What is Social Inclusion in the Workplace

August 22, 2022 | Maureen Frank

When we consider “what is social inclusion”, especially in the workplace, we look at it from two lenses: being inclusive and being social. 

Being social at work doesn’t always come naturally to some generations – especially if you’re of the mind where you stick to business topics at work and keep your personal lives for home. 

The shift from one to the other can take a bit of getting used to, which is understandable because it’s essentially adjusting your ingrained behaviour in an attempt to become more socially inclusive.  And as we know, change can be a big step for some.

So, what is social inclusion?

It’s when you demonstrate an inclusive attitude towards your colleagues and employees, socially. It’s when you make people feel like they’re a part of all social conversations, whether they’re work, or non-work related. 

In a recent report undertaken by Inclusive Australia, they found that:

“While Australians are generally satisfied with practices for diversity and equality in their workplaces, some aspects of inclusion could be improved and for particular industries. Only half of respondents strongly believed that their work fitted the definition of a socially inclusive workplace in which people are treated equally.”

So, it seems that there is some work to be done to increase socially inclusive workplaces.

A short word on the impact of Covid-19 on being socially inclusive 

The world is changing, dramatically, and of course the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted how we demonstrate inclusive behaviours. 

Even more so, when it comes to understanding what social inclusion looks like in the workplace! We’re not always face-to-face with our colleagues anymore, so what is social inclusion post-pandemic?

The conversations may still be happening, but they’re happening over different mediums – instant chat, email, zoom meetings, comments in working documents. These informal conversations play a big role in understanding what social inclusion looks like. 

So, during pre-Covid days, you could be talking about a game of footy with some colleagues standing around your corner office desk.

But if you’re only discussing footy with your Australian colleagues, and not your Asian colleagues, you may not be socially inclusive. 

On the other hand, if you talk about footy with everyone at the office, and talk about it as your passion, and let people talk openly about their passions, then you’re being inclusive.  

There should always be a fair exchange of ideas at the workplace!  

While Covid-19 has clearly impacted on our ability to be socially inclusive in the face-to-face context, the basics still apply. 

How social inclusion shapes your workplace culture 

With some workplaces encouraging their employees to return to the office, and the pre-Covid ways of working making a come back, let’s look at all the ways being socially inclusive can shape your workplace: 

Your events will be multicultural  

When you’re socially inclusive, your organisation’s event calendar will look very different to a generic one. You’ll not just celebrate Christmas, you’ll also celebrate Eid, and Diwali.  

The type of events you organise will be very inclusive of the diverse cultures represented within your organisation, which will add a hint of dynamism to the events!  

What’s even better?  

Hosting your events in different languages, or you may hire translators so everyone can understand the cultural nuances that are part of the events you organise. Have you ever considered having an Auslan interpreter at one of your events? Maybe none of your employees are hearing impaired, but are any of their children? Are any of your employees learning or honing this communication skill? 

How do you know? 

Your employees will be more exposed, and open minded  

When you’re socially inclusive, you learn each other’s social graces.  

As a result, everyone learns to socialise with each other and become more open minded to different attitudes, ways of thinking, and ways of being. The more exposed your employees are, the more value they can add to each other’s lives, and the less friction there will be between them.  

Your employees, will learn to work as one cohesive unit through their exposure and open-mindedness, which can help your organisation grow.  

Your workplace will be more innovative  

Innovation happens in informal and relaxed settings. We can’t just shout “Be innovative!” from the rooftops and expect our people to just throw out the new, amazing, never-thought-of-before ideas. 

Formal and rigid settings restrict innovation. Consider when your people have expressed themselves in an uninhibited manner? There’s always elements of trust and mutual respect taking place as well. By all means build these into your workplace environment, but also remember they can occur socially and spontaneously as well. 

By encouraging social inclusion, you’re basically bringing together different ways of thinking. And it’s this amalgamation of differences which sparks creative ideas in the workplace. Therefore, by being socially inclusive, increases those creative, innovative conversations, often resulting in diverse solutions.  

Your employees will start feeling like they’re one big family  

Being a family, or feeling like you’re part of a family is all about inclusiveness.  

The more socially inclusive your employees are, the more everyone will feel like they can share their innermost secrets, their hopes, desires, goals and ambitions with each other.  

That’s exactly what a family does, isn’t it? By enabling each other to talk honestly, your workplace will become like a family. This, in turn, fosters a greater sense of belonging, thereby also building psychological safety.

You’ll minimise instances of exclusion  

Exclusion is the opposite of inclusion.  Seems obvious, but sometimes we need to be explicit when we define inclusive behaviours.

When you exclude someone from being a part of an event, or a conversation, you’re demonstrating a bias in some way. This could be based on race, ethnicity, gender, age, ability, and the list continues.  

Through social inclusion though, you’ll make your workplace culture more fun, more interactive, and less exclusive. You’ll minimise the chances of any discrimination happening, making your organisation truly diverse and friendly to all.  

You’ll attract top talent into the workplace  

Believe it or not, everyone is curious about each other, especially if they’re different. 

If outsiders notice that your organisation allows an open interaction between all races, and they get along well, you’ll end up attracting employees from different cultures, races and backgrounds to work for you.  

The wider the pool of talent you attract, the more talented your workforce will be!  

Your employees might learn or transfer skills 

By being socially inclusive, your employees might become far more interested in each other’s cultures. An Asian employee might become curious about a Spanish colleague’s culture and language, and vice versa.  

And this curiosity in each other’s culture and language may lead them to learn an additional language, to travel, and explore their social and cultural boundaries. 

When cultures connect, so too do opportunities for knowledge and skill transfers, especially if employees from different departments are encouraged to socialise. 

Be inclusive of all, socially and professionally 

An inclusive organisation values the uniqueness of their employees and encourages everyone to bring their true selves to work.

The need to manage diversity arises when there are boundaries that restrict people from forming deeper connections at work. By being socially inclusive, you’ll just naturally function as a cohesive, well rounded, culturally oiled organisation!  

You’ll be surprised at how your workplace culture can be shaped when social inclusion is encouraged. Lead your organisation down the path of progress, simply by being friendly and open minded with everyone!  

Ready to learn more about inclusion and to help your leaders feel more empowered in the space? Take this 3 minute questionnaire to determine if our programs are a good fit for your organisation’s DEI goals. 

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