The New Normal” is a phrase that gained substantial traction over the last two years. Post pandemic, many organizations are excited about the possibilities that this new normal brings. However, for several employees, the new normal wasn’t something they were looking forward to. In fact, many organizations have been struggling to make their workplaces more inclusive and retain diverse talent. Unfortunately, it was a feat that was easier said than done which is where INclusion INcorporated has emerged as a key player in closing the diversity gap.

INclusion INcorporated specializes in corporate Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) strategy to develop Inclusion Action Plans. Their primary focus is to create workplaces where employees feel like they belong and can thrive. The company’s training sessions and workshops aim to weave DEI concepts into a leadership lens as well as an employee perspective.

In an interview with ManageHR magazine, Andrea Carey, Founder and Chief Inclusion Officer at INclusion INcorporated, speaks to us about how the conversations around DEI have changed in the recent past and how companies are adopting a holistic approach when it comes to sustaining a diverse workforce.

Can you tell us about INclusion INcorporated’s approach to DEI strategy?

We work with organizations in different phases in their diversity and inclusion journey and try to meet them where they are. In many cases, organizations might have a general idea of what they are trying to achieve but may lack the resources to put that idea into execution. We map out plans and put a form to their idea. We create a structure and space for them to build out their diversity and inclusion strategy to meet the goals of what that organization wants. Our priority throughout this journey is understanding where they want to go and help them reach that desired state.

We conduct a thorough audit to measure their existing processes, policies and cultural diversity to establish their current state. Once we have that analysis developed, we work with the organization’s key stakeholders on visioning exercises to see how their current state can be built out to move forward. In that process, we are using several chosen mechanisms to create a strategy and action plan that meets their organizational goals and allows them to evolve into their future state.

What do diversity and inclusion initiatives look like in different companies?

In the last 18-24 months, we have seen an evolution of the equity, diversity and inclusion ecosystem. It has changed from a topic of interest in selected people’s radars to a full-blown movement and industry. Companies recognize it as the way to operate as we go forward. They are now nesting it into their various business strategies and seeing it as something they must deliver on formally.

Their challenge, however, lies in appreciating what equity, diversity and inclusion truly means. Most companies do not understand the DEI space and are unaware of what they need to do or how they can achieve equitable outcomes. Our work is about assisting them with this—meeting them where they are, figuring out their current state and supporting them to do better. This can mean regular meetings and coaching sessions where we walk them through some of their questions and the challenges they are facing. Many of our clients have a diversity and inclusion committee, which can also mean working with them and supporting them to move their work forward. We look at their policies to identify what might be holding them back and co-create a solution that solves their challenges.

How do you formulate a solution that meets the individual needs of organizations?

We spend considerable time during the audit process and review the organization’s complete history. This means deploying the “BelongINg Metric” tool to look at the company’s values, the demographics within the organization and the experiences of different identities—and asking questions like, “Do they feel valued/included in the organization? Is there high workplace trust?” We identify the emerging top areas and run an intersectional analysis across different populations and identities.

We use the Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Benchmarks (GDEIB) which look at fifteen business areas across the organization to understand where the company stands on their DEI journey. When we get to the strategy and action planning phase, it’s important to know where they have done work, where there are gaps, and also point to areas that we want to focus our attention on. We also do a series of interviews across the organization’s different identities and equity deserving groups to dig deeper into their experiences within the organization and where they feel our efforts should be focused on.

Our audit process, along with our full policy and practice review gives us an on-ground understanding of what the organization needs and that allows us to create a series of recommendations that we go through in the strategy and action plan.

Could you cite a particular use-case or success story that comes to mind?

We recently undertook two parallel audit and strategy processes for a destination management firm—a DEI audit as well as an inclusive marketing audit. The client wanted to understand their internal needs and culture, as well as redefine the messaging they were putting out to their broader consumer base to promote the destination more authentically in the future. We spent six months on an audit of their current state and then worked with them to develop their strategy and action plan for the organization and their future marketing efforts.
  • Companies are recognizing equity, diversity and inclusion as the way to operate as we go forward. Their challenge however lies in the appreciation of what it truly means and how to do that in an authentic and sustainable way

Their team went on a massive learning journey. We delivered facilitation and workshops, and the team got extensively involved in their individual learning. They were curious about what other organizations are doing and what inclusive marketing looks like. The real success is in the higher awareness that we were able to generate in each of their team members. They were bringing different lenses and voices to the conversations. This helped them form their strategy and action plan as well as go about future decision-making in a different and meaningful way.

What would you say is INclusion INcorporated’s USP?

We have a team that can truly connect with our clients and can initiate great conversations to unearth areas that they need help with. Our team is highly informed and is able to support them across a whole range of topic areas, because if you observe DEI, the status quo can change in a moment’s notice, based on what is happening in our larger society. We are also a highly diverse team, which means if we encounter a topic area in which one of our team members is not well versed in, we have other team members that they can reach out to get their insight. This is why we build our team to be intersectional for all our projects. This ensures that we are bringing diverse voices to the goals that the organization ultimately tries to achieve for their employees or customers.

How does the future look for INclusion INcorporated?

The last two years has created a level of expectation and professionalism in the diversity, equity and inclusion space that didn’t exist before. We have very thoughtfully put together a team that gives organizations the expertise, the skills and the lived experiences they need to move their DEI efforts forward. We are also very intentional when working with clients to identify who in the organization wants to contribute to this work and how do we bring their lenses to it in ways that are safe and supported. That’s very intentional, thoughtful and by design to ensure that we are providing the expertise they need across a wide range of topic areas to go forward in this space.