Striving for an Inclusive Workplace
As a key component of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), Inclusion has garnered attention from modern organizations across industries and sectors: Gartner reports that it is among the top five priorities for 35% of HR leaders in 2022.¹
As the workplace becomes increasingly diverse, ensuring every employee feels included, valued and respected is absolutely essential for business success.²
An inclusive workplace enables organizations to benefit from the strengths and skills of every employee, and encourages everyone to contribute to their fullest potential. This typically involves including more people in brainstorming discussions, development of business initiatives and programs, and even learning opportunities and team building events. Unfortunately, only 31% of employees agree their leaders promote an inclusive team environment.³
When employees don’t feel included, they’re:
- less likely to feel satisfied and valued at work
- less likely to contribute their valuable ideas and talents, and
- more likely to seek employment elsewhere.
This post takes a look at the definition of inclusivity, why it’s so important to the modern workplace, and what steps organizations, managers and employees can take to create and maintain a culture of inclusivity.
What is Inclusion - and Why Does It Matter?
Inclusion is the practice of inviting and valuing all team members' perspectives, contributions, ideas and opinions. In an inclusive workplace, everyone feels comfortable bringing their unique talents and perspectives to the table, because they know they’ll be recognized, appreciated and effectively utilized.
Inclusion removes the barriers that prevent employees from bringing their whole, authentic selves to work and participating in decision-making processes within an organization. People who feel included at work are more engaged and eager to contribute, and at the same time, organizations benefit from access to a broader range of experience and skill sets. Ultimately, Inclusion enables organizations to reap the benefits of a diverse workforce.
Inclusivity has a direct impact on an organization’s bottom line. Companies that practice inclusion are 1.7 times more likely to be innovative, and they have 2.3 times more cash flow per employee than companies who don’t.⁴ Deloitte found that Millennials – who will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025⁵ – are 83% more likely to be engaged at work,⁶ if the organization practices inclusivity. For these reasons, 85% of D&I leaders cited organizational inclusion as the most important talent outcome of their D&I efforts in a recent Gartner study.⁷
As these findings demonstrate, practicing inclusivity enables an organization to create a successful, thriving workplace in which every employee feels connected and engaged, and free to contribute to their fullest potential.
How Do You Measure Inclusion?
Because feeling included is subjective and experienced differently from person to person, measuring it is challenging. According to Harvard Business Review, effectively tracking inclusion requires organizations to understand and measure employee sentiment around the topic.⁸
Gartner has developed an Inclusion Index⁹ and seven key dimensions of inclusion based on interviews with 30 D&I executives:
- Fair treatment: Employees who help the organization achieve strategic objectives are rewarded and recognized fairly.
- Integrating differences: Employees respect and value each other’s opinions.
- Decision making: Team members consider ideas and suggestions offered by others.
- Psychological safety: Employees feel welcome to express their true feelings at work.
- Trust: Organization-wide communication is honest and open.
- Belonging: Employees feel that they belong and others care about them.
- Diversity: Managers are as diverse as the broader workforce.
Knowing the extent to which your employees agree with these seven statements will help you gauge how inclusive your organization is, and determine what specific areas you can focus on to encourage inclusivity in the workplace.
How to Create a More Inclusive Workplace Culture
Fostering inclusion in the workplace isn't a one-time endeavor – it’s an ongoing practice that requires intention and strategy. Here are some of the steps to take to ensure everyone in your organization has an inclusive mindset – and feels valued, respected and supported as employees and individuals.
- At the manager level: As a leader or manager in your organization, it’s your responsibility to ensure you’re including all team members equally. This involves listening to their ideas and feedback, respecting their contributions, and ensuring they feel supported in their roles.
When you listen intently to your employees' ideas and opinions, you begin to learn key differences in how people think and operate at work, and see things from a broader perspective. Leaders should be prepared to self-reflect on their own management style and lead by example, exhibiting inclusive behaviors that others can see and mimic.
Implementing clear and formal procedures for reporting exclusionary behaviors can help employees feel safe and comfortable bringing up incidents that make them feel excluded. Leaders themselves must be accountable for spotting and identifying exclusive behaviors, as well, and taking appropriate action to put an end to them.
Here’s a checklist for managers interested in building a culture of respect in their teams.
- At the individual level: If your managers are inclusive of team members, your organization is off to a great start. But these practices must trickle down to how employees interact and engage with each other, as well. Here are two things you can do yourself...and enourage others to do:
1. Be open-minded in meetings and conversations with co-workers. Don’t automatically shut down someone when they have an idea you disagree with. Instead, ask questions and have them elaborate on the idea. Find out how they think the idea will work in practice, and ask for examples.
2. Do your part in calling out bias or discrimination when you see it. Work hard to identify and challenge any biases that might be keeping you from fully welcoming others to the team. To foster camaraderie and help everyone feel like they belong, avoid excluding co-workers from meetings and gatherings as that may make them feel like they’re not an equal member of the team.
- At the organizational level. While fostering a spirit of inclusivity among leaders and employees is a critical step, to establish and maintain a culture of inclusivity, inclusion must be baked into an organization’s practices, policies, and procedures. To ensure it is, assess where the organization currently stands with its DEI goals and initiatives. Enable HR and D&I leaders to design a strategy for addressing any barriers to implementing and supporting inclusivity. Communicate the strategy clearly across the organization, define tangible goals and educate employees about how they can directly contribute to helping your organization achieve them. And, be sure to implement formal DEI training as part of the onboarding process, with periodic refresher courses and materials at regular intervals.
Take this short quiz that highlights actions your organization can take to strengthen inclusive learning initiatives.
Encourage Inclusivity with Effective Training
Media Partners’ training products are known for helping organizations build awareness, spark meaningful discussion and inspire behavioral change in these crucial areas. We offer memorable lessons and instruction that are easy to put into practice, including Hollywood-quality video vignettes and challenging activities, assessments and knowledge checks.
Organizations can also take advantage of our live and virtual facilitated workshops and Train the Trainer sessions. The goal of all our offerings is to generate in-depth discussion and foster inclusivity at all levels of an organization.
Learn more or watch a trailer of our award-winning video courses, here, and Sign Up to preview our top DEI training courses below:
How Was Your Day? Getting Real about Bias, Inclusion, Harrassment and Bullying
Unintentional Still Hurts: Overcoming Unconscious Bias