A diverse and inclusive workplace is one where all employees feel safe, respected, valued, appreciated, and empowered. In today's world, an inclusive workplace is essential for business success because inclusion improves team performance, productivity, and innovation through connection and a sense of belonging. How can leaders create and foster inclusion in the workplace for better employee satisfaction and business success?
We recently asked our leading executives how they foster an inclusive workplace.
Here are their responses...
Ana Smith, Leadership Development & Learning Strategist
As a leader, creating and fostering an inclusive workplace is crucial for ensuring a diverse and harmonious work environment where every employee feels valued and respected and has equal opportunities to succeed. This is a framework that I have used to promote inclusivity in the organizations/teams that I've led, and had been part of:
- Set the tone from the top: As a leader, it's essential to actively champion and communicate the importance of diversity and inclusion within the organization. Make it clear that inclusivity is a core value and not just a buzzword.
- Develop and implement inclusive policies and practices: Review and revise existing policies and practices to ensure they promote diversity and inclusion. This may include policies related to recruitment, hiring, promotion, compensation, and employee development. Strive for fairness and transparency in these processes.
- Diversify your workforce: Actively seek out diverse talent by implementing inclusive recruitment strategies. This may involve partnering with organizations that focus on underrepresented groups, using diverse job boards, or adopting blind recruitment practices to reduce unconscious bias. Additionally, create an inclusive environment for people with disabilities by making your physical workspace accessible.
- Provide diversity and inclusion training: Offer training programs to all employees to raise awareness about unconscious bias, cultural competency, and inclusive practices. This can help foster empathy, understanding, and respect among team members.
- Encourage open communication and feedback: Create channels for employees to provide feedback, share ideas, and raise concerns about diversity and inclusion. Establish an environment where individuals feel safe and comfortable speaking up, knowing their voices will be heard and valued. Act on the feedback received to address issues promptly.
- Foster diversity and inclusion through employee resource groups (ERGs): Encourage the formation of ERGs where employees can connect, support, and advocate for underrepresented groups. These groups can provide valuable insights and recommendations to leadership while offering a sense of belonging to their members.
- Provide mentoring and sponsorship programs: Implement mentoring and sponsorship initiatives that pair employees from underrepresented groups with more senior employees who can provide guidance, support, and advocacy. This can help foster career development and create opportunities for advancement.
- Emphasize inclusive leadership: Train and develop managers to become inclusive leaders who promote diversity, actively listen to their team members, value different perspectives, and create a psychologically safe environment where everyone feels included and empowered.
- Regularly measure progress and adapt: Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) related to diversity and inclusion, such as representation in leadership positions or employee satisfaction scores. Regularly track and evaluate progress against these metrics, making adjustments to your strategies as needed.
Remember, creating an inclusive workplace is an ongoing process that requires continuous effort, education, and commitment from leadership. By following this framework and making diversity and inclusion a priority, you can foster an environment where all employees feel valued, empowered, and able to reach their full potential.
Ana Smith helps people & organizations achieve their full talent potential by developing and co-creating people strategies and customized solutions, and turning them into impactful outcomes and collaborative relationships, using coaching as the "red thread."
Kirsten Yurich, Executive Coach & Vistage Chair
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"Who and what is most important to you as a leader? Why does an 'inclusive workplace' matter to you? How would you know if you had one? Where do you feel included (where do you not feel included), personally?"
These are the questions I would ask any leader who wishes to have a more inclusive workplace. Words are labels. We must dive under the label and describe what we want, what we don't want, and what we would see and hear (maybe even FEEL) under each condition.
This reflective work is a prerequisite to implementing any program—especially an inclusion program. The steps of a program are less important than the WHY and the motivation for undertaking the effort. For instance, a CEO who begrudgingly carries out an inclusion plan to appease her board of directors will have vastly different outcomes than a small-business owner who invites employees into his office on a routine basis and solicits feedback about their experience as an employee.
Leaders make the weather. What weather do you create at work for those around you?
