Creating Inclusive Organizations

Driven by the call to “increase human thriving in the workplace,” Dr. J. Goosby Smith specializes in workplace inclusion, with emphasis on teams, higher education, veterans, and workplace spirituality and religion. She conducted an incredible study of over 7,000 respondents, in a quest to understand the elements of inclusion, where individuals help teams create greatness. She shares her learnings in this talk.


Dr. J. Goosby Smith

Vice President for Community Belonging and Chief Diversity Officer, Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA





Thank you Jason Cox and team. Holy cow. Our next speaker is Dr. Jay Goby Smith. And I'm so grateful to my friend Dr. Nicole Forsman, who introduced me to her book Beyond Inclusion, work Life, interconnectedness, energy and Resilience in Organizations, which I read three years ago. In preparation for this presentation, I reread that book and I was utterly blown away by it because I now recognize so much more clearly what a beautiful and superb book it is and how individuals help teams achieve greatness when they feel included. As part of her research, she conducted an incredible study of over 7,000 respondents to better understand the elements that make up inclusion. My takeaway, how utterly absurd it is that any team can achieve greatness if everyone doesn't feel energized, engaged, and feels included as part of the team in this community. We've heard the term leading like a gardener most recently from Jessica Rife and David Silverman, one of the co-authors of the book team of Teams. Dr. Goby Smith is Vice President of Community Belonging and Chief Diversity Officer at Pepperdine University. She was awarded an Office of Naval Research Faculty Summer Fellowship to research barriers to inclusion for Latina and Latino service members. She holds a PhD and MBA in organizational behavior from Case Western Reserve University and a bachelor's in computer science from Spelman University. I've asked Dr. Goby Smith to teach us about what the elements of great teams are based on her years of experience and research in this space. Here's Dr. Goby Smith.


Thank you so much for attending this session. Today we're going to talk about creating inclusive teams and organizations, our agenda. I'll introduce myself briefly and give you a little bit of an overview, which I'm doing now, and then we'll talk about defining variables. We'll talk about the ingredients of inclusive organizations and what you can do next. This is a little bit about me. I've been around and um, currently I'm at the Citadel, as Jean said earlier. And so these are some of the things that I care quite a bit about. I love to travel and I can't wait till it can do that. So the big picture, most of you all are in technologies and so you know that if you don't define the variables clearly, you won't be able to make the changes you want, or at least the changes you want won't be that predictable. So we're gonna talk about four different variables during this presentation. Diversity, equality, equity, and inclusion. So we're gonna use the metaphor of a garden, and I want you to think about your organization as a garden or your team as a garden. And if you're a leader, if you do any type of hiring, you're a planter, you're the gardener, you're someone who plants flowers and fruit into the garden. And of course the reason you're planting anything in your garden is because you want it to bear fruit.


So this is a picture of a garden that's very diverse. You can see the shrubs in the background and the trees, but it's not very inclusive because these yellow flowers are not thriving here. So inclusive is a characteristic of the whole garden, okay? And so if you're a good gardener, you try to figure out why my yellow flowers aren't growing. Here's a picture of a very inclusive but not very diverse garden. Anytime you have multiple flowers, anytime you have multiple people, the group is always diverse. It's just a matter of how diverse. So this garden is diverse. These tulips are various heights. The highest senses are various heights and girth. And so we say it's not a very diverse garden. On the other hand, I hope you haven't been in organizations like this. This is a not very diverse garden and it's not very inclusive.


Looks like very similar plants are just all dying together on the vine. This however, is the goal to me. These are very diverse gardens that are also very inclusive. They're very diverse because you have different types of plants here and they're very inclusive because all of the plants seem to be doing well. So this is what we want in organizations. We want a wide variety of people bearing different types of fruit functioning excellently and being included. So bottom line, inclusion and diversity are different. I know a lot of times you hear diversity and inclusion, diversity and inclusion, diversity, equity and inclusion, and they lump 'em together like they're twins or triplets. But inclusion and diversity are different variables. Inclusion has to do with the conditions that lead to the plants bearing fruit. Diversity has to do with the different types of plants. And so an organization can be minimally diverse or highly diverse at the same time.


