It's the time of year for the annual C-word debate. Time, that is, for a discussion on whether or not it is OK to use the word Christmas, or whether it should be replaced. Putting aside strong humbug feelings (I’d be fine if the whole Santa shebang was permanently benched), this year’s version of the annual indignation-fest comes laced with an added splash of Euroscepticism.
We may have got Brexit done, but it hasn’t stopped howls of outrage at how the EU is “banning” non-inclusive language, including gender-based words and words such as Christmas. Language remains a key weapon in the ongoing culture war, and whether you consider yourself woke, anti-woke, or somewhere in between, you will have a view.
To assuage those in the UK suffering some post-Brexit EU-PC FOMO, The Sun managed to stoke some of that annual indignation with a story about UK civil servants “banning” the word Christmas (a quick internet search finds a variation of this story popping up every year as far back as you care to look).
Meanwhile, it turns out that the EC’s booklet is an internal “guidebook” that “encourages” EU officials to update their language – and is the latest in a long line of such schemes to make its institutions as inclusive as possible. For a body that represents people from such a wide variety of countries and cultures, it would be strange if there wasn’t a major focus on positive action towards greater diversity and inclusion.
Smart thinking is inclusive
And it, while the “anti-woke” brigade bridle at the thought of such “gagging” or "thought policing”, it is a smart move for any organisation or team to consider.
But there is a deeper logic behind this behaviour that makes more sense when you start to unpick what we mean by inclusion. At its simplest level, as a recent workshop for The Supper Club, run by The Culture Consultancy, confirmed what we mean by inclusion is just “a sense of belonging”, with the idea that inclusive cultures make people feel respected and valued for who they are as an individual or group.
Put like that., who can be against it? There can’t be many people for whom that sounds like a bad thing. Who doesn’t want to feel a sense of belonging and who won’t offer their best work somewhere they feel respected and valued?
The stats to prove it
And this is not just idle chatter or fancy phrases. There are clear signs that the highest performing teams are those with a stronger sense of inclusion. In fact, research by Cloverpop, published in Forbes, suggests that inclusive teams make better decisions up to 87% of the time, delivering 60% better results in half the time.
Meanwhile, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has found that investment firms that promote gender diversity also significantly lower their conduct risk, with firms with monocultures suffering 24% more governance-related issues than their peers.
Research by Josh Bersin in 2015 also found that inclusive companies are 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders in their market.
But it is also a key factor in the increasingly tight labour market, and as the war for talent hots up, those employers able to show some inclusion credentials will begin to benefit from it. Research from Deloitte, admittedly pre-pandemic, suggested that 35% of millennials have left a job for one with a more inclusive culture.
It’s hard to recall a time where society has been so divided over so many relatively minor issues. Maybe it is time to rethink language and ask harder questions about who we are turning away, who we are turning away from and who we are keeping close to. When you start to take these issues more seriously, it becomes clear quite quickly that your team isn't as diverse or inclusive as you think. There is almost certainly more that you can do and that means there is more you can do to enhance team performance.