DEI collage

Being consciously inclusive: Learning to think and act without bias

By: Nichelle Grant, Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)

I first became engaged with diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) at Siemens on a volunteer basis while working in what’s now our Smart Infrastructure business. And today, in my current role, I draw on a variety of experiences—from working on and leading customer-facing teams to launching new Employee Resource Groups—to drive DEI as a business imperative at Siemens.

 

Yet perhaps what guides me the most is the Siemens culture of lifelong learning. I’ve been part of the Siemens community for 21 years now, and I’m still learning. What’s more, I’m still listening to my colleagues and always learning from them.

 

In last my article, about allyship, I wrote about how allies uphold the “I” in DEI by proactively embracing differences and cherishing individual uniqueness.  A key trait is that they commit themselves to being consciously inclusive in all interactions in the workplace and in the marketplace with employees, customers, suppliers, and partners. 

 

But in what ways, exactly, can we put conscious inclusion into practice? I asked my colleagues how they evolve and adapt their approaches, address bias through transparent communication, and how team feedback increases inclusion. 

 

Here’s some of what they shared with me.

 

Affirming and celebrating everyone’s value
 

Our Chief Cybersecurity Officer Kurt John tells me that conscious inclusion is an active, focused effort to ensure that all team members know that they are valued as individuals; that their contributions are welcomed; and that they can see the results of their voices being heard. Diversity of thought, identity, background, and talent “are not just welcomed, but celebrated,” he says.

Conscious inclusion is an active, focused effort to ensure that all team members know that they are valued as individuals; that their contributions are welcomed; and that they can see the results of their voices being heard.

And that celebration energizes our ability to conduct business. 

 

“Usually, we hear about the difficulties of communication leading to misunderstandings, and less about the success stories—how diversity brought value into the team,” says Virginie Maillard, Head of Siemens Technology in the U.S. “I am looking for more and more examples that demonstrate the benefit of inclusion and diversity. These successes should be more visible.”

 

Embedding conscious inclusion into business practices
 

This embedding of conscious inclusion in the heart of our business practice is essential for it to have a continual impact.

 

Brian Pollock, Branch General Manager for Smart Infrastructure, notes that the San Francisco office utilizes a charter that affirms a commitment to inclusion and provides the necessary training that helps reduce bias. Conscious inclusion thrives on “open discussion that puts all employees on a level playing field with training, communication, and understanding of the objectives and interactions,” Brian says. 

 

Within our Electrical Products (EP) business, the leadership team created its own DEI council, enabling a specific focus on conscious inclusion among other DEI imperatives.

 

Barry Powell, North America Head of Electrical Products, says the council was formed by self-nominated, passionate influencers who crafted a DEI roadmap—its strategies, key themes, deliverables, milestones, and goals. “We believe,” he says, “that a group of diverse problem solvers can drive internal innovation and growth, and they’re crowdsourcing ideas about inclusion from the larger EP group.”

 

Reducing bias through transparent communication
 

We all have biases, and they may have increased with remote work because we’re not seeing and interacting with people regularly to challenge those biases. Learning through evaluation of our statements and actions help us mitigate our biases and make decisions based on fairness and data rather than assumptions. And this learning process will be more effective if it involves everyone in the team or group.

 

According to Kurt, that’s why an important part of reducing bias is “facilitating an environment that values and positively responds to active and honest discourse among the team.”

 

“’Do you feel heard? Do you feel like an equal member of the team? Do you think the organization values you?’—these are some of the questions I ask my people,” Kurt says. “I want to find out if my team members and direct reports think inclusion is a guiding principle for their talent journey. There will be new questions to add along the way as I continue to learn how to evaluate how people view and value inclusion.”

 

Integrating conscious inclusion into the hiring process
 

Being inclusive in the search for talent starts with language.

 

“Look at your job descriptions,” Anthony Casciano, President and CEO, Siemens Financial Services, Inc., says. “The wording really matters, because in some ways you could discourage job candidates without intentionally doing so.” 

 

Anthony and his talent-search team in our Financial Services business enlisted the help of colleagues in Human Resources to review historical job descriptions. They evaluated and corrected the language for fulsome inclusion, making sure the terminology was universally applicable and non-binary. He also pays close attention to where Financial Services job postings appear—in traditional channels but also in those media where diverse talent is looking.

After considering language, “we must also construct diverse interview panels,” Barry says. 

 

Indeed, a candidate interviewing for a job who faces a non-diverse interviewing environment might wonder if that company is right for them. This points to the fact that conscious inclusion as a practice, in and of itself, can make an organization attractive to diverse candidates. A highly visible culture of inclusion, growth, and improvement gives Siemens an advantage in attracting talent. 

 

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More than anything, what we see from these individuals in Siemens leadership is that conscious inclusion is ingrained in their day-to-day actions. It is part of their personal operating system, so to speak. This is taking root across Siemens USA, both geographically and within the business hierarchy, as our cultural transformation keeps pace with our digital transformation. What are you doing to be more consciously inclusive?

Published: September 9, 2021