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Inclusion is considered an important culture in any workplace. The conversation about integrating inclusion and allowing different perspectives to thrive in a workplace has been around for long enough. With an inclusive company culture, there are no unconscious biases and employees always feel included irrespective of who they are or what they identify themselves as.

Article by Board Effectiveness Review

Inclusivity in the workplace means making sure that everyone feels included and part of the team. An inclusive culture makes the employees feel seen, respected, heard, and valued.

More companies are adopting inclusion at different levels by ensuring that every employee, regardless of background or interests, enjoys equality and overall favourable working conditions. But do these expectations extend to the decision-making organs of the organisation?

Exclusion and Inclusion in the Boardroom

Inclusion is all about allowing multiple different perspectives to thrive. Unfortunately, it is common to see decision-makers reject views from certain quarters, despite the relevance and quality of such submissions. This may stem from different factors, including the perceived inadequacy of the proponent of such submissions.

Fortunately, things have changed over the years. Stakeholders are now receptive to inclusion and other ways that ensure everybody have a say. For example, during the pandemic, meetings were completely virtual, eliminating the difficulty of travelling, a major barrier to inclusion.

That said, inclusion is not perfect yet. Despite the significant improvements, there is still more work to be done.

Having the right attitude on the right operational side is crucial

Organisations can see inclusion from two sides – as a tool of corporate correctness or a channel to stay on the right side of public opinion. Either way, inclusion is never about the blame. Plus, getting inclusion right in reality is easier than on paper.

The first step is to speak with affected groups on adopting complete inclusion. These dialogues can open up channels for different groups to be part of an all-inclusive setup – a major change from the traditionally biased inclusion.

The issues may stem from the lack of relevant skills by the affected group. To tackle this, the organisation can help them acquire these skills and experience.

Inclusion is not always absolute

It is unrealistic to automatically expect inclusion to be in place in any corporate setup. Even if there are a hundred people in the boardroom, certainly, some voices will not be heard. While boardroom diversity can be crucial, there will be no healthy inclusion except every voice in the room is covered.

To ensure this, boards must understand who or what groups are being excluded and how these voices can help the boardroom. This improves diversity and ensures the boardroom is better informed and well-positioned to make sound decisions devoid of stereotyping and exclusion.

Different Perspectives Can Be Problematic

We cannot deny that solving today’s challenges within and beyond the corporate world requires various perspectives. Having more views means more options and better ways of resolving issues. But this comes with a major challenge – handling these multiple inputs, especially at a decision-making level like the boardroom.

Board members and directors offer valuable insights. How then do we handle this without creating chaos?

Encourage radical perspectives

Playing safe by accepting conservative perspectives is easy. We can have a boardroom where every input follows the same line of thought. But real progress is only possible when there are various characters, skills, and perspectives on the table, including radical perspectives. However, it is important to balance radical and conservative members in the boardroom.

Know where the decisive contribution is coming from

Every member must know that their contributions are valuable and appreciated. An excellent way to demonstrate this is to discuss every input to ensure no vital resource goes unnoticed. This oversight responsibility falls on the Chairs, and they must invite contributions. However, Chairs must also know that not every member has to contribute to a subject, i.e., while people can contribute, they do not have to speak the entire time.

For example, a boardroom comprising trustees of vast experience, expertise, and skills potentially offers valuable opinions and perspectives. All of these would most likely be considered, making it difficult to arrive at an actionable and collective decision in the end. One way to avoid this is to implement specialisation. For example, anyone without a sound background in finance must not contribute to money-related issues.

Essentially, knowing who can most likely offer that decisive contribution among a bunch can speed up decision-making progress while ensuring everyone is heard.

Sieve out the irrelevancies

The board will most likely be swamped with more information than needed. That is why the Chair must be intentional about the information that gets to them. For instance, subcommittees should examine most board papers before they get to the main board. The main board and subcommittees can ensure no information is lost by holding regular informal meetings. There is also an important place for socialisation and research, which are indications that a board is working effectively.

Board membership is two-sided

Finally, every board member is expected to put in the time and work to effectively fulfil their obligations. That is the first side – which takes from them. The other side, which adds to them, is when they leverage their access to a rich mix of people from several disciplines to enrich their experience.

Socialising with this calibre of people is fun and beneficial to their experience and doubles as a good payback for investing their time and efforts.


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