ATD Blog

The Growing Importance of Creating an Inclusive Workplace

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

For organizations to survive and thrive in today’s complex, diverse, and global environment, it is essential to attain a competitive advantage. To hire and retain top-performing employees, one key differentiator is having an open and inclusive work culture.

Conventional wisdom suggests that employees will work to their maximum potential and push themselves to achieve more when they can be themselves and are comfortable in the workplace. According to Catalyst’s Inclusive Leadership: The View From Six Countries report, employees become more innovative when they feel more included. The report stated that in India, 62 percent of innovation is driven by employee perceptions of inclusion. Additionally, employees become better team players and go beyond what is required to help their teammates, thereby achieving workgroup objectives.

Inclusion Is a Tool to Leverage Diversity

In the era of globalization, working toward a diverse workforce can be quite challenging for companies, and even then, simply developing a diverse workforce is not enough. The 2016 Global Talent Trends study by Mercer listed top workforce trends affecting business. While the first two were increasing competition for talent from emerging economies and talent scarcity, the third most important trend affecting business was leveraging an increasingly diverse labor pool.

A diverse workforce brings a unique set of experiences and perspectives, which are essential for developing new ideas and innovation. Organizations should therefore use inclusion as a tool to collaborate with diverse employees and fully realize their talents.

It Takes EACH of Us

For firms to be successful in creating an inclusive culture, all employees should work to support inclusion in the workplace. Inclusive leaders are crucial at this stage. They are the ones who accept people for who they are and consciously include all stakeholders.

To help leaders be altruistic and inclusive, Catalyst has identified the four inclusive leadership behaviors—empowerment, accountability, courage, and humility (EACH)—associated with team citizenship and employee innovation. The significance of the EACH formula is that you don’t have to be a leader or a CEO to work on these attributes. Everyone can practice them and make a positive change as an individual, a team member, or a leader.


Steps Organizations Can Take to Develop Inclusive Leadership

To ensure a culture of inclusiveness, companies can take the following steps:

  • Make Sure Leaders Are Accountable for Diversity and Inclusion Goals
    Holding leaders accountable for translating intention into impact can be a crucial game changer. More than 40 percent of organizations in the Catalyst study fail to hold senior leaders accountable for making measurable impact on diversity and inclusion (D&I) goals. To improve these numbers, companies should recognize senior leaders who integrate local goals with the organization’s D&I objectives.

  • Provide Relevant Training and Development
    Another way of turning D&I into a strategic business advantage is by training leaders to create and sustain an inclusive workplace. One of the best ways to educate employees about the importance of being an inclusive leader is through massive open online courses, or MOOCs. Such courses enable employees and individuals to learn how to adopt inclusive leadership styles, create flexible work environments to maintain a work-life balance, and lead with effective communication skills.

  • Make Inclusive Leadership a Part of All Organizational Processes and Programs
    Inclusive leadership can be made sustainable if it is ingrained in the day-to-day processes of the company. Companies should assign a group of change agents across levels and verticals, who can lead by example. They should be equipped with the knowledge and training required to build inclusion across the company.

  • Build a Strong Reputation
    Stand out by focusing on a learning culture and being progressive and innovative. Businesses that encourage individualism, inclusion, and diversity are sure to win stakeholder confidence and goodwill.

If a company is committed to growing and competing in today’s dynamic marketplace, they need to foster a culture that accepts the diverse experiences and perspectives of every individual. Leaders of these businesses need to demonstrate empowerment, accountability, courage, and humility to bring about inclusion in the workplace. Such organizations attract and retain the best talent. 
Want to learn more? Join me at the ATD 2017 India Summit in Mumbai on January 17, 2017, or Bangalore on January 19, 2017.


About the Author

Shachi Irde is the executive director of Catalyst India WRC, a leading not-for-profit organization with a mission to accelerate progress for women through workplace inclusion. Her background is in business development, marketing, human resources, and diversity and inclusion (D&I) practices. Prior to joining Catalyst, she served as the head of diversity at Infosys and has held HR leadership roles within Wipro—e-Peripherals Ltd. A member of the Advisory Council of D&I at NASSCOM, she frequently speaks at D&I events in India and is often quoted by the media. In addition to writing articles and blog posts, she has co-authored a chapter in the book Globalization of Professional Services, published by Springer.

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