Inclusion is an essential and imperative component of organizational culture. Helping cultivate a sense of belonging is crucial for employee well-being, productivity, and retention in the modern workplace. When an Inclusive Culture is cultivated at work, everyone works together to create an environment that acknowledges, welcomes, and accepts different approaches, styles, perspectives, and experiences. An inclusive work culture not only supports employees in showing up at work as their authentic selves every day, but also supports their mental health. Building an inclusive culture in your organization requires a dedicated plan at every level, it’s not something that just happens. Learn more about how to promote an inclusive culture at work.
What is an Inclusive Culture?
Despite modern workplace social justice advancements, there are still considerable disparities in career development, advancement opportunities, and institutional support. Marginalized social groups, including BIPOC communities, LGBTQIA2S+ communities, individuals living with mental health conditions, and other groups, often experience discrimination and stigma. Individuals who identify with one or more of these communities face hardships at work and have unique stressors in their day-to-day life stemming from stigma and discrimination. As a result, research shows marginalized groups can experience higher unemployment and turnover rates, lower wages, less job satisfaction, lower well-being, and slower career progression.
An inclusive workplace culture both acknowledges these disparities and actively works to mitigate the negative impacts of stigma, oppression, and discrimination. A 2020 Glassdoor survey reported that 76% of job seekers and employees polled said a diverse and inclusive workforce was an important factor for them when evaluating job opportunities and companies. An inclusive culture isn’t just focused on hiring diverse staff but cares about how all employees feel at work.
Why is Inclusive Culture at Work Important?
- Workplaces that have an inclusive culture achieve higher employee satisfaction and retention rates. Inclusion can be broken down into feelings of fairness and respect, valuing all employees, feelings of safety, and employee empowerment. When employees experience company-wide inclusion efforts, there are incredible tangible results - Deloitte studies have shown a 17% increase in team performance, 20% in decision-making quality, and 29% in team collaboration.
- A diverse and inclusive workplace is central to attracting the most talented employees and setting your company up for success. A Glassdoor study revealed that while a diverse workplace was important to white employees, it was paramount to BIPOC job seekers. 88% of African Americans, 80% of Asians, and 70% of Latinx community members ranked workforce diversity and inclusion as important to their job search. Millennial employees especially seek inclusive workplace culture when seeking employment, so having a healthy, inclusive culture is attractive to all potential employees.
- When companies have a more inclusive work environment, employees are more actively engaged in their work. Inclusive cultures establish good communication, trust, and empowerment within employees, which are critical elements of employee engagement. When employees feel like their voice is heard and their full self is appreciated, you’ll see an instant improvement in engagement.
- Investing in an inclusive workplace positively affects employee collaboration, which helps generate ideas. Apple INC says, “The most innovative company must also be the most diverse” - creating and supporting a diverse staff leads to creative and innovative ideas. Demographic diversity helps teams tap into knowledge and networks that generate new ideas.
- Inclusive workplace culture will help attract new talent and help your company retain current employees. When employees are supported at work, studies show that they are 2.5 times more likely to intend to stay at their company for more than two years and 5.6 times more likely to trust their company and its leaders. Inclusive culture on an individual and company-wide level can help increase trust, foster feelings of belonging, and increase the impact on employee well-being.
Why Should Your Company Build an Inclusive Culture?
Building an inclusive workplace culture supports your employees and your company's well-being. Research shows that organizations with inclusive cultures are twice as likely to meet or exceed financial goals, three times as likely to be high performing, six times more likely to be innovative and agile, and eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes. That’s a lot of positive growth!
Inclusion has incredibly high returns for companies because employees feel respected, confident, and inspired. Inclusive culture gives everyone a meaningful voice in workplace decisions. With the knowledge that their voice matters, employees can feel safe and committed to workplace goals, work more collaboratively, and have increased productivity.
How to Promote an Inclusive Culture at Work?
- To promote an inclusive workplace culture, consider starting by getting curious! Curiosity means opening your mindset, taking the position of a learner, asking questions, and listening without judgment. Have the courage to seek to understand the experiences of those around you. Getting curious can also look like hiring support. When we are aware that a significant portion of the workforce is white, and men are twice as likely to be hired than any other gender, finding and investing in culturally competent experts is extremely valuable. When you can learn from someone with lived experience, it builds a foundation for an inclusive culture.
- Foster a culture of inclusivity by asking for feedback from all employees at your company. Strong workplace voice occurs when managers provide varied opportunities for employee input, and also take it a step further and consider that input in decision making. Workplace voice is important to an inclusive culture because it contributes to employees feeling heard, and cross-organizational collaboration. Utilizing feedback empowers employees to bring their own unique perspectives.
- Begin building a foundation of inclusion with new employees by establishing a network of mentors. Exposing employees to influential role models and other powerful experiences, like being on diverse teams, are powerful tactics to help employees understand various perspectives. By opening up a path to connection, it’s possible to build a sense of belonging and inclusion.
- Everyone has a role to play in supporting an inclusive culture in the workplace. Leadership should be comfortable sharing personal ideas on inclusion. Deloitte’s research shows that the behavior of leaders can drive up to 70 percentage points of difference between the proportion of employees who feel highly included and those who do not. If leaders model that inclusion is a fundamental aspect of their experience at work, it will help reinforce a positive experience.
- To integrate an inclusive workplace culture on all levels, root inclusion in daily activities and teams. Create diverse working groups, and foster a sense of community among different levels of employees. Treating everyone like a teammate can help support strong communication and understanding.
- Studies show that workplace training, mentorship, and ally networks are efficient interventions to improve workplace wellbeing and inclusive cultures at work. Create spaces for employees to get together and build connections with each other. This could look like a catered lunch where inclusion is the topic, sharing meeting spaces free of charge, or connecting experienced employees with newer employees to build a sense of trust within the team.
When it comes to creating a workplace that is inclusive and supportive of all employees, mental health stigma must be addressed. Download the Modern Belonging Pt. II Playbook to access the tools and strategies you need to implement change in your organization. By understanding mental health stigma and its impact on employees, you can take steps to optimize employee belonging and well-being.