It can be minimally inclusive or highly inclusive. So when you think about your workplace, think about both of those things. I'll tell you this. If I had a choice of working in an organization that was very diverse but not inclusive or working in an organization where I'm the only type of flower of my kind, but it's an inclusive organization, I'll choose the inclusive organization hands down because I know that's gonna be a place where I'll be able to bear fruit. So let's talk a little bit about equality. Using this garden metaphor, equality is giving the same amount of water, the same amount of shade, the same amount of everything to each plant. Now I want you to think about this. Some of you might be gardeners, and you know where I'm going with this. If you've planted all these different types of vegetables and trees and fruits and flowers and you give each one the exact same amount of sun, same amount of water, same amount of shade, what's gonna happen?


Exactly, you're going to systematically kill some of these flowers. This summer I have killed three and a half zucchini plants. One is hanging in here, giving me a second chance. And so I'm doing something wrong with the zucchini plant. And any gardener will tell you that if one of your plants isn't thriving, you go back to the garden store and you say, Hey, my green peppers are growing well, but my zucchini are failing. And you find out what the zucchini needs. That means that you'd realize that your equality wasn't working there, but that you also needed equity. Equity is giving each one of these plants what it needs to thrive. And so the gardener may tell me, oh, you're watering the zucchini too much or it's not getting enough sun. And you can see from this picture that some of the plants are planted at the base of the tree.


They apparently need shade. Others are in the greenhouse because they need a little bit of shielding from the direct sunlight. While others like these yellow flowers in the middle, they're taking the full sun. And so if you have an equitable, excuse me, if you have an equitable organization, what this means is that it's flexible enough in terms of its culture, in terms of leadership styles, in terms of reward systems to give each person to give each flower what it needs to thrive and bear fruit. Because after all, that's why we're planted into the garden in the first place. So let's look a little bit deeper at diversity. This is a picture that shows various dimensions of diversity. And I want you to think of these concentric circles. Let's start at the middle one. At our core, all of us are similar and different. If those of you who have siblings think about all your sisters and brothers, there are some key ways that you differ.


And it has nothing to do with your background. It probably has nothing to do with where you grew up. It's just that at our core we are all similar and different. In your office, I want you to think about the aspects on the left. These are kind of the roots of the flowers. So you normally just see how the P, the flowers appear, but when you look at the roots of them, all of us are different and similar at the core, different learning styles. Some of you learn best by trying to do a project, getting feedback on the spot and then trying again. You learn best from trial and error. Others of you want to read all the specs, you want to look at samples and you want to do your research beforehand. Those are learning style differences, but that's also diversity. People are different in terms of personality.


Introverts, extroverts, some of us haven't had that much of a hard time being isolated during covid because we have very quiet lives. Others of us who are extroverts have been miserable during this time. So think about some of these variables or your night person or you a morning person. What do you need out of a career? How do you handle conflict? At our core, we are all similar and different. Those dimensions of DI diversity mean a lot in organizations as well. I won't talk about all of them, but the internal dimensions, those are the things about ourselves that we generally can't change. My ethnicity is my ethnicity. My race is my race. No matter how much plastic surgery I get, my age is still gonna be my age. The clock doesn't stop ticking. Gender, sexual orientation don't change. And mental physical ability, they may change if something traumatic happens like a traumatic brain injury or dementia or something like that.


But for the most part, these internal dimensions are stable. And so these are the dimensions about which you'll find a lot of laws have been made because they're things that people can't change about themselves. And so in general, um, our government has traditionally made it illegal to discriminate against people for factors that they can't change. Then you take a look at the external dimensions. Some ones that really matter are geographic location. For example, five years ago I moved from Malibu, California here to Charleston, South Carolina. Let me tell you that geographic location is everything. Income, personal habits, religion, how much education you have, those are dimensions that also matter in the workplace. And then finally you have organizational dimensions. Things like what field you in, what field are you in? Are you a developer? Are you um, a coder? Are you sales? Your field matters a lot.


