Inclusiveness in the Workplace and What Actually Works

They say that the biggest room in the world is the room for improvement. As leaders, continuous improvement comes with the territory and is a muscle to be worked on each and every day. Here are five things that leaders can do to make their workplace more inclusive and, in doing so, improve employee diversity.

  • 1. Widen your definition of diversity

Many view diversity as focused mainly on gender or race — but diversity means much more than that. Age, sexual orientation, disability, background, and experience make up the rich tapestry of a diverse group. Not to mention, an intersectional approach that looks at how many of these characteristics might overlap is key to a big-picture approach to diversity. Widening your definition of diversity can help reframe how you view external talent during recruitment, where you might look for said talent, through to how you consider your company’s culture.

  • 2. Be willing to listen to your people

Engage with your employees — after all, they’re the greatest litmus test to how your diversity progress is tracking. Ask them if they think the organisation has an inclusive culture and share any insights they might have to better it. You might want to consider gathering information through focus groups and anonymous surveys, or perhaps a round table discussion. Both statistical data and anecdotal insights can be key to getting a qualitative and quantitative snapshot of their thoughts around your organisation’s diversity. The key here is to be prepared for a continuous conversation: acting on their feedback, engaging them consistently throughout the process.

  • 3. It starts at the very top

Like any culture change sought by a company or organisation, it has to be led from the top. If a company seeks to instill a safety culture, the most senior leader needs to demonstrate ownership of that change and set the tone for the rest of the organisation. To create a diverse, inclusive culture, the Board and Senior Leadership Team should reflect that culture. Their actions, behaviours, overarching organisational goals and strategy will all reflect this.

  • 4. Target at-risk groups

Groups within organisations such as women earning between $70,000 and $100,000 and millennials had the lowest inclusion scores in a recent New Zealand survey by Global Women and Deloitte. Organisations can ensure that initiatives such as flexible working, mentoring and coaching help keep women in the pipeline. Autonomous working and leaving loudly policies for all employees may be ideal in retaining employees with domestic care duties to dilute a working culture rife with presenteeism. Millennials, on the other hand, look for more learning opportunities, and new and shared experiences such as team working and the option to work in different parts of a business. They also want to be heard – giving millennials a voice through a forum can also provide leaders with a pulse check.

  • 5. Communicate the why

Identify your organisation’s reason for focusing on diversity and inclusiveness. Spell it out and repeat that message many times in different forums and channels. Not everyone in your organisation can articulate why inclusiveness is important and beneficial to them, their colleagues and the organisation. Use internal communications to align diversity and inclusiveness strategies with organisational objectives, strategies, processes and operating culture.


(This article is a re-share from Global Women archives.)