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How To Create an Inclusive Workplace

When considering how to create an inclusive workplace it is important to first have a clear sense of where we currently are, and then have a well-articulated vision for where we want to be.

Some questions that we may wish to ask ourselves at the start of this blog are:

  • Who feels included in our organisation?

  • Who does not feel included in our organisation?

  • Why do people work here?

  • Do we know?


Steps for Creating an Inclusive Workplace

It is worth considering these two steps for creating an inclusive workplace and applying them to the points raised further on in this blog.


Find the Honest Truth

  • What is the honest truth about where we are currently?

  • How do we go about finding the honest truth?

  • What is the truth we will find most difficult to hear?

  • What have people held back from saying in this organisation?

  • How do I educate myself to understand diversity, equity, and inclusion?


Articulate and Drive a Vision for the Future

  • What actions naturally emerge from the honest truth we found?

  • What is the challenging work we need to do to be truly inclusive?

  • How do we ensure everyone feels safe through this process?

  • How do we know we are being successful?

  • What does it mean to be an ally and how do we demonstrate it?

  • How aligned are we as leaders in setting standards and role-modelling inclusive behaviours?

  • Where and how often do we articulate what inclusion looks like in our organisation?


Belonging

Maslow looked at belonging as part of his hierarchy of needs in 1943 and his ideas still hold true today. Belonging is a need that has to be met and as such we will seek out places where we belong and move away from places where we do not. to perform at work we without a doubt need to feel like we belong as the starting point of feeling included.


So, who feels like they belong in our organisation? Who feels like they belong in our senior team?

A key question is, “Do people belong because they conform to our organisational norms and culture, or are they able to bring their unique selves to work and still feel like they belong?”

A couple of examples illustrate this point; what people wear, hairstyles, opinions, ways of interacting, accents, motivations, or values and beliefs.

Is belonging in our organisation a superficial veneer of conformity, or it is a deep rich diversity of who we truly are?


The benefits of belonging at work are clear. This article by Harvard Business Review highlights that high belonging is shown to increase job performance by 56%, drop turnover risk by 50%, and reduce sick days by 75%.


To create an inclusive workplace, it is important to face hard truths about belonging and articulate a vision for belonging based on everyone bringing their unique selves to work.


Culture

In our organisations, we work hard to establish a good culture and that is important. Where workplace culture has clear values and behaviours that are respected and where standards are kept, people are more likely to feel happy, motivated, engaged, and safe.

Workplace brings together these definitions of workplace culture, "It is ‘the environment that surrounds us all the time.’... a ‘collection of attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that make up the regular atmosphere in a work environment.’... ‘the way we do things around here.’"


But it is possible for workplace culture to work against us. We need to ask if our workplace culture has a dominant culture and if so, does that potentially exclude people from other cultures?

An example would be a culture based on mainly white, privately educated males. How does this culture interact with people from working-class backgrounds, women, or people from different countries? What is the impact of the language, vocabulary, and insider terms that are used, and how this might impact people’s view of the world? The same would be true of organisations that are mainly made up of women or any one educational or social background.

This is not to say we change who we are, but it is important that everyone regardless of differences fits into our culture. We may need to consider using inclusive language and having the willingness to see the world differently, holding our views more lightly.

There is one aspect where there may be certain people who we do not wish to fit into our culture. We may have a value that people in our organisation are treated with respect and not harmed by others. Those who wish to dominate, have big egos, and do not care who they hurt in the wake of their ambition should not feel like they fit into our culture. Our culture should not be a one size fits all.

Nevertheless, as we seek to create an inclusive workplace it is important that we ask, “Who fits in here? Who feels like they do not fit in here? Do the people who fit in represent a particular dominant culture?”

Belonging and culture are interwoven which is why it is important to consider these together. When articulating our vision for our workplace culture, we need to say that this is not a place where a specific culture dominates, but a place where everyone can bring their own culture with them to establish shared values and behaviours.

Diversity and Identity

One of the challenges we may face in an inclusive organisation is the re-establishing of team and corporate identity. Our leaders must be well-skilled in this area so that a diverse team can be brought together to form an identity based on differences.

Where there is a monoculture team identity is easy to establish, in fact, it is self-creating. Where we seek to create an inclusive workplace, it can be significantly more difficult to form an identity, and this can lead to underperformance. An identity based on different and common purposes is important for an inclusive diverse team.

Another of our blogs, “Six things leaders need to know about diversity” expands on this theme.


Summary

As we have explored how to create an inclusive workplace, we have considered how we can take an honest view of where we are currently and how we can articulate and drive a vision for the future. We have explored belonging and culture as starting points for this journey as well as how we might form new team identities based on diversity rather than a monoculture.


Once people feel like they fit in and belong as their unique selves, inclusion then moves on to “who has a voice?” and “who is listened to?”

Contact Us Today

Book a free consultation by calling us today if you want to find out how our expert coaching services can support you to create an inclusive workplace.


Written by Leadership Coach Ian White.


Sources

“Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need” by Simply Psychology

“The Value of Belonging at Work,” by HBR

“Workplace culture” by Workplace

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