What is an inclusive workplace culture and why does it matter?
An inclusive workplace is basically one in which everyone feels a sense of belonging. The word “inclusion” is frequently used with the word “diversity.” But what is the distinction between diversity and inclusion?
According to Workable.com, diversity in the workplace defines the difference in personal, physical, and social characteristics, such as gender, ethnicity, age, and education. Inclusion refers to the actions an organization implements to incorporate everybody in the workplace, where differences may collaborate in a mutually beneficial way. The objective of inclusion schemes is to create an environment or culture where everyone feels recognized and comfortable, one in which they are willing to share their opinions and thoughts without hesitation.
As you may have observed in your career, a diverse workforce may not necessarily be an inclusive one, and an inclusive culture may not be diverse. Diversity in the workplace is defined by a variety of backgrounds being represented at various levels in the workforce; inclusion is making sure all of those people feel welcome, respected, heard, and valued. For example, an organization or team may have a good mixture of gender diversity, but if genders are treated differently, then there will be people who do not feel included or like they belong. Inclusion means team members feel like they can be themselves and flourish in their roles.
Inclusive workplace benefits
So, what’s in it for organizations? What’s at stake to gain with an inclusive workplace? The research is compelling. For example, research conducted by Limeade Institute and Artemis found that employees who feel included:
- Are 28% more engaged at work
- Have 19% greater well-being in their lives
- Are 43% more committed to their company
- Are 51% more likely to recommend their company as a great place to work
- Typically intend to stay with their company 3 times longer
Research from Deloitte found that an inclusive organization is:
- 2 times as likely to surpass business objectives
- 3 times as likely to be high performing
- 6 times more likely to be agile and innovative
- 8 times more likely to achieve better business outcomes.
As great as these outcomes are, those outcomes are only achieved if the team members feel comfortable enough to own their differences and show up authentically. Or as we at Fierce would say, if team members master the courage to interrogate reality, tackle tough challenges, and make it real, all while enriching the relationship.
So, what are some of the essential traits of an inclusive workplace? Let’s take a look at five of them that we at Fierce deem to be at the top of the list.
1. Inclusive leadership
Inclusive leadership is a critical component of an inclusion strategy. Leadership must set the expectation and the example and model it for all employees. If the leaders do this the culture will follow. Leadership teams must commit to diversity, knowledge of bias, cultural awareness, and strong communication and collaboration skills.
2. D&I strategy in place
As with any goal, there needs to be a strategy in place to get there. Without it, there is no way to track your methodology and gauge the progress. Where there is a strategy in place, there should be leaders sharing progress made with the rest of the team to demonstrate that inclusion is a company priority.
3. Different types of diversity are understood
Understanding the broad range of diversity in the workplace is essential so that everyone feels comfortable and recognized. The focus tends to be on race and gender strategies, but what also should be considered are culture, class, physical abilities, neurodiversity, age, communication styles, and personality types. Leadership must demonstrate knowing and understanding of the broad range of diversity (when present). This is critical for creating an inclusive culture that will allow leaders to tailor their approach to suit different needs.
4. Employees are listened to
Active listening and curiosity are crucial to creating an inclusive culture. We know that the outdated ‘top-down’ approach to management does not foster inclusive cultures. Rather, it discourages candor and sharing of perspectives, stifles collaboration thus affecting improved results and better decision-making, and can decrease employee engagement. Being fully present, prepared to be nowhere else, actively listening to team members, and actually doing something with the feedback they provide, shows that you value and respect their perspective. This in turn encourages them to contribute more freely and further enhances collaboration and thus decision-making and results. We know that inclusive cultures encourage collaboration and diversity of thought. However, this is only achieved when team members know they are heard.
5. Everyone feels comfortable participating in meetings
Diverse ideas, collaboration, and sharing of different perspectives in team meetings are essential in creating and fostering an inclusive work culture. To create a culture that is more equal and welcoming, the sharing of diverse perspectives must be invited and encouraged. Providing the agenda and goals in advance helps introverted members or internal processors to prepare and contribute their ideas to the meeting. Invite the group to share a perspective that hasn’t been considered yet. Invite the ‘devil’s advocates,’ and be aware of team members that get interrupted. Employees need to feel like it’s a safe space to share thoughts freely without fear of judgment. At Fierce, we have an excellent tool for this in our Teams Conversation model.
Currently, there is a lot of focus on hiring a diverse pool of employees. As discussed, it is essential to create an inclusive culture where everyone feels listened to, heard, valued, and supported. Diversity and inclusivity must go hand in hand. By creating a truly inclusive culture, team members will be more engaged, produce better results, and are likely to stay with the organization longer.
By investing in organizational culture initiatives, thus creating an inclusive work culture. These changes can make the organization a good place to work, and a destination for recruiters while improving productivity, profits, and reputation.