Building an Inclusive Workplace

by | Business Tips

Building an Inclusive Workplace
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Many modern businesses have embraced the concept that diversity and inclusion is beneficial from both a business standpoint and a value perspective. However, implementing these values and measuring the outcome can be a challenge. This week’s blog post explores how leadership teams can continue to grow their diversity and inclusion efforts.

What is an inclusive workplace?

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) defines inclusion as, “the achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization’s success.”

In other words, inclusion in the workplace means empowering employees from a variety of backgrounds with a sense of belonging and community. Consider the following key questions:

  • – Can employees bring their “whole selves” to work?
    – Can employees voice diverse points of view?
    – Who makes up the company’s leadership team?
    – What resources and opportunities are available to each team member?

Benefits of an inclusive workplace

The business case for diversity & inclusion remains robust, as evidenced by the latest in a series of studies from McKinsey & Company, 2020’s Diversity Wins. This third installment found increasing strength in the business case for diversity among executive leadership, both in terms of gender and ethnic or cultural representation. Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to demonstrate above-average profitability than those in the fourth quartile. Those with top-quartile ethnic & cultural diversity among executives outperformed fourth-quartile peers by 36% in profitability. What’s more, the study revealed a widening gap in performance between the leaders and the laggards in diversity & inclusion. Their data suggests a performance penalty of 19% for companies in the fourth quartile for gender diversity, and a staggering underperformance of 27% on profitability for those ranking fourth quartile on both gender and ethnic & cultural diversity.

In addition to meeting or exceeding financial targets, organizations with inclusive cultures are six times more likely to be innovative, according to research from Deloitte.

“Our research demonstrates that inclusive talent practices drive measurable and predictable business outcomes,” said Stacia Sherman Garr, vice president, talent and workforce research leader, Bersin by Deloitte, Deloitte Consulting LLP. “After two years of study, we conclude that these business outcomes are possible for all companies – but only with a change in focus. The research shows that CEOs and business leaders should own the strategy, and the entire organization should embed and use inclusive talent practices.”

Additionally, workplaces that value diversity and inclusion allow employees to be themselves, share problems, make mistakes, and contribute ideas.

How do you create an inclusive workplace?

Move beyond diversity. Diversity refers to who is in the room, who is hired, and what groups are represented. Inclusion, however, refers to providing opportunities, resources, and community to everyone on the team.

Implement multivariate diversity. An inclusive workplace should be prepared for multiple dimensions of diversity. Here are a few examples: race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, personality, socioeconomic status, and education level.

Provide resources and opportunities. Empower employees by providing opportunities for advancement. This includes creating space for people to bring their authentic selves to work, as well as providing mentorship to everyone on the team.

Drive accountability. Companies should focus on strategic measurements to track the impact of their inclusion practices. Senior leadership should discuss achievements and areas of improvement regularly with the team.

Promote a learning culture. More than 19,000 surveyed HBR readers indicated that having a learning-oriented culture was the single biggest differentiator between diverse and inclusive companies and those that were not. This was significant because as the study noted, “learning­-oriented cultures emphasize flexibility, open-mindedness, and exploration, and can equip organizations with the ability to adapt and innovate.”

The 6 C’s of inclusive leadership

The benefits of a diverse and inclusive company culture are clear, but what does it mean to be an inclusive leader? Deloitte identified 6 attributes required for inclusive leadership.

Commitment – Developing an inclusive work environment can be challenging and requires resources. Inclusive leaders are committed to the process and understand the importance of diversity from both a business standpoint and a personal value system.

Courage – Inclusive leaders are required to speak up and challenge the status quo, while also remaining humble and reviewing their own weaknesses. This vulnerability requires courage.

Cognizance – Speaking of owning weaknesses, inclusive leadership means taking a close look at unconscious bias. Leaders should be mindful of both personal and organizational bias, ensuring a positive work environment for everyone.

Curiosity – Leaders who have an open mind and a willingness to learn about other people’s experiences will be better suited to support an inclusive work culture. If a leader isn’t curious, they can’t change.

Cultural Intelligence – An understanding of various cultures is helpful, but it may be more important for inclusive leaders to recognize how their own culture impacts their worldview. This means paying close attention and avoiding cultural stereotypes.

Collaboration – Empowering individuals and diverse teams is essential for inclusive leadership. Individuals should feel comfortable sharing their diverse perspectives, which helps improve the perspective of the team as a whole.

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