So I want you to think about all these different dimensions of diversity. And it's not that each one of these boxes is a different type of flower. What it is is that diversity itself is complicated. So you need to use both and thinking. So one of the phrases that I hate, and I hope you never use this again in your life, is the phrase women and minorities. What does that actually mean? What am I, I'm a woman and I'm from an underrepresented race, but I'm not a minority because we don't call people majorities. Oh, we have a lot of majorities in our organization. That should sound crazy to you. That's how we have a lot of minorities sounds to me. So think about the terms that you use and use them both and thinking. So if I were talking with my grandmother, we'd be very different in terms of education, age, um, recreational habits, income, geographic location, marital status.


So when you add all of these things together, people are just a wonderful mosaic. It's kind of like watching a glass blower that throws in these different dimensions. So diversity is a wonderful thing and we are all complex hybrids. So never think that you know a person or know anything about them. Definitely just by seeing one dimension. So just 'cause I'm in this brown shrink rep, you don't know a lot about me, you actually have to talk to me. So one dimension of diversity I wanna talk a little bit about is age diversity or generational diversity. Because right now we have a lot of different generations in the workplace. Currently we have a lot of boomers, gen X in leadership positions and we have a ton of millennials in the workplace born roughly between nineteen seventy seven, nineteen ninety seven. And we also have Gen Zers, which are in the workplace now.


But I want to introduce you to the next generation because if you look across the bottom of each age, you'll see the different levels of technology and the different things that blend them in common. So many millennials, many gen Zers, but not all tend to be very social, very service minded, comfortable with diversity, okay? And sometimes that conflicts a little bit with the Gen X or the boomers who may or may not have kept up with all of this lightning change in technology. And so I'd like you to meet someone who's coming soon to your team generation Alpha. They're born between 2010 and 2025 and they're the first generation on record that will be born entirely during this millennial. They call them the I generation. If you've ever seen like an eight or nine month old with an iPad, that'll tell you why. They call them the I generation. They're technology native. They're learning technology as they're learning to speak. The oldest are currently about 10 or 11 years old, but in a few years they'll be in the workplace and it's gonna be so interesting to meet this generation at work. So I want you to pause for a second. I'm gonna give you about 10 seconds. I want you to think about your workplace and I want you to think about a time when you felt really included, like you really belonged.


And then I want you to think about what makes this moment stand out to you. So did you think of something back to our garden methodology or um, um, analogy. Fertilizer is ubic inclusion. Inclusion is the fertilizer. So the organization's the garden, we are all the flowers planted into the organization. Equality has to do with giving us all the same things. And equality's not bad. We each should have an equal chance of succeeding if we're competent, an equal chance to go to training, an equal chance to get mentoring. So equality's great and we need equity, which is what do we need to bear fruit? So the fertilizer is UB inclusion. And the way that I came up with the dimensions of this fertilizer is I asked almost 7,000 questions. The question I just asked you tell me about a time in your organization when you felt most included.


And so there answers, after reading them and rereading them and throwing a lot of them away, we came up with eight major things. The first thing that makes people feel included in the team is a sense of connection. When people feel connected to the organization, like they have pride in the organization and they feel connected to a larger purpose, connected to their team members, connected to um, their leaders. And when they get to connect through fun and sharing meals together, those are the things that make people feel connected. So some of your stories might have been about a time that your organization went out together or had a potluck or a holiday party. The next thing that makes people feel included is care. When we come to work, we are still humans being. And so our humanity does not go away. And people need to know that you care.


Do you speak to people? Do you learn people's names? Do you care about what they think and what they feel? Do you help them? If someone has a tough time picking up something, do you get them a manual? Do you sit down with them? And so care matters. The fourth dimension is intrapersonal inclusion. This one's a little bit tricky, but it's all the self-talk that we do when we go into a group. Sometimes you go into a group, maybe it's your family and you just know you're gonna be included. So it's not even a second thought. Other times you'll go into a group, hopefully it's not your family, <laugh>, where you'll feel like people are gonna judge you. People are gonna be talking about you. How we think about being included and how we think about including others really has an impact on how included we eventually perceive ourselves to be.


