Tips for creating an inclusive culture

What do we mean when we talk about inclusion in the workplace?

Written by Catriona MacLeod
Published 12 October 2020
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Tips for creating an inclusive culture
In essence, it’s about ensuring that each and every employee feels involved, supported and respected. An inclusive workplace is an environment where everyone can flourish and grow, where better decisions are made, which better understands its customers, and which appeals to and attracts the best talent.

Here we take a look at some of the simple things we can all do to help create a more inclusive culture at work.

Breaking down the barriers


Being inclusive means avoiding making any assumptions about colleagues which can lead to pigeonholing and stereotyping. Instead, it’s about taking the time to consider the whole person, their interests, talents, motivations and feelings – what makes them uniquely them. 

For managers and leaders, it may also mean challenging the perception that diversity and inclusion are compliance issues, and encouraging consistent support and role modelling from the top down.


Mind your micro-behaviors


Micro-behaviors are small, often barely noticeable, actions or sayings which can be unconscious. They can be positive or negative, leading to feelings of inclusion or exclusion.

Micro-behaviors can be as seemingly inconsequential as glancing at your watch in a meeting, forgetting someone’s name when you introduce them, or interrupting or talking over someone. If these behaviors are negative and built up over time, they can leave people feeling undervalued, demotivated or completely left out.

Try to pay close attention to the language (including body language) you use with your colleagues, and how you might adapt it towards different individuals. Actively seek feedback to help build your self-awareness, and be prepared to offer constructive feedback to others if you feel these behaviors could be adversely affecting a member of your team.

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Questions to ask yourself


While senior leadership clearly has a role to play in fostering and promoting an inclusive culture by linking business strategy to organizational values, employees at all levels can make a real difference too. Here are just a few questions to ask yourself:
  • What assumptions do I make about my direct reports or colleagues? Try to be really honest with yourself. For negative assumptions, ask yourself, on what basis these are founded? What might you do to challenge these assumptions?
  • In team meetings, do I expect or encourage contributions from the same people each time? How can I ensure that everyone in meetings (including quieter employees) has a voice? What impact is this approach likely to have?
  • When I schedule meetings or social events, do I take into account all colleagues, including those who work flexibly or have parental or carer responsibilities?


Three easy things you can do right now


Here are three simple things that you can do right now, to be more inclusive in work and life:
  1. Ask a colleague you don’t know particularly well to have a virtual coffee. Maybe it’s someone who is a completely different age or background to you. Make an effort to get to know each other, and you’ll be surprised how easy it is to quickly find some common ground.
  2. Have an online team catch-up to get to know each other better. You might ask everyone to match some little known facts to the right colleague. This can be a fun way to get to know the less serious side of your co-workers, and any hidden talents or interesting stories about them. Even if you’ve worked together for a while, be prepared to be surprised!
  3. Join a new network, interest group or class in or away from work. This could be around a common interest, from charity work to a book club. The main thing is, it puts you in touch with people in your organization – or beyond –  who you might not otherwise meet. Working and learning with a range of different people exposes you to a breadth and depth of perspectives, with all the benefits that can bring.
 

[1] Vivian Maza, 'How to Create a More Inclusive Culture at Work'. Available at: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/296635 (accessed 5 September 2017).
 

About the author

Catriona MacLeod

Catriona MacLeod

Editorial Manager
Catriona has over 19 years of experience in editorial management. She works with clients across a wide range of sectors to deliver relevant and practical resources to meet the learning needs of leaders and managers. Catriona loves the variety of her role, from writing and editing content to conducting video interviews with industry experts.

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