Inclusion ensures perspectives are valued.
Diversity and Inclusion are often talked about hand in hand, but this doesn’t mean they are always working together. Inclusion is about making sure that all members of an organisation are included and valued in business functions. But it’s possible to have a diverse workplace that isn’t inclusive and vice versa.
Diversity brings more perspectives to your business, and inclusion makes sure they are heard and valued – or as DEI educator Verna Myers famously said; “Diversity is being asked to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”
As with Diversity, Inclusion sounds great on paper, but how does it translate into daily practice and sync with priorities?
Workplace Inclusion in Practice
Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. CEO of SHRM says “It’s a major investment to bring talent into your organisation, so why bring them in if they’re not happy when they get here? You’ve got to get the inclusion part right.”
Workplace inclusion is when your people feel valued and accepted in their team and in the wider organisation, without feeling pressure to ‘conform’. They are supported and helped to thrive at work, regardless of their background, race, gender, age, physical abilities, or socio-economic circumstance.
The route to achieving this can seem overwhelming, so as with all strategies, the best place to start is at the very beginning so you know how far you still need to go.
Assess Inclusion and Put Measures in Place
Inclusion can come down to perception – whether people feel included as an individual or not – so to measure how inclusive your organisation is, you should consider regularly surveying your people. You could also create and run focus groups or employee feedback sessions.
You are seeking to identify shortcomings and any discrepancies in perceptions around the organisation. You need to quantify inclusion so that you can figure out where you are and know where you need to get to.
Once you have an inclusion strategy in place, and you have begun to implement the actions from it, you need to continually track the data to ensure that what you are doing is working.
Educate your people
The route to achieve your inclusivity targets is through education, and where better to start than right at the top? When it comes to creating and promoting an inclusive workplace, your biggest allies will be your leadership team. Prioritising inclusivity will be a challenge if the leadership team does not prioritise it too.
Inclusive behaviour for leaders can be as simple as learning active listening, encouraging different points of view in meetings, and being more aware of the impact of the language they use.
Alongside training, you should consider one-to-one or small group coaching, so that leaders can ask awkward or sensitive questions in a safe space to give them the confidence to roll out the initiatives to their teams.
What Makes an Inclusive Organisation?
Organisations need to create clear, actionable DEIB strategies which address:
- employee behaviour
- leadership capabilities
- people management policies and practices
- culture and values.
Here are some little steps you can take towards creating an inclusive workforce:
Ensure employees use inclusive language, by training and modelling. Encourage people to share their preferred pronouns.
Create a culture of continuous feedback to help build trust, and create an open dialogue that allows people to be honest about their needs, challenges and experience.
A little thing like acknowledging that Christmas does not represent the same thing to everyone, can mean a lot. In addition to Christian (Christmas and Easter) and secular holidays (New Year’s Day) ensure your company calendar considers holidays and observances for your whole team; and consider making religion specific holidays ‘optional’.
You can also mark other events as a team, such as Pride Month, and Black History month, and even hold educational events to celebrate the topics.
Who do you single out to reward or praise in the company? Is it the top salesperson? The ‘class clowns’? Being inclusive means rewarding less visible contributions as often as the very visible ones.
Most teams have close relationships, but you can encourage mixing with those outside of their immediate demographics by encouraging informal mixers, volunteer days, and more.
There is no one route to inclusion, that’s kind of its point, and if you find it easy to make everyone feel included in your organisation, perhaps it is an opportunity to step back and ask how diverse your company actually is.
Research has shown that companies who actively invest in inclusion, attract better and more diverse talent to the company. Brand perception, team happiness and engagement all increase positively.
Remember, DEIB is about appreciating differences between individuals, and in context with the workplace, ensuring that each of these varying attributes and characteristics are valued, and that the participation of these employees is equal.
Take a look at our articles on Equity, Diversity, and Belonging to find out more.