Culture University

How To Build An Inclusive Culture In Your Workplace

By Laura Hamill

When it comes to inclusion in the workplace, we can all agree it matters. But understanding inclusion is harder to master. Inclusion comes to life in many different shapes and forms depending on the people, leadership and culture of an organization. The truth is, making inclusion ‘real’ in your organization is easier said than done.

Building inclusive workplace cultures

What is inclusion?

Inclusion is a sense of belonging, connection and community at work. And inclusive organizations help people feel welcomed, known, valued — and encouraged to bring their whole, unique selves to work. In order to better understand diversity and inclusion efforts, organizations need to focus on the thousands of little moments each employee experiences that ultimately define a company’s culture. Think about the day-to-day interactions that managers have with employees and colleagues, the access they have to learning opportunities and training, and their ability have a voice and share diverse thoughts and opinions. Inclusion is not a top-down initiative lead only by leadership, but rather a grassroots effort that every employee needs to participate in.

inclusion, diversity, belonging

What is culture?

Culture can be defined as the collective values, norms and beliefs of your organization. It’s more than just the surface-level perks and policies like free snacks and “casual day,” it tells employees how to behave, how to do their jobs and how “things are done around here.” It impacts everything. But don’t get this mixed up with climate — what you see on the surface, how it feels to work there. 

Climate vs. Culture

How people experience inclusion and the traits of an inclusive workplace are the building blocks to creating an inclusive culture. And while it takes action from every level to build an inclusive culture, the results are worth it.

inclusive workplace culture

Sources: 1Bersin by Deloitte, 2017; and 2Harvard Business Review, 2017

It’s no secret that inclusive workplaces see better business results. And those with higher levels of inclusion also have higher levels of well-being and engagement, and lower rates of turnover. But how do you create that sought-after inclusive culture in your workplace? It starts with being intentional and proactive — what we at Limeade call being a culture architect.

“The truth is, making inclusion ‘real’ in your organization is easier said than done.”

From a single employee to your entire workforce, here’s three tips outlining what to do (and what not to do) to get started building the foundation of inclusion at both the individual and company level:

1. Manager support

What to do: Show your people you care by hosting regular check-ins between managers and employees. Encourage managers to set aside designated time for regular one-on-one meetings with employees. Let your people know that it’s their place to openly speak their mind about what matters most to them — whether that’s about their professional development, a current project or if they’re feeling overwhelmed and overworked — start a conversation to support their journey.

What not to do: Schedules can get packed easily, but don’t skip out on your one-on-one with an employee. That time is crucial to provide manager support and build trust over time. If you can’t make your meeting, reschedule it right away.

2. Having a voice

What to do: Provide regular, optional “town hall” meetings to discuss anything from business decisions, business updates, HR efforts or company wins. Not only will this open a space where employees can voice their thoughts or concerns, it shows your commitment to your people and their value to the company as a whole.

When employees feel like they “have a voice”, they’re more likely to share their opinions with others. Listen to employee feedback and show you’re taking action with ongoing commitment, encouragement and digging deeper into insights.

What not to do: Make sure to not single out departments or provide important company updates and details only to select departments or roles. Openness and transparency (some of the foundational aspects of inclusion) requires communication to the entire company, which will support your team to rally around a shared vision.

3.  A collaborative environment

What to do: Break down silos and promote organization-wide inclusion by promoting a collaborative environment. This includes a culture of behaviors and actions that inspire, model and align with your inclusive mission. Focus on developing cross-functional projects or meetings between teams or a random lunch partner program. This will allow your people to meet new coworkers and learn from one another, which ultimately will strengthen your cultural ecosystem. Limeade Institute research also reveals that peer-to-peer interactions are key to perceptions of inclusion at work.

What not to do: Don’t let the silo mentality be the demise of your company culture. Organizational silos separate your departments and keep certain employees away from one another, while diverse, unique, collaborative people ultimately strengthen company culture.

“Inclusion is not a top-down initiative lead only by leadership, but rather a grassroots effort that every employee needs to participate in.”

Ultimately, individuals need to be recognized for their uniqueness but also feel connected to something bigger. An inclusive culture has many layers and millions of moments that define it, but in order to make a real impact and display an ongoing commitment to your employees, start with the tips above to better understand the dynamics at work in your organization. It takes everyone working together to bring an inclusive culture to life.

 

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