Competencies are defined as traits, dispositions, attitudes, and behaviors that lead to high performance in a specific setting or context. Identifying the appropriate competencies for a particular task, job or project helps, and evaluating whether or not a particular individual has those competencies allows us to distinguish potential top performers from average or low performers.

The Kozai Group recently launched the Inclusion Competency Inventory (ICI), a highly effective innovative assessment-to-development practice for increasing workplace inclusion. The ICI is a rigorous instrument that identifies and measures the key capabilities necessary for inclusion and lays out a clear path for developing them. For instance, when people read their ICI feedback report, they obtain a clear understanding of how to write a Personal Development Plan that includes ways to:

  1. Leverage the inclusion competencies they already possess
  2. Compensate for competencies they lack
  3. Follow a clearly defined developmental path to improve competencies they want to develop.

An Innovative, Positive Approach

We’ve all heard stories about instances where Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) training resulted in resistance, inertia (“check the box and move on”), or even backlash. The ICI avoids these reactions due to the fact that one of its theoretical bases is positive psychology. Maslow was one of the first mental health experts to point out that many behavioral and social science disciplines are over-focused on disorders and dysfunction—while ignoring human potential and positive growth. As a result, positive psychologists emerged and began to examine the conditions and processes that contribute to making people, groups, and organizations flourish and thrive. For example, inclusive individuals, teams, leaders, and organizations are more effective, more engaged, experience greater purpose, and help create communities that are more vibrant and characterized by healthier, more positive relationships.

With a valid assessment that targets inclusion competencies, people can become aware of both their strengths and weaknesses—along with opportunities for improvement and personal development that will help them thrive.

The definition of inclusion used by the ICI also reflects positive psychology.  “Inclusion is a sense of belonging:  feeling respected, valued for who you are; feeling a level of supportive energy and commitment from others so that you can do your best work.”  Individuals who take the ICI do not perceive their results as an overwhelmingly negative reflection on themselves as a person, even though some of their results may be low. Instead, they see the ICI as a positive lens that shows them how their inclusive behavior compares to others and then use the Personal Development Plan to provide a clear route to improvement. We’ve observed that they also use the instrument as a catalyst to grow their understanding of DEI issues in general.

An Assessment to Development Process Optimized for Success

After decades of work with assessment instruments and competency measures, we’ve learned how to maximize their use.

  1. Application. We give people the opportunity to “apply” the competency dimensions. This means that they do an activity that forces them to grapple with the definition of each dimension to ensure they really understand the competencies. For instance, we ask groups to rank-order the ICI dimensions in terms of how important they are to their organizational or departmental mission. This application shows them how well equipped they are to accomplish their mission and naturally leads to action steps for improving their inclusion as a group. It also increases the likelihood that they the competencies will be included in the workplace lexicon – people will then comment on their presence or absence, a form of consciousness-raising
  1. Structured Reflection. We ask participants to write about their ICI results – their reaction to seeing their results and how they relate to their work and journaling about missed opportunities to practice the dimensions. This is incorporated into a Personal Development Plan (PDP) process, which is based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:
    1. Setting a specific behavioral goal and a timeline for achieving it
    2. Submitting weekly reports that involve structured reflection
    3. Being held accountable to someone for their progress.

The ICI Pilot Case Studies

We piloted the ICI with clients in healthcare, higher education, telecommunications, and non-profits and found that it successfully served as a catalyst for both voluntary personal transformation and organization improvement and change. Some of the results included:

  1. Group action steps and plans to improve inclusion at the team/organizational level
  2. Decisions for broad-scale application of the ICI across the organization
  3. Requests for personal coaching to help develop ICI competencies in key staff
  4. Individual decisions and commitment to an optional supervised PDP process

ICI Objectives for Organizations

If you’re seeking to evaluate the critical competencies for inclusion, to utilize a proven developmental method for becoming more inclusive, and a valid way to measure that growth in a post-test – then you’re looking for the ICI. The ICI can meet these needs and objectives for organizations:

  • Increase inclusion
  • Provide a new alternative by focusing on the individual competency approach to inclusion
  • Explore ways to embed positive psychology principles into DEI initiatives
  • Utilize valid assessments as  a jumping-off point for personal awareness and growth and OD efforts
  • Maximize the benefits of assessments via applications, structured reflection, and personal development plans
  • Leverage tried-and-true principles from CBT to implement the PDP process for employees or clients

The ICI includes 50 questions that take approximately 10-15 minutes to complete and measures three inclusion factors across six dimensions. The results are provided via a comprehensive, individual report that can be downloaded and used to move forward with development.

For more information about administering or taking the ICI, please contact us at 

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