Building inclusive organisational culture in the workplace

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In business today, it is not enough to hire people of different nationalities, races, genders and sexual orientations to be an inclusive workplace. An inclusive culture should be deeply rooted in the foundations of how business is conducted – allowing every employee to feel welcome, psychologically safe and free to be their unique and authentic self.

Today’s job seekers are looking to work for a company with a commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB), so it’s important (and not to mention beneficial) for businesses to prioritise inclusive organisational culture in their workplace.

What does it look like when a workplace embodies inclusivity in its company culture? And how can businesses strive for this?

In this article, we’ll tackle what it means to build an inclusive sense of belonging in the foundations of company culture. This guide aims to also differentiate diversity, equity, inclusivity and belonging, highlight the benefits of having an inclusive culture in business and suggest 3 strategies for creating a culture of inclusivity in your organisation.

What is organisational culture?

At Inkling, we define corporate culture as the beliefs, visions, communication processes, attitudes and behaviours that govern a work environment. If implemented correctly, positive company culture can influence employee retention, engagement and loyalty to an organisation.

Understanding diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging

It is a common misconception that diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging are synonyms for the same idea. Without an accurate understanding of the three and how they are different, businesses can’t implement them effectively. Here is how we define diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging at Inkling:

  • Diversity spans a range of dimensions – background, identity, experience and talents – with a focus on intersectionality.It reflects an organisational focus on advancing diverse talent into executive, management, technical and board roles.
  • Inclusion ensures that people feel psychologically safe at work and are supported and respected for the unique perspectives they bring. Reflects an organisational culture where people treat each other with mutual respect, and where bias, bullying, discrimination and micro-aggressions are actively tackled.
  • Equity recognises that each person comes from different circumstances, therefore access must be enabled to create an even playing ground for all employees. This requires fairness and transparency in promotion, pay, recruitment, and equal access to sponsorship opportunities, other resources and retention support. Organisations that embrace equity build representation targets into workforce plans and use analytical tools to build transparency.
  • Belonging means all team members experience being seen, known and valued by their colleagues so that they feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work. An outcome resulting from a commitment to support the well-being and contributions of diverse and other employees. Leaders and managers create connection and a sense of community with all employees and encourage them to contribute their unique talents fully.

Inkling Insight: Organisations that effectively manage DEIB promote positive communication between employees and leaders, boost employee engagement and reduce the risk of burnout among staff.

The value of diverse thinking in business

Businesses have a lot to gain from incorporating diversity in their workplace culture. Inclusivity is not only the right thing to do but it makes good business sense too.

A diverse range of people equates to a high-performing team with a wide range of ideas, solutions and techniques to problem solve – but that’s not all. Research by Deloitte shows businesses with inclusive behaviours are twice as likely to exceed financial targets, six times more likely to be innovative and eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes.

Inkling Insight: Businesses with inclusive workplace norms can benefit from high levels of productivity, engagement, innovation and a wide range of employees with unique ideas to make the best decisions.

Three strategies to build an inclusive workplace culture

Although many businesses are taking action and moving towards more inclusive and diverse workplaces, there is always room to reflect and improve. Here are 3 simple strategies that work cohesively together to promote inclusive company culture.

Build psychologically safe spaces for employees

Psychological safety is present when a team environment allows individuals to speak up and share their ideas without fear of rejection, shame or punishment. When employees feel safe to share their thoughts and opinions freely, there is room for open communication, feedback and the presence of new ideas that may have never come to light.

Creating psychological safety in the workplace is an ongoing and constantly evolving process that will change and grow with the team and its leaders. Maintaining psychological safety within your team will spark innovation, improve your team’s performance and create a sense of community and belonging.

Inkling Insight: Inclusion is made up of two things: uniqueness and belonging. Psychological safety is necessary for these two things to occur.

Leadership buy-in

Leaders and managers have an important role to play by leading by example and promoting a safe space for inclusivity and diverse thinking. Strong leaders have the skills and discretion to influence others and create a positive attitude towards inclusivity throughout the organisation.

The presence of a positive company culture with a team of strong senior leaders demonstrates a commitment to professional values, whilst supporting employees and allowing individuals to work with leaders of the organisation, rather than feeling like they are working for them.

Inkling Insight: Leadership involves placing the needs and expectations of others ahead of your own. Today’s world is shifting to having agile leaders who have the skills and strengths to meet individuals where they need to be met instead of expecting them to match their leadership style. Strong leaders focus on leading both inwards and outwards. Leading outwards ensures their team members are treated fairly, they feel empowered, and they can flourish. Leading inwards requires deep self-reflection and the ability to act courageously, change their behaviours where necessary and continuously learn.

 Create channels for two-way communication

To ensure the culture is continually underpinned by embracing diversity and respectful behaviours, a two-way line of communication must be open between leaders and all employees to promote a positive culture. Ensuring awareness and understanding of diverse views and strategic and operational issues through the eyes of others is a powerful way to lift leadership capability.

Open communication might look like improving transparency around company results and information. By opening up these communication channels, staff are more likely to get involved, create new solutions and have a clearer understanding of the set expectations and objectives of their organisation.

The goal of effective communication is to develop supportive and inclusive environments that listen to every team member, consider all thoughts and support the input of suggestions. This includes leaders issuing regular and effective feedback to employees and leaders also being receptive to and requesting feedback for themselves.

Inkling Insight: Through our DEIB learning experiences, we support our clients to leverage their younger employee’s insights and diversity of perspectives through the creation of shadow boards and building reverse mentoring capability, both of which build respect, empathy and understanding across organisational levels, promote two-way listening, and ensure that leadership teams are connected to the changing and future expectations of younger demographics. 

It pays to create a culture of inclusivity

The higher the level of cultural inclusion businesses can expect higher levels of well-being and engagement in their employees to follow, which is ultimately better for an organisation’s performance and profitability.

An inclusive workplace doesn’t just have a diversity of people present, it has a range of diverse and unique skills, strengths, and ideas that can elevate the business.

Inkling Insight: Businesses with inclusive workplace norms can benefit from high levels of productivity, engagement, innovation and a wide range of employees with unique ideas to make the best decisions.

Want to learn more? Ready to make a change in your workplace? Get in touch with the Inkling team if you would like to find out more about how our tailored DEIB learning experiences and advisory services support organisations to achieve greater innovation and creativity and become more diverse and inclusive businesses.

Resources to elevate diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging

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