In their recent article from Harvard Business Review, inclusion consultants Selena Rezvani and Stacey A. Gordon offer steps to implement a story-based approach to diversity and inclusion where employees are encouraged to tell their stories, own them, and consider how they impact their day-to-day perspectives in the workplace.
They shared that in their line of work, they see more and more companies doubling down on diversity metrics such as business cases, scorecards, and goal-setting. After all, if something is important to your company values, it needs to be measured, right?
According to the experts, programs like these track factors such as:
- workforce demographics
- diverse hiring
- company retention
- the utilization of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) resources
And while these measurements have their place, Gordon and Rezvani found that they’re insufficient to create inclusion on their own. In fact, an overly systematic and numbers-based approach in their eyes, deemphasizes the very thing organizations are looking to build: an inclusive workplaces fueled by awareness, connection, empathy, and mutual respect.
According to the article, when people hear stories that resonate with them, it creates a vehicle for unlikely conversations, which are what truly drive change and make impact. Stories invite perspective-taking and empathy: the concept of standing in someone else’s shoes and imagining what it’s like to be them. It’s a somewhat simple, and yet underutilized tool when it comes to DEI. One study found that taking on the perspective of others “may have a lasting positive effect on diversity-related outcomes by increasing individuals’ internal motivation to respond without prejudice.”
Of course, at Kantola, we know organizations can leverage and amplify storytelling through an immersive training experience. The experts corroborate this by suggesting the most effective way to create a rippling inclusion effect in an organization is to offer safe spaces where stories can be heard without judgment. This works best when psychological safety is being actively discussed, recognized, and protected.
To encourage team members to talk regularly about their diversity stories, Rezvani and Gordon ask organization leaders to consider the following actions:
- Do a round-robin question in a meeting
- Hold listening sessions
- Host discussion-heavy book clubs
- Schedule storytelling town halls
- Include stories in blogs, videos, celebrations, promotions, and onboarding
- Be transparent about surveys and focus groups that show negative perceptions and harmful treatment
- Have social forums and meetups
- Develop dynamic social media campaigns that share stories
Many of your employees might be walking around with powerful experiences but don’t see them as anything worth sharing. It’s important to reassure them that their stories don’t need to be perfect to make a difference, they just need to be real. And if their story can reach numerous members in the organization, that personal change can multiply exponentially as it becomes the platform for organizational transformation. Once that door is opened, organizations will be in the position to harness the true power of having a diverse, equitable and inclusive work environment.