Inclusive leadership is critical to workplace dynamics, employee wellbeing, and company success. And while many things affect how an individual feels about the organisation they work for, it is, in fact, leaders who have the most significant impact.
But why exactly should workplace inclusivity be such a high priority for organisations? Simply put, championing inclusivity can encourage more participation, productivity, and collaboration - all of which positively affect organisation performance.
And on a more human level? Because it shows kindness and support to every single employee. And kindness and support is something that every person and every business can afford to give.
So, exactly how do you achieve inclusivity in the workplace?
1. Celebrate cultural holidays as a team
Celebrating as a team is a great opportunity for people to connect on a human level, bonding over things like family and hobbies, rather than the daily workload. But be sure that all celebrations, cultures and faiths are accurately represented. Employees may celebrate different occasions such as Ramadan, Hanukkah, Christmas, Eid, Chinese New Year and Diwali, to name just a few.
Start by finding out which holidays are meaningful to your people and how they like to celebrate them. Some people may be happy to share their experiences with you, whilst others may prefer to keep their celebrations private. For employees who are happy to share, why not get together as a team and celebrate? Use this as an opportunity for the team to learn about these traditions and gain awareness of other cultures and religions.
Although some employees may not wish to celebrate their traditions as a team, it may be an opportunity for managers to send their best wishes, and offer flexibility around annual leave. Small acts of kindness never go unnoticed and helps to create a psychologically safe working environment.
Culture and leadership go hand in hand, so be attentive to others, create space, and fully embrace every member of your team's traditions and customs in whatever way your employees feel most comfortable.
2. Learn to pronounce everybody’s name
Incorrectly pronouncing someone’s name isn’t just an awkward experience for you; it can make the individual experiencing it feel excluded. This is a seriously important aspect of inclusive leadership, and really, beyond that, is a crucial communication skill.
Names have so much significance to our identities. For many, they represent who they are, and link to our cultures, ancestors and religions. To create a truly inclusive workforce where everyone feels equal and valued, be sure to learn how to say everyone’s names.
There are tools available to make it happen. For example, Linkedin has a pronunciation feature on profiles, but actually, leaders should be (literally) leading the way. This involves asking someone how to pronounce their name, being honest about your limitations, and being open to learning.
Going beyond this, try and learn the names of a couple of people who are important to your team, for example, their partner’s, children’s or pets names. Loopin co-founder, Ben, recently posted a great story about his experience of a leader remembering the names of his children and how this helped to build lifelong trust and respect. Click here to read this on LinkedIn.
3. Recognise your unconscious bias
For leaders, perhaps the most crucial aspect when generating inclusiveness is the awareness of bias. How someone thinks depends on a variety of factors and life experiences. These views might sometimes be unreasonable, prejudiced, or incorrect.
As a leader, it is essential not to let these views affect how you treat someone or the decisions you make. Recognising that everyone has unconscious biases is the first step to actively managing them and learning from them.
Embracing diversity is the best way for leaders to ensure their people feel included and valued.
4. Learn about each of your team’s differences
No two people are the same; that’s what makes us unique. Studies demonstrate that cultural diversity is a key factor for organisational success - leading to higher employee retention, revenue growth, and the ability to innovate.
One of the qualities of a strong leader is being able to recognise and understand the different strengths and experiences every employee brings to a team. Culture, religion, and upbringing all impact how we see the world. A big part of inclusive leadership is knowing this and being prepared to spend time getting to know the value each individual brings to your team.
Here at Loopin, we’ve created ‘All about me’ documents that outline anything that’s important to us that we’d like to share with one another. For example, this might include how we like to receive briefs and how we like to communicate, as well as the names of our family members or holidays that we celebrate.
5. Hold regular check-ins with clear communication
With increasingly diverse organisations, the conversation around inclusivity is gaining ground. Hoorah! However, there are still many individuals who struggle to be true to themselves, their cultures, and their backgrounds. We know that authenticity is a key driver of happiness at work. It impacts productivity and engagement, so it’s crucial to employee wellbeing and overall business success.
Great leaders prioritise asking how their employees are, and tools like Loopin not only make it easy for the employee, but the manager too. Employees can choose whether to check in openly or privately, whilst managers can save time by prioritising which employees require support.
Using this real-time data, managers can intervene at the right moment, building emotional intelligence with a consistent, daily approach to inclusive leadership.
This approach goes beyond KPIs and quarterly performance. Instead, checking in on the individual daily and ensuring they are not negatively trending toward burnout or exhaustion. And with so many people now working remotely, employee care goes beyond the office too. \
Employee care is a holistic approach that requires meaningful conversations and an openness to.
6. Don’t shy away from talking about diversity, equity, and inclusion
There’s a danger of inclusivity becoming a tick-the-box exercise for organisations. What may start as well-intentioned initiatives can soon become an operational necessity, relegated to online training courses carried out annually without a real-world impact. To avoid this from becoming the case, organisations should seek to make inclusion part of regular conversations and be completely transparent about work that needs to be done to improve it.
Indeed, inclusion often means getting comfortable with discomfort.
7. Have zero tolerance for micro-aggressions
Microaggressions are defined as subtle insults or degrading someone socially marginalised in an informal way. To some, they could be considered ‘banter’ or said in jest. However, to the person receiving them, they are rarely a laughing matter and can have serious repercussions. It’s up to leaders and wider organisations to take a zero-tolerance approach to any form of microaggression to create a safe space for employees and to achieve a truly inclusive workforce.
Being a great leader can be challenging. It demands consistent practice. It’s a skill that requires you to train just as much as your professional skill. It is never about self-promotion and instead is always about team promotion. But great leadership is a challenge worth working for.
While it may not be a quick fix, and there’s always learning to be done, creating an inclusive workforce enables people to be their authentic selves and brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the organisation. And that is something for every business to shout about.
If you’d like to learn more about improving your business’ inclusivity with Loopin, click here to see the full feature set in a free demo with one of the team.