Article written by Susan Hilliar, Head of International Communications at Cornerstone OnDemand
In 2022, the importance of building a workplace culture that is both diverse and inclusive is paramount. All employees should feel that they belong within their organisations, without any limitations based on who they are.
Interestingly, there is also a correlation between inclusive workplaces and organisational performance. A report from Deloitte found that organisations with inclusive cultures were six times more likely to be innovative and agile, and eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes. The same report found that "an increase in individuals' feelings of inclusion translates into an increase in perceived team performance”.
Of course, no organisation should be driven purely by the promise of improved business performance. Even if inclusivity had no perceptible business impact, it should still be a top priority for organisations who value their people – it’s a human-centred issue with employee wellbeing at its heart. However, work still clearly needs to be done in this area.
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A 2018 survey of LGBT+ employees from the CIPD found that 23% had experienced a negative or mixed reaction from others in the workplace due to being LGBT+, or being thought to be LGBT+. Fast forward to 2022, and a poll published by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) found that one in five (21%) workplaces do not have any policies in place to support their LGBT+ staff at work. So, this is clearly a problem that is still persisting, and which needs to be addressed. This starts from within – with organisations’ workforce and leadership.
Here are the top three skills every person and organisation needs to build a workforce that supports and empowers everyone, and how they can be achieved.
1. Active listening, curiosity and open mindedness
Developing more inclusive behaviours and competencies within the workforce is key, as the best innovation stems from diverse ways of thinking. Teaching employees to lead with an inquisitive mind and genuine curiosity will result in teams becoming better equipped to learn from and incorporate differing viewpoints and experiences into their work.
A key part of achieving this is through the learning and content a company provides its people with. Organisations can build a curated content pool tackling topics around diversity, equity and inclusion – like racism, ageism, homophobia, mental health, and more – as well as how to have conversations around these important issues.
Organisations can deliver this content in the way they think is best for their workforce, such as through “bitesize” micro-learning to ensure employees have the time to weave it into their working day. This can have results like teaching employees to reframe their thought processes, and to understand how to ask open-ended questions that build on what they’re hearing and explore new concepts. This all helps to build a culture in which every person feels seen and heard, which can in turn lead to increased career mobility as workers feel more confident in exploring their own development.
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2. Becoming aware of unconscious bias
Ensuring equal opportunities for others is a universal responsibility. To effectively improve collaboration, engagement and productivity, individuals must first be aware of their own blind spots and perceptions. When working alongside others with differing views and experiences, incorporating unconscious bias training is a vital first step in addressing micro-behaviours in teams. Learning how to re-train thought processes can dramatically improve attitudes and behaviours across the board. Curated learning content around self-reflection and how to ask difficult questions of oneself will be key. These can be rolled out across entire workforces but, in particular, the likes of managers and team leaders, as change is often driven by those who lead.
Training alone, however, is not enough. Recognising and mitigating unconscious bias at the very first sign will allow organisations to effectively shift collective mindsets in real time and for the long term. This commitment to examining behaviours must be a shared goal, across an entire organisation.
Taking these steps will, once again, improve diverse workers’ sense of belonging and their confidence that their views will be heard. Improved confidence, and employees’ own awareness of bias, can drastically help improve career mobility of minorities – as any barriers to progression are lifted.
3. Embracing continuous adaptability
The strongest, most inclusive teams understand there is no one “right way” of viewing or understanding things. There is no single correct answer to everything. The beauty of a diverse workforce is that input and experiences from a variety of individuals are brought together, into a melting pot of unique perspectives and lived experiences.
Leading with flexibility and open minds allows teams to become agile, and to easily adapt to constant changes. Another key component of embracing, navigating, and even leading, change is through effective use of technology. By harnessing intuitive AI, for instance, HR can gain a clear picture of a workforce landscape – capturing skills data to better understand where strengths and gaps lie.
Using AI, HR teams can also analyse how the available workforce is being utilised, and whether their organisations’ unique diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) metrics are being met. This can highlight where change needs to take place, and can trigger strategies to improve diversity and inclusion across an entire workforce. An agile, adaptable team will be able to embrace this change.
Understanding and communicating issues surrounding DEI are no longer just social skills, but professional skills as well. It’s paramount for every workforce to be well versed in this area, to improve inclusivity and drive greater diversity across the board. Taking these steps will help improve business performance but also, more importantly, ensure that every employee feels they belong and feels empowered to explore their own personal development.