According to a survey by Deloitte, 80% of 3000 full-time employees stated that inclusion is important when choosing an employer, and 39% said they would leave their current employer for a more inclusive situation elsewhere. For millennials, who will make up 75% of the working population in the next few years, more than half would leave their employer for a workplace with better inclusion.
Given the competitive recruiting landscape, those stats answer the question: why is inclusion important for my business? But first, one should ask what is inclusion in the workplace – even if we think we know the answer.
We hear and use the words diversity and inclusion all the time. It’s hard to even find discussion of inclusion without the diversity half of the equation. The two concepts have been a staple of corporate mission statements in recent years and are often treated as the same thing.
It’s easy to equate a diverse workforce with inclusion in the workplace. Some people think inviting a diverse selection of people to participate in a focus group is inclusion. Box checked! But, while the effort is commendable, it doesn’t address inclusion. For example, if you invite a deaf person or one who is hard of hearing to a meeting and don’t provide what they need to participate, that is the opposite of inclusion.
Businesses will often work hard to get their diversity quotient correct yet forget to ensure inclusion. The former is pointless without the latter.
So if inclusion isn’t just about including people of varied backgrounds and experiences, what does inclusion mean? Inclusion is something that happens when people feel welcome to participate and have equal access to opportunities. Inclusion happens when people feel valued, respected, and supported.
According to Built In, an online community for startups and tech companies, inclusion is the practice of providing everyone with equal access to opportunities and resources. Workplace efforts help give traditionally marginalised groups, like those based on gender, race, or even those with physical or mental disabilities, a means to feel equal in the workplace.
In short, inclusion assures a business can benefit from a diverse workforce by ensuring everyone has access to the same opportunities, like sharing an innovative idea with leadership or being considered equally for a promotion. How can this be achieved? Harvard Business Review (HBR) recommends the below strategies for creating a more inclusive workplace.
Five strategies to achieve inclusion at work
Start by addressing diversity. Diversity isn’t just about the people you hire; it’s also about the people who lead your business. They should represent the marketplace – your customers. HBR states their research shows that “When workplace teams reflect their target customers, the entire team is more than twice as likely to innovate effectively for their end-user.”
Be prepared to recognise bias. Create a leadership program that trains high-potential employees and teaches managers how to recognise their own biases, which impacts their thinking when deciding who is recognised as having potential.
Practice inclusive leadership. Create a safe team environment that allows everyone to be heard and feel welcome. Embrace the input of employees from different backgrounds and experiences and foster collaboration between people of diverse backgrounds.
Create sponsorship programs. Advancing groups that often get left behind, like women and people of color, has been accomplished by pairing them with sponsors who help individuals learn the corporate ropes over time. HBR research shows that having a mentor isn’t enough. A sponsor who acts as an advocate makes all the difference.
Hold leaders accountable. Inclusion must be a core value of the organisation, not a task. HBR recommends tracking and reporting on diversity and inclusion goals and tying leadership bonuses to success metrics.
While assuring a commitment to inclusion from leadership is crucial, there must also be buy-in down the chain of command. Inclusion must be everyone’s priority.
Findings from research done by Catalyst, a global NGO devoted to equity in the workplace, show that a manager’s behavior directly links to an employee’s experience of inclusion at work. Their study showed 45% of an employee’s experience of inclusion could be attributed to their manager’s inclusive leadership behaviors.
As a leader, do you feel ready to tackle inclusion and ensure your managers are doing the right things to create a workplace that can take full advantage of the benefits afforded by a diverse workforce?
Engagement Multiplier’s new On-Demand survey assessing diversity, equity, and inclusion is designed to help leaders understand how employees perceive the company from each of these three perspectives, as well as overarching themes of awareness and commitment. The inclusion survey questions also allow for feedback on how the business can improve on these issues.
The good news is, if you’re reading this article, you’ve already made strides toward a more inclusive workplace by having the desire to ensure inclusion and by informing yourself about it.