Trust within a company’s culture can be viewed in a variety of ways. Inclusion can also mean discrete things to different people. But how do trust and inclusion work together? Sometimes trust is assumed until an event occurs that shakes your understanding and assumptions about what you believed to be trustworthy, so it’s important to note consumers do not necessarily infer the same level of trust a business implies.

Companies often tend to only address trust in the workplace when it’s been broken. Johnson & Johnson, parent company of McNeil Consumer Products Company, experienced a life-threatening event in the 1980s when several of their products were found to be tainted. Their response to rebuild trust among all consumers has been written about in many case studies. For the purposes of this article, though, we will focus on trust and inclusion in the workplace.

Trust in the Workplace

Trust is critical as a foundational piece of your organization in that everything that exists will be eroded if it’s missing. It’s also instrumental in building an environment of inclusion. The strength and dedication of leadership determines how trust – and mistrust – issues within an organization are handled. Likewise, trust can be dashed with a few poor decisions or inappropriate behaviors that go unchecked or aren’t addressed. Often, how leadership responds to this kind of misstep within their company signals to their workforce how trusting they can really be.

Inclusion and the Bottom Line

Although the business case for a diverse and inclusive work environment is supported by data and awareness of the case for inclusion and diversity in business is on the rise, progress to establish initiatives remains painfully – some might even say embarrassingly – slow. Despite the fact that companies that practice gender, ethnic, and cultural diversity experience greater profits than those that do not. This correlation is even higher when more women hold executive positions as opposed to their not holding decision-making roles.

In order to make an impact – on profitability, the way a company is perceived, its leadership, the community, etc. – business owners would be wise to practice what has been shown to work: committing to creating a trusting and inclusive environment.

Although business owners are learning that hiring a more diverse workforce makes good business sense, the notion and implementation of equity in the workplace continues to lag behind. Indeed, beyond increasing representation, building an environment based on inclusion and developing systems and processes that are equitable seems to require the intestinal fortitude too few leaders have.

A Culture of Trust and Inclusion

The fact that the idea of inclusion varies among generations is also key to ensuring a culture of trust and inclusion. Workers of varying ages are less inclined to want to work for a company they don’t trust and where they don’t feel similarly represented among their coworkers. Largely, however, Gen Zs (those born between roughly 1997 and 2015), more than other generations, value diversity wherein inclusive environments boost innovation and encourage unconventional thinking.

Those working for a company that does not prioritize diversity can feel stifled in an atmosphere that often promotes groupthink over innovation. Additionally, businesses that don’t support inclusion may struggle to attract and retain top talent and younger workers.

What’s Needed

The creation and fostering of conditions that support the kinds of changes companies need to grow requires the implementation of leadership commitment and community involvement, employee personal development and retention programs, horizontal and vertical promotional initiatives, and establishing who will be held accountable when opportunities for growth are uncovered.

Business Imperative

When diversity and inclusion serve only as a branding tool – a series of boxes to be checked off – it might work for what amounts to meritless public relations maintenance of a favorable public image, but it rarely wins over the hearts of the employees. Where there is talk but no measurable progress, there is frustration and a lack of trust. Talking about change – even agreeing on the changes necessary to bolster trust and inclusion within a company – is simply not enough.

Investing in a robust company culture pays dividends on many levels. We know there is more than one step that needs to be taken in order for this to happen. Company culture is an optimal performance driver and its creation, facilitation, and maintenance is work that is important enough to assign governance discrete from other leadership positions.

Progress in the area of inclusion and trust requires real commitment and follow though. Implementing proposed strategies in order to create and maintain a positive company culture also entails active participation, open communication and dialogue, mentoring and coaching, and development planning and training.

Intelligent – and perhaps courageous – leadership is what is needed in order to effect the kind of paradigm shift within a company and upset the status quo. Walking the walk is the comprehensive action vital to creating the company culture that attracts the diverse workforce that leads to long-term profitability.

Manifest Change

Auditing, articulating, defining, and pursuing a business’ potential in partnership with thought leaders helps to define how and in which direction a company grows. Establishing consistent values and working towards instituting them shows that leaders are invested in anchoring their ideal company culture in the results it creates. Greg Gaines and GKG work with leaders to build a more inclusive company culture – one step at a time.

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