Microsoft made inclusion every employee’s responsibility. Here’s why.

  • In 2016, Microsoft tied components of executive compensation to internal diversity and inclusion goals.
  • More recently, the company incorporated inclusion into its performance review process for every employee.
  • In this op-ed, Lindsay-Rae McIntyre, chief diversity officer at Microsoft, says that the company’s starting to see signs that this shift is working.
  • This article is part of Business Insider’s ongoing series on Better Capitalism.

Nearly every major company has announced plans to push for more diversity and inclusion. Millions of dollars have been pledged, initiatives born, and organisations created. Yet despite many well-intended efforts, we’re oftentimes left wishing that progress would come more quickly.

It turns out that talking about diversity and inclusion is much easier than actually living diversity and inclusion.

At Microsoft, we don’t have all the answers. But we are actively working to increase accountability throughout the organisation for driving progress in diversity and inclusion.

It started first with an expectation that our leadership team can and needs to do more to prioritise inclusion. We recently expanded this to include every employee in our organisation – each of whom can do more to foster a greater sense of inclusion within the company.

While we’re far from any victory line, we’re beginning to see positive indicators that this shift is working.

Holding leaders accountable

In order to hold leaders more accountable for improving representation at all levels, in 2016 we tied components of executive compensation to internal diversity and inclusion goals. This was an effort designed to align leadership on shared goals, and to deliver on one of our core goals, which is to operate as one team instead of multiple “businesses within a business.”

Lindsay-Rae McIntyre MicrosoftMicrosoftLindsay-Rae McIntyre, Microsoft

Qualitative performance indicators were created to align long-term interests of all our stakeholders, including those in our product & strategy world; our customers; and with leaders throughout the company.

One way a leader can show measurable progress includes hiring through one of the many programs we developed to find great talent outside of the traditional academic path such as veterans, workers transitioning from other industries or life phases, and people with Autism.

Another example could include results driven by our mission to design products and technology capabilities that are inclusive of everyone, like our Xbox Adaptive Controller.

Our senior leadership team meets every week to understand what’s working and where our efforts need refinement.

Helping every employee prioritise inclusion

A few months ago, we took another step: incorporating inclusion into our performance review process for every employee. We refer to this as a “shared core priority.” which calls for ongoing dialogue between employees and managers to discuss how each person can incorporate inclusion into their daily work, in both large and small ways.

This accountability is complemented by an internal focus on awareness, curiosity and courage.Awareness means that every employee has a responsibility to be cognisant of other people’s voices and ideas and the impact of their own behaviour on others. Curiosity means nurturing a culture that encourages people to ask hard questions and practice open-mindedness. And perhaps the most important,courage means having the will to put beliefs into action.

To us, these three concepts are the foundational building blocks for a more diverse and inclusive workplace.

Accountability through ownership

By encouraging employees to become engaged advocates for themselves and each other and providing tools like the shared core priority to track their journey, we’re committed to ensuring everyone has a stake in owning our culture.

This sense of shared accountability also complements efforts at the programmatic level, like pipeline building through public and private partnerships, funding new ventures for diverse innovators, reinventing how we recruit employees, and engaging new talent through second acts and returnships.

All of these things in combination have impact, but we know we can – and must – do more.

There is no question that greater diversity and inclusion is a business imperative, and while programs and policies are important for the foundation, it’s the people in an organisation who bring the commitment to life. Embedding it into our employee lifecycle – rewards, recognition, performance, career velocity, succession, development – is incredibly important work.

It only takes a series of small acts fuelled by awareness, curiosity, and courage, to light the fire needed to both acknowledge the past and generate momentum for the future.

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