Last month I traveled to Minneapolis with two of my colleagues to attend the Multicultural Forum on Workplace Diversity conference. While there, we had the opportunity to participate in a large-scale discussion of “what’s possible for diversity and inclusion in the next 5 years?”

Each of us worked within a small group to come up with a series of ideas about that question and those responses were then distilled into a few key concepts. Those ideas were then transferred onto a large (and colorful) display board in the center of the conference’s expo hall encouraging people to stop by, ponder and even add their own ideas to the discussion.

Although my group didn’t come up with the above ideas on respect in the workplace (in the image at the top of this post), I was certainly delighted when I passed the board near the end of the conference that other people had. I particularly liked the note that said:

Environment of appreciation, understanding and respect for ALL!

Doesn’t that sound like a great place to work?

But really, how many of us currently work in an environment like that?

I am sure it is very few, which is why this is such a great goal for diversity and inclusion in the next 5 years -and actually a doable goal for all workplaces to achieve.

How do we create a respectful work environment?

In The Respect Effect by Paul Meshanko, he describes a four part process that all organizations need to go through if they are seriously committed to changing their workplace culture and creating a respectful work environment:

Gate One: Consensus for Taking Action

In this first step of the process, it is vital that everyone has a voice and stake in the change process. Often the need to change a workplace culture to that of a more respectful one, begins reactively. Nonetheless, there needs to be buy-in from all employees or the next step can never be achieved successfully.

Gate Two: Mapping

Trying to get anywhere usually involves some foresight to get there. Otherwise, we’d all be traveling in circles or simply just lost. That’s why this step is almost as imperative as the first one. Organizations need to gauge their starting point. They can do this in several ways but the best possible way should include a combination of data and knowledge.

Gate Three: Invitation

Once the map is established, then an invitation should be extended to all employees to participate. This invitation doesn’t have to be formal and is more likely metaphorically than anything else. In it, the following should be included: information on the value, a non-threatening tone, a trusted source and enough motivation so that people actually do want to get involved.

Gate Four: Cultivation and Reinforcement

During this is where the real work happens. It’s where all the planning and preparation come to fruition. This is the step where the actual training takes place. It is a training that concludes with a mutually agreed upon Code of Cooperation document that is the guideline for moving forward as a respectful workplace.

I truly hope that when I return to that same conference in the future the answer to the question, “what’s been achieved for diversity and inclusion in the last 5 years?” will be answered with, “an appreciation, understanding and respect for all in the workplace.”