How Leaders can Show Inclusivity in the Workplace 

September 5, 2022 | Maureen Frank

Talking about inclusivity in the workplace and then going about and practising being inclusive are two different things.  

A lot of leaders understand the HOW of inclusivity in the workplace, but when it comes down to the actual DOING side of things, they flounder, not always sure of the ‘best’ way to be inclusive. 

And it’s only when leaders know how to be inclusive in their EVERY day that the organisation can start to benefit from their actions. 

So, what are some ways in which you and/or your leaders can demonstrate inclusivity in the workplace? 

Here are nine: 

Connecting with people who are not the same as you 

If you try to connect with those who aren’t the same as you, that’s a sign of practising inclusiveness. This could be through meeting them for lunch, or a coffee, or simply greeting them personally at work. 

These human connections are important and when developed in an inclusive way, everyone feels like they belong and that they have a “place at the table”. 

When I feel connected to you, I feel more secure and I am likely to raise issues with you rather than ignore them, which could lead to psychological and physical safety issues. 

Considering everyone’s viewpoints 

As a leader who needs to arrive at a decision on a critically important matter that impacts the whole team – how inclusive are you in making that decision? 

If you take everyone’s points of view into consideration, then you are showing inclusivity in the workplace. And in doing so, you’re also a leader who’s actively listens, without any biases or filters.  

Paying attention to individual cultural needs when planning activities 

If you’re planning to organise an event that requires catering, paying attention to individual cultural needs is a way of showing inclusiveness.  

For example, you might have vegetarians on your team that need vegetarian meals, or you might have Muslim colleagues who won’t eat non-halal meat. You need to ensure you take all these needs into consideration to ensure everyone feels like their unique needs have been met. 

Reversing your approach to mentoring 

Reverse mentoring is when a senior leader or a senior employee seeks to be mentored by a younger, more diverse employee.  

This style of mentoring shows that the leaders in your organisation have the humility to accept that they don’t know everything, and that they’re willing to learn from diverse employees. 

Making others feel psychologically safe 

Psychological safety is a key outcome of an inclusive culture. Inclusive leadership creates high performing teams through increasing psychological safety. 

Creating psychological safety requires us to do the one thing many of us have been taught to avoid at all costs: being comfortable with being wrong. 

When we challenge ourselves and our colleagues respectfully, and honestly, we create an environment where it is okay for me to fail, and it’s equally okay for me to point out when others are wrong. 

However, building up the psychological safety of those around can take a lot of time – because it’s about cultivating trust in others and our organisation. But when we make a conscious decision to focus on the psychological safety of others, we also increase the impacts of inclusivity in the workplace.  

Being familiar with our unconscious bias 

Most leaders may not realise it, but being exclusive happens at a deeper, subconscious level, which means it may not be obvious how we react to, think about and act in every situation. 

In this way we may unintentionally exclude others. 

The most uncomfortable thing about unconscious biases is this: we are all biased in some way. It’s human nature. The best way forward is to become aware of our biases and work consciously to prevent them from influencing inclusivity in the workplace. 

When we make decisions about minority groups that affect their levels of inclusiveness then we are letting our unconscious bias run the show. 

By becoming familiar with – and then questioning – our unconscious biases, we are taking a step towards becoming more inclusive of difference. 

Forming Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) 

ERGs can foster inclusiveness, diversity, and equality within a workplace. An ERG is a group formed by people of a common identity. They’re also called ‘affinity groups’ or ‘diversity groups’.   

For example, you might have a group of people who unite because they are of the same colour or race, or religion.   

When organisations support and encourage ERGs, their employees are afforded the opportunity to bring their whole selves to work to connect with others who are like them. 

This in turn fosters a sense belonging and as we know this makes a big impact on how included employees feel and can grow a diverse and positive workplace culture.   

Creating a sense of belonging 

The strength of our sense of belonging to our organisation determines how much we give of ourselves to our work. 

Consider a family unit – it is comprised of people who care for each other and who will go the extra mile to support, look out for, and champion one another. They pick up the slack when it needs to be done knowing that the other people will do the same for them. They work together in harmony and support each other’s wins, big or small.  

In this way, each of the people feel like they belong to the family unit. 

If we can support our people in similar ways when they come to work, then their sense of belonging to the organisation will increase as well. Couple this with other ways of showing inclusivity in the workplace, and your people will be far more engaged in helping the team be successful for the organisation. 

Thus, creating and impact on the bottom-line. 

Improving the approach to recruitment 

Your organisation’s hiring strategy must demonstrate a commitment to diversity and inclusion, and this can be shown in a myriad of external ways. 

From content branding through to images on your organisation’s websites and the ways in which you communicate on social media, external talent will know if you’re an organisation committed to D&I. 

However, to challenge the status quo even further, workplaces that want to live and breathe inclusion, improve their recruitment approaches. 

This could by removing dimensions of diversity on CVs delivered to the panel in a way to level the playing field. Or it could be by running recruitment drives that in their very design target diverse employees only. 

When we challenge the way things have always been done around recruiting staff, organisations effectively demonstrate inclusivity in the workplace. 

Our differences are our strengths 

Every organisation demonstrates inclusivity differently. And this can be their strength. 

However, it’s important you sit down with senior leadership and the HR team to define clearly what inclusivity in the workplace looks like for your organisation, and how you’re planning to show it. 

These critical discussions set the stage for the future of your organisation. 

If you’re ready to elevate your workplace inclusion, take this 3 minute questionnaire to determine if our inclusion solutions are a good fit for your organisational goals. 

Elevate your workplace inclusivity – take this questionnaire

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