The twin topics of Diversity and Inclusion (or D&I for short) and how they affect employee wellbeing have become all too familiar today amongst HR professionals and C-suites.  

Many businesses have put in place initiatives to specifically foster a diverse and inclusive workforce, but focusing purely on compliance, internal targets, and box ticking can completely miss the mark particularly with inclusion, which can be harder to define definitively and thus act on.

Corporate strategies have become concentrated around ensuring that diversity targets are met, with inclusion as little more than an afterthought. Whilst it’s great that employers are finally stepping up to actively include the wide range of diverse talent on offer, it’s vital to foster a sense of belonging, connection, and community if your initiatives are to be successful.

The importance of an inclusive workforce  

We all know how hurtful it is to feel excluded. Whether that’s in our school days or as adult professionals, being left out or ignored affects us on a fundamental human level. In fact, studies have shown that exclusion can cause genuine physical pain, with social ostracism ranked as more hurtful than direct bullying. 

Feelings of inclusion are central to the bonds we form with others, and in the workplace this translates to our ability to form effective teams and working relationships with colleagues. In a study of over 2000 professionals, the Harvard Business Review revealed 40% of people feel isolated at work, with US firms spending $8bn a year on training to rectify the problem. Low inclusion can lead to dissatisfaction amongst employees as well as poor retention rates, which can have a real impact on productivity and the bottom line.

Conversely, when companies act in an inclusive way the rewards can be huge. Not only do they benefit from the creativity and innovation afforded by diverse teams, but inclusive workplaces are eight times more likely to have overall better business outcomes. A strong sense of belonging has also been linked to a 56% increase in job performance, with a 167% increase in employee promoter score – that is, employees recommending their workplace to others. 

As workplaces become increasingly diverse, inclusivity takes on an even greater significance. Here, inclusive strategies ensure that people with differing ethnicities, backgrounds and experiences all feel listened to, valued for their unique attributes, and that they are part of the collective company identity – a crucial component needed for strong and successful teams. So, how can you create an inclusive workplace?

CoachHub’s 5 keys to creating an inclusive workplace

  1. Recognise and celebrate individuality 

As contradictory as it seems, one of the key steps to creating an inclusive workplace is to recognise the unique skills and perspectives each individual employee brings to work. This could involve directly acknowledging a personal achievement, or highlighting how their talents have helped the efforts of the team. When people feel valued individually, their desire to work together for collective success skyrockets!

  1. Active listening  

Managers should operate an open door policy, and should actively encourage feedback and suggestions from staff on how they can feel more included at work. When people are given a voice it demonstrates the businesses’ commitment to genuine change and not just piecemeal reform, and can go a long way to fostering a sense of unity and belonging.

  1. Coaching and mentorship  

Coaching and mentorship are vital tools in any D&I toolkit, and can significantly improve satisfaction at work. Coaches can be tailored to an individual’s needs, and it can be truly empowering to have someone on your side who is committed to furthering your personal growth. Specific programmes such as women in leadership courses can target areas where confidence may be lacking, and can be highly effective both in upskilling your team, and in increasing employee retention.

  1. Ongoing training   

Ongoing training is vital to ensure that your business is up-to-date with the latest developments in D&I, and provides a constant reminder that the work to be inclusive is never over. You could hold training on unconscious bias for managers, invite interesting keynote speakers or coaches to share their experiences of overcoming challenges, or host a happy hour where members of the team can brainstorm ideas to keep everyone as active participants.

  1. Commitment to change  

Underpinning all of the above, a commitment to change must be in place for inclusion initiatives to be successful. As great as we may feel our D&I strategies are, there are always areas for improvement. Complacency is a real danger here, and leaders must make sure they continually demonstrate to employees that their inclusion matters. Designating a day or session per month to re-energise inclusion efforts is a great idea, along with bringing in outside help from expert organisations to support you. 

If you’d like to continue learning about how to successfully implement inclusion policies in order to drive satisfaction and performance, we’ve put together a whitepaper explaining all you’d need to know, along with how we can help you. 

To download the whitepaper, click here .