The fourth dimension is communication. When people feel that they have safe places to communicate, that there's an open door policy with their leaders, that they're communicating clearly with their team members. When communication media in the organization are useful, um, whether it's email or whether it's some other platform. And also when there's communication in multiple languages, this tends to make people feel included. Another aspect of conclude communication though is when people can keep a confidence. So when people know that they tell you something and it's confidential, that makes people feel included as well. The fifth dimension is coaching and mentoring. And this is my favorite coach. I'll let somebody figure out who this is, but he wasn't NFL coach. That's the only hint I'll give you. Mentoring and coaching means that there's someone there who's giving you sponsorship, who's giving you a chance to shine, who's giving you feedback, who's telling you how to handle things in the organization.


But not only having a mentor made people feel included, being a mentor made people feel included because after all, that was something that surprised us. But when we thought about it, of course being asked to mentor someone would make me feel included because it means that someone feels that what I know is good and that I'm a good performer worthy of replicating that expertise. The next dimension of what makes people feel included is fairness. When people perceive that they have a fair chance to get ahead, a fair chance to apply for a job, a fair chance of having their wages be equal. So they know that we all are making basically the same amount of money and it's based upon how much we work, they feel included when they feel that they're being treated fairly. And also people feel included when they see other people being treated fairly.


A lot of times we can get extremely individualistic and think that, oh, well as long as I treat this person, okay, it won't really impact the culture if I treat that person not fairly, not so witnessing any type of inequity, decreases morale and lets people know the workplace isn't fair. Our seventh dimension is trust. When people feel that they can trust human resources, when they can trust their managers and peers, and when they feel that they themselves are trusted and they can trust the rules and policies, they tend to feel included. In fact, I'd be willing to say fairness and trust are two of the most foundational dimensions of inclusion. Without those, you can do all the caring and connection you want, but if people don't trust each other, don't trust the organization's policies and don't feel they're being treated fairly, it's just gonna fall on deaf ears.


And finally, visibility and reward. How many times have you worked and worked and worked and been the integral piece in a project and no one even said thank you? Visibility, re and reward is what makes people feel included. So when they work hard, they get noticed for working hard and they get celebrated for it. Sometimes they might get promoted, they might wanna reward or they might just be celebrating with their team after working really hard and getting something done. So these are the eight ingredients, if you will, of the fertilizer that makes the garden inclusive. And like any garden, you don't have to have fertilizer. But with fertilizer you'll see that things grow stronger and they grow bigger and they're more resilient. So what's next? I'd love for you to do some thinking and some reflection in your quiet time or what are other times you feel included?


Do you see patterns between the things that have made you feel included? Which of the dimensions that I showed you were most in play And most inclusive moments have more than one dimension there. If you don't feel included very often, which of those dimensions are missing for you? And what are you willing to learn? What can you do to make others feel included? And do you see links between inclusion and your work experience? When you've been on teams? Do you see links between your performance? Because that's one of the things that we find when people constantly feel excluded, they don't tend to go the extra mile, they don't take the work home, they don't stick with things, their persistence goes down, their resilience goes down, their satisfaction goes down. So what connections can you see between your sense of inclusion on different teams and not, and how can you be a lifelong learner?


Because there's so many different types of people and so many combinations of different dimensions of diversity that being a lifelong learner, reading, traveling, talking with people is just imperative. So in close, here's the help I'm looking for. I'd love to hear from you about how you think we can make inclusion in everyday part of our lives and not just talk about it when something goes sideways. So that's one thing. I'd love to hear your ideas on that. And I'd love to know from you, what's a valuable lesson that you learned from someone who's really different from you along those dimensions of diversity that we covered today? What's a lesson that you learned from that person? So those are the things that I'm looking for help with. And so thank you so much for your time. My name is Dr. Jay Goby Smith. I look forward to talking with you. And my final words of advice are to do justice, love, mercy, and welcome please. Thank you.