Kirsten Yurich is a former CEO and current Vistage Chair. As a clinician, professor, author, and executive, she leverages this unique blend and creates learning environments for executives to become better leaders, spouses, and parents.
Michael Willis, Sports Business Operations Executive
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What does inclusion in the workplace mean?
Inclusion in the workplace means ensuring every employee—from vast backgrounds and demographics—feels a sense of belonging and appreciation.
People of all different races, ethnicities, genders, and sexual orientations can work together.
An inclusive workplace makes space for the people who make up the workforce to celebrate who they are without ridicule or judgment.
Working at the NFL, particularly in New York City, I have been exposed to a wide range of diversity in the workplace. There are many races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations in the office, and the NFL does a great job of embracing groups of all kinds.
The NFL embraces heritage months and recognizes food cultures in the cafeteria. The league allows time off for employees to celebrate religious holidays and events.
We have a long way to go when it comes to this topic. But we can:
- Be Transparent – It’s tough to admit to their shortcomings regarding who should be included.
- Open Opportunity – Create a space where more than one person decides on promotions or opportunities for career training for advancement.
- Be More Empathetic – Everyone does not come from the same background and experiences as others. We should develop listening skills to understand what an employee has been exposed to.
- Communicate Regularly – Employees feel included when they feel heard. As part of your inclusion initiatives, encourage your team members to talk and engage with one another.
- Form a Diversity and Inclusion Team – Dedicate a special team that is made up of members who look like the organization. The team dedicates its time and effort to making workplace relations better. To stay accountable, this organization reports to members of the C-suite. This will bring priority and credibility to the company’s commitment to inclusion.
- Give People a Voice – Lastly, allow everyone to feel valued and part of something great. This will make a better employee.
Michael Willis has 18+ years of experience working with accounting & sports organizations and has managed P&Ls of $10M - $125M+ with budgets of $3M-$50M+. He worked for the NFL for 22 1/2 years, mainly with the game officials working on the financial/accounting side of the business.
Lisa Perry, Global Marketing Executive
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In today’s diverse and interconnected world, creating an inclusive workplace is the right thing to do and a strategic imperative for organizations. As a leader, you can shape the culture and dynamics of your immediate work environment. Promoting inclusivity can create a space where every team member feels valued, respected, and empowered. Here are various things I do to foster an inclusive workplace within my marketing department:
- Embrace Diversity: To foster an inclusive workplace, recognizing and valuing your department’s diversity is essential. Embrace the unique skills, experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds each team member brings. Celebrate differences and create a culture that appreciates the value of diversity in achieving team goals.
- Promote Open Communication: Effective communication is the core of building an inclusive workplace. Establish an open communication environment that draws upon each member’s strengths, creating a sense of belonging and inclusivity. Encourage team members to freely express their ideas, concerns, and perspectives without fear of judgment or reprisal. Actively listen to others and ensure that all voices are heard and respected.
- Lead by Example: Leaders play a pivotal role in fostering an inclusive workplace. Model inclusive behavior, demonstrate empathy, and actively engage with diverse employees. Foster a culture where individuals feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work. Your actions will inspire others to follow suit, fostering a culture of inclusivity and creating a positive ripple effect throughout the organization.
- Foster Collaboration Across Teams: Encourage collaboration and knowledge-sharing across different teams within your department. Break down silos and promote cross-functional teamwork. This allows team members to interact with colleagues from diverse backgrounds and expertise, fostering a culture of inclusivity and collaboration. Encourage team members to reach out and seek diverse perspectives to enrich the problem-solving and decision-making process.
Fostering an inclusive workplace within your department requires conscious effort and dedication. Remember, building an inclusive workplace is a continuous journey that requires ongoing commitment and active participation from all team members.
Lisa Perry helps companies build leadership brands, driving loyal customers & delivering profitability. She does this through a process that builds brands consumers love. Her goal is to help companies develop, monetize, and grow their brands.
How do you foster inclusion in the workplace? Join the conversation inside Work It Daily's Executive Program.