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Five steps for building an inclusive organisation

Mar 05, 2021

While diversity and inclusion have become commonplace, much needs to be done to embed them in organisations. Andrea Dermody gives us five steps on how you can implement it effectively on a day-to-day basis.

The term ‘diversity and inclusion’ (D&I) is becoming more commonplace. People are familiar with the concept of diversity, but what does inclusion mean? Inclusion is when people feel included, treated fairly and respectfully, in a culture where they are valued and have a sense of belonging. According to research in Juliet Bourke’s report, Which Two Heads Are Better Than One? How Diverse Teams Create Breakthrough Ideas and Make Smarter Decisions, inclusive organisations are six times more likely to be innovative and agile and eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes. So why does inclusion continue to be an afterthought to diversity? What are the practical things you can do to build an inclusive culture in your team and organisation?

  1. Define – Create a definition of inclusion that works for your organisation. What makes you and your colleagues feel included at work? Then, understand that inclusion is not just a two-line definition. You need to clearly state what every day behaviours ensure your people will feel included, such as:
    • being actively listened to and understood;
    • being treated fairly and with respect;
    • actively included in discussions;
    • feeling like ideas and opinions are valued;
    • having teams that work together to achieve results;
    • witnessing managers develop colleagues equally; and
    • having managers actively resolve team conflict.
  2. Develop – Build up your managers and colleagues to understand inclusion by incorporating the definition and behaviours into your existing learning and development. Some may already behave inclusively, but if you really want to address how people are treated in your organisation, you need to influence everyone’s behaviour every day, and make this behaviour deliberate and conscious.
  3. Champion – Promote a clear ‘tone from the top’ around diversity and inclusion, ensuring that leaders understand the value of, and are committed to, delivering inclusion. Diversity without inclusion does not drive the full benefit to the organisation – hiring underrepresented talent without an inclusive environment in which to share their expertise and thrive is a waste of time.
  4. Measure – Figure out how to measure success. Does your employee survey ask about the behaviours you have identified as inclusive? If you don’t have this information now, build it into future surveys. In the meantime, run focus groups and gauge how people feel they are treated at work, ask them what makes them feel included and then action your findings.
  5. Reward – Use your employee survey, 360 feedback, performance reviews and focus groups to measure whether leaders are effectively building inclusion into their teams, and then reward and promote accordingly. People will see that you are rewarding inclusive behaviour and actions. This highlights positive role models in the organisation and creates a path for progression which requires an inclusive style.

These five steps at an organisation or team level will lead to:

  • individuals who are more engaged and have greater intent to stay;
  • colleagues who are willing to speak up when they see something wrong because they are listened to, which helps you identify risks and health and safety issues early;
  • teams that are innovative because they listen to each other respectfully and understand the value of difference, leading to better co-operation;
  • managers who are more productive and fulfilled because they know they are treating their teams fairly and creating an environment where individuals can thrive; and
  • leaders who inspire trust, commitment and loyalty in their people because they take the time to understand and value them as individuals.

Andrea Dermody is a diversity and inclusion consultant, speaker and coach at Dermody.