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  • Writer's pictureFletcher Consulting

Inclusion Incentives

I’m hoping some of you can help me find real-world examples of best practices. Who out there is incentivizing inclusion?

I’m wondering this because, at the end of my workshop on inclusive leadership, after participants have generated lots of great ideas, I usually ask them, “What’s stopping you from implementing them?”

The participants are typically leaders or middle managers. They’re usually buzzing from discussing case studies about why people thrive (or leave companies) due to the level of inclusion they experience, and eager to retain and develop their high performers.

But when they get to this question, “What’s stopping you?” one answer always comes up:

There’s not enough time. 

They say they want to put time into giving feedback, mentoring and professionally developing the folks on their team. But they can’t seem to prioritize doing so. 

This is the case in all kinds of organizations, but it’s particularly evident in professional services organizations that utilize the billable hour.

I practiced law for a long time and I know that having to account for how you spent your day (in six-minute increments), and knowing that you will be compensated for the time that is billable to a client, focuses you on how best to spend your time. 

We do what we're compensated for. So how are you incentivizing inclusion?

People will do what they’re compensated to do, and what they are evaluated on.

At the same time, though, most professions have an apprenticeship aspect. You learn the technical stuff at school, but you learn how to really perform on the job. So if that informal mentoring isn’t happening systematically, there’s a good chance some people are not getting what they need. 

So what incentives work to encourage mentoring or advising younger employees? 

I can imagine requiring senior managers, when they are setting goals at the beginning of the year, to commit to advancing inclusion in the organization. Then, at year-end, they’re asked, “What have you done to mentor, guide, or bring along newer employees?” 

I can imagine a company compensating leaders for the time that they spend mentoring and professionally developing junior employees.

I can imagine these things—but I’m not sure I know of real companies that are doing it successfully. 

The extent to which an organization rewards its leaders and managers for building an inclusive culture signals how important its leaders really feel it is. 

That’s why I always bring the conversation back to the value to the organization. Inclusion isn’t just a “soft” aspect of the workplace—there are hard numbers that hit the bottom line. For example, attrition is very expensive. A new hire isn’t likely to add value until year two. If they quit before then, after you have put in the time to train them, that’s a big cost to the organization. Inclusive practices reduce attrition.

Help me out. Have you seen this done well? What have you learned?


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