices, platforms, and data, small, big, and bigger. Most people in the people businesses still cannot be bothered with the messiness of emotion, the importance and difficulty of disagreement done well, the reality of bias, the consequences of identity and power, the power of context. Even inside conversations about the future of work, we seem to cling to an antiquated idea of the human being and its behavior.

Take my pet projects, diversity and inclusion. There are certainly exceptions, but this remains a body of work viewed by HR, talent, employee engagement, and recruiting practitioners and leaders as optional, aspirational, or frivolous, but certainly not essential.

In a truly humanized workplace (for, you know all the humans), diversity and inclusion must come first.

Though we use the word in some interesting, and even cowardly ways, diversity means difference and difference is maybe the most universally human attribute there is. Anytime two or more human beings are gathered together, difference is present. There is no relationship, no social, no exchange without difference. There is no learning, no change, no innovation without being exposed to different ideas, different information, different experiences or perspectives. There is no communication, no human interaction, no team, no meeting devoid of difference.

It is the most fundamental of human things.

If your technology, your practices, and your policies are not intentionally designed for the inclusion of difference, then (intentionally or not) real and/or perceived differences in identity become barriers to participation and belonging. Rather than a free market for talent, ideas, and solutions you now have a jagged social terrain with employees experiencing the workplace in radically different ways, informed by who they are (or who they are seen to be) rather than what they have to contribute.

In any endeavor involving human beings, inclusion must be the first priority, the first practice, it must be the first product.

I will know that we are serious about humanizing the workplace when that is where we begin.