20 Sep 2018
How can you ensure that everyone in your organisation feels included, wanted and valued?
Words: Michael Caulfield
Inclusion has become something of a hot topic in recent years, in workplaces of all descriptions, but what exactly does it mean and how can we embrace it in our professional careers?
In straightforward terms, while diversity is the mix of people in a group, inclusion is getting that mix to work well together. It is a state of being valued, respected and supported, and in order to achieve it the right conditions need to be in place for every person to achieve his or her potential. Inclusion should be reflected both in the organisation’s culture and practices, and in the relationships that exist to support what is an increasingly diverse workforce.
Creating an inclusive culture requires courage, openness, a willingness to try new things and time. Yet, when you digest the evidence on how beneficial inclusion can be for teams, it’s clear that it’s worth the effort.
According to Professor Binna Kandola OBE, 85 per cent of people who feel genuinely included at work are more motivated, engaged and productive as a result. Their psychological wellbeing, he says, is also higher, as are their levels of resilience, which means they are more likely to support one another when there is a setback. Finally, when people feel included at work, they are more likely to be courageous and speak up if they see things taking place that might prove harmful to the team.
This compelling research has huge relevance for managers. By helping your team and wider staff to feel genuinely included, they will be more motivated, engaged, productive and braver.
It does, of course, beg the question, how can you encourage inclusion? The answer lies in the fact that genuine inclusion occurs only when people feel able to be themselves. It’s only when you share information about your background, beliefs, values and differences that you really begin to be yourself and feel included. If any individual feels that they have to hide or mask their true self, they won’t feel included and are likely to become increasingly guarded, particularly when under pressure or in times of crisis.
One of the simplest ways that you can help others to be themselves is to reveal more about yourself, which takes courage. It’s surprising how little people in organisations know of each other, aside from their professional backgrounds or roles.
When a new individual joins your organisation, it’s likely that you will welcome them with some kind of initiation process or ritual, but it’s worth considering to what extent that encourages them to feel included. Do they feel they can be themselves and open up, and are others leading by example? Consider asking someone else in the team to interview the new team member in a fun, informal way to start the ball rolling and break down barriers.
Inclusion means accepting people for who they are, not what you want them to be. It means allowing people to be themselves without fear of ridicule or being judged.