Being an Inclusive HR Manager

This is part 1 of a 2 part blog-post submitted by Jackie

Jackie recently shifted from a career in Human Resources to a career as a writer and Mom. When she’s not writing  and spending quality time with her family, Jackie volunteers for a number of local mental health charities and looks after her menagerie of pets. When Jackie discovered the Inclusive Leadership Co-operative website, she identified with the values and skills involved in Inclusive Leadership and generously contributed this article about being an Inclusive HR Manager.

I learned to become an Inclusive Leader during my years working as a Human Resource Manager for a small home health company. This experience helped me to change my thinking and believe that a complaint is an opportunity to understand what our employees need in order to be successful. I also learned that a company can be proactive and try to create an inclusive environment that heads off problems early. The way to be an Inclusive Leader is by developing four important Inclusive Leadership skills: connecting with differences, communicating with compassion, standing up for inclusion, and building bridges.  This post Focuses on connecting and communicating. 

Connecting With Differences

With our workforce becoming more diverse, human resource professionals need to develop skills to connect with different people. The first step to successful connection is approaching differences in a relaxed manner. Being calm and present leads to relaxation. An easy way to be in the moment and relax is to practice deep breathing. Mindfulness can be reached by a number of practices and outlets, some examples are: exercise, creativity, playing with children, or meditation. Through relaxation, we are more open minded and receptive to different people and opinions.

Business are more successful with different personalities and perspectives. The same people with the same world views will miss problems or creative solutions. The HR department is the hiring arm of business, so making the decision to embrace different people, or daring to be different, will empower you to seek out talent that will help your company. Think about and embrace different ways you can understand and accommodate different cultures, traditions, races, etc. and speak up for those ideas.

To help you embrace differences, it is important to connect with different circles of communities. Through participation and education, you will also be able to manage the stress and keep up with self care as you understandably go through a culture shock when working with unfamiliar communities. So join new groups and adapt to different dynamics within the group; welcome visitors and newcomers to any group and be inclusive when different groups are brought together.

Letting go of the win/lose model of thinking will help you be more inclusive, so approach problem solving cooperatively. When problems arise at work, try to bring all parties involved into the solution for a win win approach. A skill needed during this process is refocusing and reframing the situation by asking open ended questions and making suggestions. This will encourage people to compromise, especially since they have a seat at the table.

Finally, connecting with differences means not forgetting those that lead behind us. Don’t forget the employees who are not part of your immediate sphere. People who lead behind the scenes may see solutions and problems you don’t see as the HR manager. Everyone in your organization is important, but be careful to ask permission to include him or her. An inclusive group means that participation is voluntary.

Communicating with Compassion

Listening is an important part of communicating. It isn’t effective communication if you don’t clearly understand the other person’s position. The person you are talking with will be appreciative if you understand and respond to his or her needs. To become a better listener, don’t just hear the words someone is saying, but pay attention to nonverbal clues. If an employee is telling you everything is fine, but her arms are crossed, she won’t make eye contact, and her voice is wobbly, then she is upset. But also don’t forget your own verbal cues. You want to exude calmness and openness, so don’t lean across the table and stare down the person. Ensure you are focused on the conversation, and be kind and vigilant. Kindness comes easy when you are empathetic to the person’s feelings and needs, so listen without judgement to what the employee is sharing with you. Don’t get distracted by your own story or by electronic devices (put down the cell phone or turn off the computer screen).

When responding to an employee who is sharing a problem or upsetting situation, share facts to ensure you understand without judging. Show concern with the individual by sharing feelings and follow up on how she is feeling. Ask what is important to her. Let people choose how they want to respond, as there is a difference between demanding and requesting. The latter empowers people because choice is part of the equation. Don’t overwhelm the individual with too many questions or requests. Open ended questions are also best.

In your career or in your community you may have to overcome language barriers. If you have an employee who speaks a different language than English as their first-language you will have to be patient and creative.  Possibly look into interpreter services.

If you are intimidated by this information don’t lose heart. Inclusivity does not mean perfection. There is no such thing as perfection. But if you are an Inclusive Leader, even when you make the inevitable mistake, by being open, warm and understanding you will have employees communicating with you. You will learn from your mistakes. And your company will be better for the lesson.

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