The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

How to Set the Stage for a Successful Inclusivity Program

In a recent CUPA-HR webinar, presenters from the University of Waterloo shared the what, how and why of the institution’s award-winning Principles of Inclusivity certificate program, which was designed to promote a culture of inclusivity and inclusive practices throughout the university community and help faculty and staff develop mindful everyday actions and behaviors. (View the archived webinar to learn more about the program and how you can be an advocate for inclusivity on your campus.)

Annette Denny and Katrina Di Gravio of University of Waterloo’s organizational and human development department shared the following tips for making the most of a diversity/inclusivity initiative within your organization.

Plant the Seed
Perhaps your organization is just beginning to think about a formal inclusivity program. Self-reflection is a great place to start, say Denny and Di Gravio. Consider disseminating to faculty and staff a checklist with the following questions to help people begin to think about their own behaviors and actions with regard to inclusivity (and be sure to take some time to reflect on them yourself):

  • Do you ask for ongoing feedback about yourself (your performance, how inclusive you are, how your interactions/communications with others come across)?
  • Are you mindful of the language you use?
  • Have you looked for opportunities that break down your personal biases and stereotypes?
  • Do you actively pursue experiences and interactions with something/someone different from yourself with the goals of learning and gaining new information?
  • Do you empower people by sharing information and communicating with everyone?
  • Do you actively listen to others?
  • Are you regularly reflective of your own behaviors and actions?
  • Do you challenge stereotypes and biased behavior when you observe it?
  • Do you build interpersonal relationships, sharing who you are with others?
  • Are you inclusive in all forms of communication?
  • Are you creating an open and welcome environment where difference is valued and respected?

Take Action
Whether your organization is embarking upon a new inclusivity initiative or program or already has one in place, Denny and Di Gravio offer these tips to set the stage for success:

  • Create a committee or working group to champion inclusivity — don’t try and do it alone.
  • Start small — identify one or two of the front-burner inclusivity issues for your organization and focus there.
  • Consider what is ahead for inclusivity from a legislative and organizational point of view, and let this guide programming and focus.
  • Make it an expectation in your organizational culture that all employees participate in the program (discuss the idea of making it mandatory).
  • Use your own in-house subject-matter experts to deliver programming.
  • Customize the program to meet the needs of your organization.
  • Link the goals and objectives to your institution’s vision and mission.
  • Build inclusivity into performance plans and goals.

By taking a thoughtful approach to inclusivity, say Denny and Di Gravio, an organization can help its people learn to model respect for one another, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, gender, social class, sexual orientation, ability and any of the other characteristics that are “different,” yet make each of us who we are.