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Best practices for cultivating an inclusive workplace culture that lasts

Posted by Neha De

March 4, 2022    |     5-minute read (1003 words)

Inclusive leadership is a leadership style wherein leaders focus on collaboration and communication with team members to bring about effective problem-solving and decision-making in the workplace. Inclusive leaders take advantage of the experience and knowledge of their employees when making decisions.

Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion defines inclusive leadership as: “Leaders who are aware of their own biases and preferences, actively seek out and consider different views and perspectives to inform better decision-making. They see diverse talent as a source of competitive advantage and inspire diverse people to drive organizational and individual performance towards a shared vision.”

Having workers from diverse backgrounds and perspectives participate in the decision-making process allows for the separation and intersection of ideas, enhancing a company’s ability to achieve better business results.

Companies with more diverse workforces perform better financially, research from McKinsey shows. Inclusive leaders ensure that their staff members are respected, heard and valued tend to stay with their organization longer.

Inclusive leaders share these seven essential traits:

1. Humility – Inclusive leaders are humble and are aware of their own limitations as well as the strengths of their team members. Humility allows them to depend on others for expertise when required. 

2. Empathy – Inclusive leaders have compassion and empathy, and can relate to what their employees are thinking and feeling. Empathy makes them better at communicating too.

3. Active listening skills – Inclusive leaders display active listening skills and can engage other people’s ideas before making big, strategic decisions. Being able to listen to their employees encourages the latter to speak up without the fear of interruption or ridicule, which drives engagement and collaboration at work.

4. Target-driven – Inclusive leaders are focused on the larger business goals and do not worry about where those results come from. They know how to take advantage of their employees’ skill sets in the best way possible to achieve these goals.

5. Committed to diversity – Inclusive leaders recognize the importance of diversity of thought and psychological safety, empower others and work together to achieve team cohesion. They pay attention to and respect the cultures of different people and adapt when needed. 

6. Open to change – Inclusive leaders like to keep an open mind and are willing to bring in change in the workplace. They are open to fresh ideas that may be different from their own as well as to creative thinking and innovations. 

7. Effective communication – Inclusive leaders can easily initiate conversations with their workers, pushing them to consider strategies and problems, and present their own feedback. By showcasing clear and effective communication skills, inclusive leaders can successfully draw out the strengths of their staff members. 

Why now is the time to shine the light on inclusive leadership?

While diversity brings together people from varied backgrounds, inclusion makes sure that these individuals feel respected, valued and have equal access to opportunities. By being inclusive, leaders can increase performance, satisfaction, motivation, commitment, engagement, creativity and innovation as well as the well-being of their employees. 

Check out four reasons why inclusive leadership is the need of the hour:  

1. To make the most of workforce diversity – The global economy is run on distributed global talent and teams, which allows for the exchange of ideas across borders. Advancements in videoconferencing and other such technologies have brought down accessibility barriers and made it possible to bring teams together from all parts of the world. 

2. To understand generational diversity – People are now living longer, staying more active and leading more productive lives, thanks to the many technological and medical advancements. As a result, they are also enjoying longer careers, which increase the number of generations in the workforce.

3. Intensify innovation and creativity – Having a diverse workforce increases creativity, as it capitalizes on the differences that different communities offer. This also leads to the most innovative ideas.

Effective diversity management combined with inclusive work environments improves organizational performance and innovation. People from different backgrounds bring different perspectives, ideas and solutions to the workplace. This results in new products and services, challenges the status quo and provides a platform for new collaboration.

4. Beat the competitionResearch shows that diverse and inclusive teams outperform their peers. In fact, organizations with inclusive talent practices in hiring, promotion, development, leadership and team management generate up to 30% higher revenue per employee and greater profitability than their competitors. 

Four tips for leaders to get started

Inclusive leadership does not happen overnight. Here are four ways leaders can become more inclusive: 

1. Seek feedback from people who are different from you – The first step to becoming an inclusive leader is to ask those who are different from you if they think of you as inclusive. This will allow you to identify your strengths, weaknesses, blind spots and development areas. It will also let others know that diversity and inclusion are crucial to you as a leader. Schedule regular meetings with your team members to ask how you can make them feel more included.

2. Be vocal and visible – Provide a compelling and explicit narrative about why inclusion is important to you personally and to your business at large. Then, share this narrative with the people who matter, as well as at conferences and other public forums.

3. Consciously look for differences – Give your workers the chance to speak up, invite a variety of people to the table and engage with a broader network. Consider collaborating with multidisciplinary or cross-functional teams to get the most out of diverse strengths.

4. Study your impact – Finally, be on the lookout for signs that you are having a positive impact. Ask yourself: Are other people imitating your leadership style? Are more diverse groups of individuals sharing ideas with you? Is your team working collaboratively? 

Although much remains to be learned about how to become an inclusive leader and harness the power of diverse employees, one thing is clear: leaders who make an effort to employ inclusive leadership practices and develop their capabilities will benefit from the superior performance of diverse teams.

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