What Does It Mean To Be Inclusive In The Workplace? 

What does inclusive mean to you personally and to your organisation? Are they the same, or should they differ? Why is inclusion important?

A good place to start is to answer whether your staff are given equal access to opportunities and resources at your workplace.  

As much as inclusion is about fairness, understanding and respect, it’s also about giving all of your employees the right to contribute to the success of your company – on their own terms. 

That’s the bit that makes a lot of people uncomfortable because we’re taught early on that fairness means equality. That what you get must be the same as what I get. 

But this isn’t fairness when it comes to inclusion. 

Fairness is tailored to me. And it’s tailored to you. And it makes no exceptions on the basis of race, ethnicity, or background. 

But why should you be inclusive at your workplace?  

Inclusive organisations are 45% more likely to increase their market share compared to those who’re not. Deloitte research shows that inclusive teams outperform their peers by 80% in team based assessments. And Catalyst research shows that companies with more women on their board outperform their competitors over time.  

But how does one know if a company is truly inclusive?  

It’s not an exact science – when is anything when it comes to human nature? So in this article, I’ve outlined some ways of working that point to a more inclusive workplace.

Let’s jump in. 

Being inclusive looks like employees being greeted hello 

It might sound very rudimentary, but a simple way of knowing whether an organisation is being inclusive is if everyone at the company receives a greeting properly.  

A simple “hello” or “good morning” shows that you value each employee’s presence in your company. Make sure you greet each and every one of your employees when they come into work. It makes us all feel acknowledged and respected.  

Ensure you include diverse employees in all necessary trainings 

Your employees must feel empowered to do their job with the necessary skills and knowledge required for it.  

An inclusive workplace won’t differentiate between employees and will offer training to all of their employees to perform their jobs at their level.  

For instance if you’re an accounting firm, and you have a specific training for new accountants you’ve just hired, you must ensure that all new accountants get access to the training.  

If you find that only a select few are able to access the training, you must investigate why that’s happening. Any biases must be addressed in a timely manner, including any unconscious biases.  

An inclusive workplace considers all employees’ opinions in decision making 

When making important decisions that shape the future of your organisation, being inclusive of everyone means that you give equal weightage to your employees opinions, irrespective of their background, culture or race. 

For example, you could be deciding the annual leave policy of your company. An inclusive organisation might allow for employees to take holidays on important cultural days. Like you may permit the Christians in your company to take leave during Christmas, while also permitting the Hindus in your company to take leave during Diwali.  

This would show everyone that you value every person’s culture while deciding when employees can or cannot take leave.  

Inclusive behaviour respects cultural differences 

Let’s say you’re organising an annual dinner event for all of your staff. Do you pay heed to each employee’s dietary requirements?  

Different cultures have different dietary needs, and some of your employees, belonging to different cultures, may either be vegetarian, vegan or have specific non-vegetarian needs.  

It’s important you pay attention to the different cultural aspects of your workforce while organising events like these. Similarly, some cultures may have a certain dress code. For example, Sikhs wear turbans around their heads as it’s part of their religion. Some Muslims wear a scarf on their faces. These are all examples of cultural differences you need to respect, acknowledge and allow freely at the workplace, without any judgment.  

Ensure you encourage employees to share their difference 

Innovation at your organisation will thrive when you’re demonstrating that you are valuing diversity.

You need to encourage people to bring their unique difference to work, and even flaunt it. Don’t try to change them to ‘fit into’ your culture, but tell them to be their original selves at work. 

To encourage people to bring their unique difference, ask them questions about their tastes and preferences, their choices, and their aspirations. Considering doing this on a social, professional and cultural level.  

For instance, ask your multi-cultural employees how they’d go about solving a specific business problem in their country of origin. Dig deeper into their approach. Then think about it and see if what they share adds any value to your own business.  

Vulnerability is appreciated always appreciated

A truly inclusive workplace will allow employees to share their deepest fears, concerns and aspirations, freely and openly.  

When such types of honest interactions occur, it forges deeper bonds across the company. More importantly, it builds the trust that vulnerability will be supported, and addressed, and not exploited.  

For instance, an employee may have the aspiration to work in a different department within your organisation. This can be supported with the help of a transition plan, not shunned or suppressed so the employee is forced to stay in their current position forever.  

Your organisational leaders encourage employees to provide feedback 

Feedback is a two way street, and while providing feedback to your employees will make them feel acknowledged, you must also seek their feedback. 

Running an organisation is, and always has been, a team sport. As an inclusive leader, the more insights you can gather from your diverse employees who have on the ground, customer facing experience, the more likely you are to meet customer needs successfully.  

Make sure you’re always keeping the lines of communication open with all of your employees, so giving and receiving feedback flows effortlessly.  

Wrapping it up: What does inclusive mean to your organisation? 

Being inclusive at your workplace requires you to adopt some of the above practices.  

When done regularly and consistently you’ll see the impact on the bottom line. 

Embed them in your organisational environment so you’re providing equal opportunity to all of your employees, and building a truly diverse and inclusive company culture.  

Interested in learning more about how to be an inclusive leader?

Preview the first two chapters of my Amazon Best Seller book: The 6 Habits of Being an Inclusive Leader here.

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