In my conversations with supply chain leaders, one question has reverberated throughout the past two years: “How do I retain great talent?” And for good reason. According to the Microsoft 2021 Work Trend Index, 41% of global employees said they were likely to consider leaving their jobs in the following 12 months.
The primary response to attrition has been for organizations to offer the typical things: enhanced benefits, generous raises or bonuses or revamped recognition programs. But none of these matter to an employee who doesn’t feel a sense of belonging in their work environment. Imagine an employee of color who practices code-switching to fit in or a mother who avoids bringing up her family in conversation so that her coworkers don’t question her commitment to the job. Would you stay at an organization where you have to hide part of yourself?
Inclusion is at the heart of making all supply chain employees feel that they can bring their true selves to work every single day. Yet it’s often not recognized as a strategic driver of retention.
Perhaps in part this is because creating a culture of inclusion can feel like an enormous, intangible responsibility for people managers and employees. It can feel downright confusing or scary for some. We need a way to practice inclusion more readily and safely.
An emerging practice is to employ a method that we at Gartner call culture hacking. We can create a more inclusive culture by approaching culture change like a hacker. Rather than trying to change everything at once, we aim to find a few small access points where the system — in this case, the culture — is vulnerable to change, and exploit those.
What is inclusion hacking and how do we do it?
Hacking your culture should change “the behaviors we do repeatedly” in some specific way — for example, how a meeting is conducted, how a project team is selected or how big decisions are made and who they’re communicated to and why.
In working with clients on culture hacking, we’ve found that two of the most fertile grounds for hacking are communication mechanisms and meetings. The average employee’s life is made up of lots of meetings and communications, like emails. What happens during these meetings and within the contents of the emails and other communications is a proxy for what your culture is really about.
A culture hack attempts to modify meetings or communications and is:
- Actionable – the hack is not theoretical and can be practiced or executed as part of an employee’s day-to-day.
- Low effort – it can be completed in less than 48 hours. Don’t confuse “low effort” with “low courage.” Many of the best hacks are simple but require courage, like cancelling a meeting if participants cannot articulate how it advances the strategy.
- Immediate – the change doesn’t take months to manifest. Effects of the hack are practically immediate. Transformation works with as much immediate gratification as possible.
- Visible – the change has high-signaling power. Even though it’s small, it signals to a large group of people that something has changed.
- Emotional – the hack incites a visceral reaction. Emotional reactions are more memorable than analytical ones. They can be positive or negative (e.g., surprise, shock, joy, shame, etc.).
However, hacks are not permanent changes. They are meant to be temporary, but powerful, shifts in how we do work and interact to practice the culture that we want. In this case, it means that we have an opportunity to practice inclusion. If a hack doesn’t deliver the desired outcome or benefits then we can always shift to a new hack.
The typical roadmap for inclusion hacking would involve: 1) hunting for friction points that are preventing employees from feeling included, 2) designing hacks that can eliminate friction points, 3) communicating and executing the hack and 4) assessing the results (i.e., how did this make the team feel?) as illustrated in Figure 1.
What are some examples of inclusion hacks?
As long as an inclusion hack is designed to be actionable, low effort, immediate, visible and emotional, it can be implemented. Get creative in designing your own! But, for inspiration, you can look to the sample inclusion hacks below.
Supply chain leaders can improve retention outcomes by focusing on inclusion. But to make inclusion less daunting, we should leverage culture hacks. Just remember that sometimes the biggest, gnarliest problems require the simplest actions.
Senior Principal Analyst
Gartner Supply Chain
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