How to build a more inclusive culture in the workplace

by Georgia Parker | Dec 03, 2021

time icon 4 mins

Inclusive cultures promote productivity, improve employee engagement, increase employee retention and more. That’s why it’s no surprise that many businesses are dedicating a lot of time and effort to build a more inclusive culture in the workplace. But what are the steps involved? Our workplace culture experts will reveal all in this article.

What do we mean by an inclusive workplace? 

Whilst this is a very common term these days, there can be multiple interpretations that may miss the essence of what inclusivity looks like in practice. An inclusive, healthy workplace culture is something that many businesses strive for, but what does this actually entail?

Clearly, on a global basis, our level of awareness around inclusivity, alongside equality and diversity, has been significantly raised in recent years with movements such as #MeToo and Black Lives Matter. On one level, inclusivity within a workplace culture is about ensuring fair, respectful treatment of people irrespective of their gender, ethnicity or any of the other protected characteristics defined by the Equality Act 2010 and its subsequent amendments, in the UK at least.

However, an inclusive workplace culture is not limited to these crucial aspects of ensuring fairness and parity of treatment of employees within the organisation. It’s also linked to the level of psychological safety that those employees experience about turning up to work and feeling able to bring all of who they are into their role. Of course, this requires a level of professional workplace behaviour, from dress codes to the style, tone and language of communication. Someone who swears a lot and is comfortable with this will need to mitigate this behaviour in most workplaces in order to ensure they don’t offend or upset others.

Here at TBG, we use the 4 Stages of Psychological Safety model from leaderfactor.com as this framework is helpful in exploring and understanding what needs to be in place for a healthy culture in which growth and innovation can flourish.

Interestingly, the first stage of psychological safety is Inclusion Safety. Without this in place, it will not be possible for those working in the organisation to learn, contribute or challenge the status quo (the subsequent and sequential stages of psychological safety).

What does an inclusive culture look like?

So what does Inclusion Safety look like? It means that every person feels welcome at work for the person that they are. They feel included, not excluded, able to be themselves and are not having to expend energy they could be using for work in covering up, hiding, disguising or protecting themselves from criticism, blame or judgement for who they are. Inclusion Safety is a fundamental right that should be extended to human beings, not something that they have to earn or work for.

Let’s explore this a little further in terms of how then we can create an inclusive workplace culture. There are some really simple tips and ways of working that can make all the difference and ensure that your people feel included.

Some are as straightforward as welcoming each person into a meeting, acknowledging their presence and ensuring that they have an opportunity to speak. How many times have you been in a meeting, virtual or in person, and felt that no one had even noticed you were there, let alone invited you in to contribute?

Do you as a team leader or manager make sure that you acknowledge each member of your team for their strengths and contributions, irrespective of their background or any particular characteristic they may have? Do you say good morning to each person as you walk through the office or say a simple hello to each person as they join a virtual meeting?

How to build an inclusive culture

We love to use and teach a Team Inclusion Practice on our OKR Coach programme which is a quick and effective way to ensure inclusivity gets the practical, proactive focus it needs. It’s a really simple form of workplace culture training that can be run in a number of ways. Sessions can be carried out both in-person and online to ensure each person is offered the opportunity to speak, be acknowledged and be heard.

It enables people to say how they are feeling in the moment (whatever they may be feeling) and to acknowledge any distractions they may have. It’s likely that you’ll also ask them what they want out of the meeting or any particular focus/issues they want to discuss.

Aside from the Team Alignment Practice, there are a number of other ways of working tips and techniques that can really make a difference and OKRs can help with this.

Inclusive culture examples

There are countless ways to build a more inclusive culture and looking at inclusive practices from other organisations is a great way to gain inspiration.

Traditionally, to promote an inclusive culture, organisations celebrate differences in cultural or religious practices, for example, Diwali or Ramadan. This ensures that there isn’t a monolithic culture that excludes those of other faiths. 

Many organisations have set up groups for LGBTQ+ colleagues, to create safe and supportive spaces for people who may feel marginalised outside of work to come together and develop better working practices from their own experience. Lots of businesses invest significantly in equality, diversity and inclusion training and development to raise awareness, start conversations and increase understanding about people who are different to me. All this is crucial and important work.

Promote an inclusive culture with TBG

Because OKRs require a top-down and a bottom-up approach, it’s important that people’s perspectives are solicited and heard at a team level. OKRs aren’t about hierarchy, status or job title. They need the right people in the room, or on screen, in order to work and so they are a great way to get colleagues from all levels of the organisation collaborating and aspiring for great results. 

Anyone can contribute an idea for a stretching key result – the key to building a more inclusive culture is to ensure that these ideas are sought, welcomed and acknowledged, even if they are not ultimately translated into an OKR. So an inclusive workplace culture reaps the benefits of the diversity of thinking that only happens when people feel included and safe enough to speak up, contribute and offer their ideas.  

If we exclude people, we run the risk of losing the benefits of their input, losing their creativity and losing their discretionary effort to make the organisation great. Fortunately, we have all the tools you need to transform a divisive, toxic workplace culture into an inclusive, welcoming one. Our culture consultants will help you to create an environment where OKRs thrive. Eager to learn more? Get in touch with one of our Giants today!