In today’s workplace, great leaders recognise that diversity is an asset and that people’s differences are a strength and not a weakness. Barriers based on gender, race, religion, sexuality, physical ability, and even the different ways we all process information and learn are being broken down.
But there’s a long way to go.
Both conscious and unconscious bias still exists, and the small choices we make every day add up to a big impact over the course of our working lives. There’s work for us all to do every single day to make sure that we’re building and maintaining an inclusive workplace.
The best leaders understand how promoting inclusion in the workplace is creating the leaders of tomorrow. An inclusive environment builds the confidence of people with great potential who may have otherwise been overlooked. It may not seem like much, but the small signals we send out each day have a significant, cumulative impact on how people view their value within your organisation.
As a leadership coach with nearly 20 years’ experience I’m all about encouraging leaders to take positive action to see results. So, when it comes to inclusion, here are some powerful, practical actions that you can take to create inclusion in your organisation.
- Ask your staff what they need, and listen. It’s ok that you don’t automatically know what people need, and it’s better not to assume. Honest and open conversations with people are the best, and simplest, way to promote inclusion. Surveys and emails have their place, but there’s no replacement for a face-to-face discussion with your staff.
- Understand that not everybody processes information in the same way. Some of your staff members may need time to absorb and reflect on information. Make meetings easier on them by sending out agendas that include key information and points for discussion. That way they can be prepared, and not feel overlooked or unheard.
- In meetings and training sessions, introduce a ‘no interruptions’ rule to encourage everyone to speak up without the fear of being talked over and dismissed. Make sure everyone has a chance to express their ideas and opinions.
- Show gratitude. Moving from a generalized ‘thanks’ to taking the time to acknowledge what a team member has done well, helps to build trust and appreciation and leads to a stronger, more engaged team.
- If you’re offering incentives for performance, consider how inclusive they are. Alcohol and food items may not be appropriate for everyone. Things like High Street gift vouchers, or even an early finish or an extra day of holiday are more likely to get everyone fired up and not leave anyone feeling left out.
- Consider implementing flexible working policies where you can. Studies have shown that this doesn’t just improve inclusion and staff engagement, it actually increases productivity. See: https://diverseminds.co.uk/lets-all-flex for some useful ideas.
- At the end of each day, consider the interactions you’ve had with your staff. Do the kinds of interactions vary at all by gender, race, or any other factor? If they do, consider how you can take steps this week to balance that out.
- Don’t just pay lip service to your organisational values and behavioural Take positive action to embody them. Most organisations have a value or competency relating to teamwork, so take time to get to know everyone on your team and what they enjoy. Don’t just focus on your direct reports, consider setting up regular meetings with their teams too.
As a leader, it’s your job to be the example. Make it your mission to set the standard in your department for being inclusive. You’ll be rewarded with a more engaged, more productive, and more successful team.
Andrea has nearly 20 years’ experience of supporting senior leaders in Europe, USA and Latin America. She spends her days encouraging senior leaders to take time out to focus on their leadership, and move away from the ‘just do it’ solution mentality, so they can be more effective leaders and flourish in their personal and professional life.
Leaders who feel overwhelmed by the never-ending challenges of working in organisations, have a diary full of meetings, and feel like they’re failing to connect with their teams, benefit from Andrea’s ‘10 Steps to Improved Performance’ which outlines the 10 leadership activities you should be doing to develop the focus, confidence and resilience to grow as a leader and achieve the results that matter to you. You can check it out here.
Let us know what you do in your workplace to create inclusive environments.