In recent years, there has been a heightened awareness of the inequality of work-related opportunities across society and how it can impact building an inclusive workplace.

Creating an inclusive workplace is vital in driving employee engagement. Making employees feel valued encourages them to make meaningful contributions. This will ultimately lead to out-of-the-box thinking, inspiring company growth.

How it impacts your business:  Without an inclusive working environment, you will struggle to deliver on your business strategy.

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What is inclusion? 

An inclusive workplace is where every colleague feels a sense of belonging and connection. These spaces value people for who they are, their unique contributions, and the difference they make.

All employees should feel that they can fully be themselves at work; they are not just listened to, but seen, heard, and their views acted upon.

Organizations that have failed to build inclusive surroundings often do the listening but do not follow through with actions.

Defining characteristics of an inclusive work environment

Generally, there are several common features among inclusive businesses, including:

  • Psychological safety, wherein people feel safe speaking up. 
  • Diverse perspectives, which are heard and acted on. 
  • Everyone is treated with the same level of respect. 
  • People are recognized fairly for their contributions. 
  • High levels of innovation, collaboration, and meritocracy.

Inclusion challenges 

The biggest challenge to building an inclusive company is maintaining focus and attention on it. Changing behaviors takes time; it doesn’t happen overnight.

However, small, simple changes to habits repeated daily can lead to growth, particularly when multiplied across your organization.

Many of these shifts can happen quickly, simply by raising people’s awareness of their behavior and its impact.

Why is it important? 

Put simply, inclusion drives performance. In a world becoming ever more complex and interconnected, building an inclusive working environment will deliver significant value to your business, people, and communities.

In fact, unless you build an inclusive workplace environment, you will struggle to deliver on your business strategy.

Benefits of an inclusive workplace 

There are many business benefits to an inclusive workplace, and they include:

Contributes to customers’ buying decisions 

Inclusion helps customers to relate to your business and feel a sense of belonging and trust. Ultimately, this will make them more likely to purchase your product or service.

Improves productivity 

When your people feel valued, heard, and that they belong, their contribution will be considerably greater. This appreciation makes employees feel more connected to their work, motivating them to perform their best work.

Productivity tools like Hubstaff enable your team members to keep track of their work and later analyze how they used their time. It lets you identify types of work at which specific employees excel so you can give credit where it’s due.

Hubstaff Insights interface

Improves hiring prospects 

An actively inclusive workplace helps you attract and retain the best talent. Candidates want to work at companies with inclusive foundations, and they will research your record in this area.

Drives employee engagement 

It’s crucial to establish a collaborative environment where individual voices can be heard. 

This is because your team will feel that what they do matters and that they are connected by a shared sense of purpose and commitment to executing your strategy. 

Fuels innovation

Ensuring the above collaborative atmosphere will help drive your company into the future. When your people feel comfortable experimenting and challenging the status quo, they’re more likely to feel encouraged to share their diverse views and new ideas.

A study by McKinsey has shown that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25 percent more likely to have above-average profitability. Additionally, they found that the greater the levels of representation, the higher the likelihood of performance above expectations.

How to drive inclusion from the top 

Now you know it’s crucial, how do you start on your inclusion journey? 

The answer is identifying behaviors you want to see in the organization need to start from the top — with the leaders. 

Firstly, focus on a few elements that will make the biggest difference. For example: 

  • Changing one item, such as a behavior, system, or symbol. 
  • Ensuring that there are processes in place to give and receive feedback.
  • Beginning to hold each other accountable via regular check-ins. 

You can then move towards focusing on longer-term strategic shifts in your company structure, such as:

Encouraging key behaviors that drive inclusion 

You don’t build an inclusive working dynamic by developing more inclusive processes. Behaviors, systems, and symbols are critical, and all of these start with leaders.

Inclusive working environments are built and sustained by open leadership behaving consistently day in, day out.

There are three key leadership behaviors that drive inclusion:

1. Humility 

Firstly, a good leader needs to understand that they do not need to have all the answers. They have a learner mindset. It is essential to openly admit when you do not know something. There is no shame in asking others for help.

2. Curiosity 

It is vital that leaders are genuinely interested in learning more about people and proactively seek out different perspectives. Invite your leadership team to share their personal values and explain why they are important.

3. Openness 

Finally, leaders should listen to understand and demonstrate a willingness to change their minds. This creates a safe environment for people to speak up, challenge, and respectfully debate. Regularly sharing your own strengths and weaknesses and how you feel is a great way to open up.

Establish inclusive systems 

This relates to your employee experience and shapes company identity. 

Indicators you give your employees will influence how they behave, affecting performance. For example, raising their ideas in meetings or rewarding them for positive behavior may increase productivity. On the other hand, dismissing an idea or a complaint may make them feel unvalued and unmotivated to work.

Recruitment and onboarding 

It is vital that you have a process to ensure that your candidate shortlists are diverse. Welcoming a diverse range of employees will bring new ideas and perspectives to your decision-making process.

Use reverse mentoring

Reverse mentoring describes when junior employees act as mentors for more senior employees to share expertise. It can be an excellent opportunity for leaders to learn from more junior colleagues, as well as people from a range of different backgrounds.

Reward and recognition 

If you don’t know enough about the day-to-day responsibilities and deliverables of the person you are reviewing, you should find out as much as possible. When people are evaluated based on their skills and expertise rather than their connections or visibility, they will feel that their contributions are valued.

Review your diary 

Consider who you spend time with and don’t, and adjust accordingly. Regularly communicate with team members so they feel valued and can share any concerns they may have. 

Similarly, regular 1:1s allow you and the team member to express any areas for personal improvement. Additionally, it can help you gauge their satisfaction and how likely they are to engage. Getting feedback directly from those for whom you are trying to create a positive environment is essential.

A manager having a 1:1 meeting with an employee.


What items do you always cover in meetings? Is there anything regularly forgotten? You should always address any concerns raised by or affecting your team members.

Consider the symbols of recognition 

These could be invitations to company events or sporting events. Ensure that not only the events are fair and varied but also the people you’ve chosen to attend them.

Review the language you use

Ask your teams if you inadvertently use language that causes some people to be uncomfortable — for example, saying “guys” when the audience is mixed. If any concerns are raised, you should make a conscious effort to be more inclusive in your words.

Connect with remote and office-based employees

How much time do you spend face-to-face with your people? Is communication mainly via email/remote?

Whatever the format of your workplace, it is important to touch base with your employees regularly. You can do this via multiple remote communication tools if face-to-face communication is not possible.

This will help establish a more direct and personal connection, even if you are not in the same location.

Why start adapting today?

36% of employers said they are not looking to focus on inclusion and diversity over the next five years.

However, integrating inclusion into your business is no longer an option. Your clients, people, and society are demanding it of you. It’s your responsibility to ensure your company keeps up with shaping a culture of inclusion.

Whether it’s your prospects asking questions in interviews, candidates researching you on Glassdoor, or media reporting on issues such as the gender pay gap, inclusion is a fundamental part of business today — and its importance is only growing.

Category: Culture