Do you foster an inclusive work environment? As a supervisor, future team leader or partner, the way you perceive people of different gender, lifestyle, and race can have a very positive—or sometimes negative—impact on your hiring decisions, annual evaluation reviews, and many other areas.
If you read the August 2011 issue of The Edge, then you saw the article, “Dealing With a Diverse Workplace.” However, being able to work with, and accept, different kinds of people is only part of what we think about when imagining a great workplace: companies and organizations that perpetuate an encouraging and supportive environment, all without bias.
Although no one wants to admit it, every one of us have built-in biases of some kind. Those who say they don’t have any could be the ones who are likely to be even more prejudiced than others! Still, learning how to maintain a non-biased work environment isn’t difficult if you create and maintain a clear focus on ethics and commitment.
Every year, Fortune comes out with its “Best Places to Work” ranking with best practices at 100 companies. Take a look at three of the 2011 winners and why they made the list:
- SAS (ranking: #1): According to one manager, "People stay at SAS because they are happy, but to dig a little deeper, I would argue that people don’t leave SAS because they feel regarded—seen, attended to and cared for. I have stayed for that reason and love what I do for that reason."
- PricewaterhouseCoopers (ranking: #73): According to the Fortune article, “employees heap praise on PWC for flexibility (‘You can work from just about anywhere’), training (‘Opportunities are endless’), and ethics.
- Intuit (ranking: #44): One employee commented, “They encourage you to grow within your own personal development. They take your ideas and run with them. We are one big happy family that takes care of business.”
It’s understood that these three and the other 97 companies made the list because the workplace was healthy and encouraging. Hopefully, employees did not ostracize those who were different, did not preclude or exclude those who didn’t have the right skin color, or disregard those who chose to live an alternative lifestyle. Employees vote for their companies to make the annual coveted list, so it stands to reason that these organizations highly value all employees, no matter who they are or what they believe. Now that’s meaningful!
Sounds great, but what can you do? Coming up with an organized approach to creating an inclusive environment is a great first step. Take a look at General Electric. While GE might seem too large to focus on these kinds of issues, one thing it has down pat is its Code of Conduct, also referred to as The Spirit & The Letter Policies. In fact, GE’s Code is kind of famous within corporate circles for its no-nonsense approach to creating a non-biased workplace:
- Obey the applicable laws and regulations governing our business conduct worldwide.
- Be honest, fair and trustworthy in all your GE activities and relationships.
- Avoid all conflicts of interest between work and personal affairs.
- Foster an atmosphere in which fair employment practices extend to every member of the diverse GE community.
- Strive to create a safe workplace and to protect the environment.
- Through leadership at all levels, sustain a culture where ethical conduct is recognized, valued and exemplified by all employees.
Take a cue from the Best Places to Work and companies such as General Electric. Creating a code of conduct helps ensure a non-biased workplace because all employees are required to agree and sign off on the code. Is this lip service or does it seem to work? Who knows … however, what is important is that General Electric is setting a good example for other companies to follow.
As a young CPA, you can take a very active leadership role in developing a code—or coming up with something similar so that every person at your company is included and valued. If your company already has a code or policy like this, then strive to be a part of the annual review team or group. If the company has one and hasn’t dusted it off the shelf for years, then it’s high time for a new one. After all, the cultural norm is what we accept and ultimately become.
No workplace is perfect, but being an active part of the process and solution will go a long way to help others know more about you as a person and as a leader. You can set an example by taking the lead. Start today.