Employees who differ from most of their colleagues in religion, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic background, and generation often hide important parts of themselves at work for fear of negative consequences. This makes it difficult to know how these employees feel and what they want, which makes them vulnerable to leaving their organizations. The key to inclusion is understanding who your employees really are. Many organizations conduct employee engagement surveys, but most neglect to segment the data they collect by criteria such as gender, ethnicity, generation, geography, tenure, and role in the organization, missing opportunities to identify issues among smaller groups. Focus groups are another way to gain deeper insight into what employees care about. They are best facilitated by a third party with no vested interest in the outcome so that employees can speak freely. A one-on-one discussion with a manager can be the most powerful tool for finding out what an employee cares about. But for these conversations to be effective, the manager needs to have an open-door policy and exude a “tell me anything” persona.
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