Creating and nurturing a sense of inclusion and belonging in your workplace begins at the leadership level. From the top down, everyone needs to want to work with people of different nationalities, religions and ethnicities, as well as people with disability, Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander people, the LGBTQI+ community, and so on.
Your company’s executive team need to be committed to building an inclusive culture that celebrates difference and diversity. Given that inclusion affects every person in an organisation, it should be top priority for all business leaders.
Why does inclusion matter?
A recent report by Deloitte found that 80% of the 1,300 full-time employees surveyed said inclusion is a very important factor in choosing an employer. Almost three-quarters of employees said they would leave a workplace for a more inclusive one.
When applying for jobs, professionals want to find a workplace where they feel comfortable being themselves. People want to feel valued for who they are and have the confidence to share their opinions and interests with others. They also want to trust that their employer will look after their specific needs, whether that means having an office that’s wheelchair accessible, or hosting an LGBTQI+ pride week at work.
Organisations with inclusive cultures build the kind of environment where employees can share problems and ideas, make mistakes, innovate and drive change together. An inclusive culture brings significant value not only to individuals, but to the broader business. In fact, a recent report by recruitment firm FuturePeople found that diverse organisations have higher performance, better financial returns, and more productive teams.
So how can leaders create a culture of inclusion in the workplace?
First, encourage diverse thinking. Starting from the hiring process, it’s crucial to build a team of people who are willing to listen to the worldviews of others and to question their own assumptions and biases.
Yewande Ige, a global recruitment strategist, wrote an interesting article in Fast Company about this issue, explaining that the key to building an open-minded, highly inclusive workforce is to ask new recruits, ‘Are you willing to be wrong about your opinion of the world?’. People who respond affirmatively to this question are more likely to embrace difference and show genuine interest in the perspectives of others.
Openness and inclusiveness isn’t just a simple acknowledgement that alternative opinions exist. To truly build an inclusive culture, your people must be willing to learn, share ideas and perhaps even shift their thinking. Over time, diverse thinking translates into an inclusive culture.