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How to foster true inclusion at work every single day

When I worked in my nine-to-five job as a marketing professional in technology, I always felt excluded from the decision making process. I was never asked for any input into important decisions, despite my role as the head of marketing. That led me to feel unsafe raising my hand in meetings, by fear of being discarded for expressing my thoughts.

According to Culture Amp, the majority of women in the workforce feel excluded from decision making, do not feel comfortable expressing their opinions, and do not feel as though they can succeed. And it’s not just women who feel excluded at work. According to Culture Amp, while 80% of straight white men surveyed felt that people from all backgrounds have equal opportunities to succeed, only 54% of black women, 58% of LBT+ women, 63% of black men, and 69% of straight white women agreed. And according to Glassdoor, 50% of employees want their workplace to do more to increase diversity.

If you don’t want your organisation to be left behind in a rapidly changing world where inclusion is now expected, you must take action. Here 4 ways that you can foster true inclusion at work every single day

Talk about the unwritten rules

When I was an employee in my previous career in technology, I would observe my manager’s attitude in meetings and use it as a clue for what kind of attitude was to be expected in all our team meetings. It turns out that one of my managers did not start our one-to-one meetings with a ‘hello’ or a ‘good morning’, or with a ‘how are you?’. She would always start our meetings five to ten minutes late. She would not make any eye contact either and instead was staring at her laptop whilst frantically typing on it. She would also talk at me and not to me, about different projects, not ask me any questions and leave our meeting early without giving me any chance to speak whatsoever.

The unwritten rules of meetings include starting with a ‘hello’ or ‘good morning’, making eye contact, asking the other person ‘how are you’, asking open questions and listening, and leaving time for the other person to contribute equally to the meeting.

A good practice is to talk about the unwritten rules such as how to conduct a meeting and how to create connections with your colleagues.

In her book “Mindset”, Dr Carol Dweck explains there is such a thing as the organisation’s mindset. She explains that every organisation has either a growth mindset, or a fixed mindset. She suggests that there is a company culture that exists and that drives the behaviour of every employee. It is therefore important that your organisation mindset is made clear and is communicated, and that it emphasizes the unwritten rules of how to conduct inclusive meetings for example, so that all employees know what is acceptable and what is not. A great way to articulate your organisation mindset is to rethink your policies. For example, introducing the idea of inclusion at onboarding as one of your company policies will help articulate your organisation’s unwritten rules and mindset.

Pay attention to the “small” stuff

According to a recent study from Hive, women are more likely than men to do “non-promotable tasks,” or tasks that are beneficial to the organization but that do not result in career advancement. Women are assigned 55% of work in the office and do 10% more work than men.

A Harvard Business Review study referred to these tasks as “office housework.” It found that women volunteer for these tasks at much higher rates than men for such jobs as planning holiday parties, taking notes at meetings, ordering office supplies and serving on low-level committees. “Our research suggests that this reluctant volunteer is more likely to be female than male,” the authors wrote. “Across field and laboratory studies, we found that women volunteer for these ‘non-promotable’ tasks more than men; that women are more frequently asked to take such tasks on; and that when asked, they are more likely to say yes.”

Paying attention to the seemingly “small” stuff is critical to prevent behaviour that is non-inclusive and harmful.

Throughout my work, I have witnessed a lot of office jokes as a part of everyday life at work. However, ‘office banter’ is never innocent. The worst response to a complaint about office jokes is telling the victim to ‘just toughen up’. Leaders needs to take jokes complaints seriously, and avoid any value judgement on how an individual perceives his or her reality. So-called jokes are often born from discriminatory thinking and until they are called out, they will create a toxic work environment that is not inclusive. Use inclusive language at work is a great way to pay attention to the small stuff. Watch my video on ‘Why inclusive language matters and how to use it’.

Give all employees a voice every single day

A study by a Yale psychologist, Victoria L. Brescoll, found that male senators with more power (as measured by tenure, leadership positions and track record of legislation passed) spoke more on the Senate floor than their junior colleagues. But for female senators, power was not linked to significantly more speaking time.

Organisations should give all employees the same speaking time every single day to foster true inclusion. Appoint a meeting facilitator who will be responsible for keeping the conversation moving and making sure that everyone has the opportunity to participate.

Host round robin meetings. A simple way to make your meetings more inclusive is to use the round robin method of discussion, where each member is given an opportunity to speak once before anyone may speak a second time, commonly by calling on the members around the table in turn.

You can also run employee surveys to collect employee feedback to ensure that you give all employees a voice every single day.

Educate your leaders and hold them accountable every single day

When I worked as a marketing leader in technology, I was mostly influenced by my manager and by the leadership team. When the leaders were not listening to me, or they were ignoring me and other employees, there was no inclusion or belonging at work and the entire organisation suffered.

You need to educate your leaders on what inclusive leadership is and how to recognize unconscious bias. You need to hold every leader accountable to being inclusive every single day and recognizing when they need to improve. Do not underestimate the influence of your leaders, as even one non-inclusive leader can create a toxic work environment. You need to speak up when a leader is not being inclusive.

Ensure that your leaders understand the advantages and privilege they were born with and also understand the obstacles faced by women, people of colour, LGBT+ employees, disabled employees, etc… Reward inclusive leaders. To understand what true inclusion is, you can watch my video titled ‘Inclusion definition’ and share it with your team. You can also read my free eBook ‘7 deadly mistakes to avoid with diversity programmes’ and share it with your leaders to teach them how to foster inclusion at work.

As the world is rapidly changing with remote-work and social movements are becoming more prevalent in our society, organisations must change the way they operate and build their culture the eight way to avoid being left out. Fostering true inclusion at work requires work every single day. What will you do differently to build a stronger company culture and foster inclusion?

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