It is one thing to say that an organization believes in equality and diversity. It is another thing for executives within that organization to practice effective inclusivity, welcoming professionals of all backgrounds into every level of business.
There are noteworthy benefits to inclusivity in the workplace. Organizations with inclusive cultures tend to maintain lower employee turnover rates, higher productivity, better morale and increased creativity and innovation. As a result, inclusive businesses can reduce unnecessary expenses while positioning themselves as leaders within their markets.
An inclusive workplace culture starts with executives, whose attitude and behavior form the foundation of how other leaders and workers inside the organization think and act. This guide should help executives develop an inclusive leadership style to give their businesses a better chance of success.
First: What Is Inclusivity?
The most literal definition of inclusivity is being inclusive or including everyone. Within business, inclusivity has two slightly different interpretations.
First, inclusivity can mean engaging and involving every employee to maximize business success. According to this ethos of inclusivity, leaders should encourage and consider every worker’s ideas, knowledge, perspectives, styles and approaches, accepting and adopting effective elements into business culture and processes as appropriate.
Secondly, inclusivity can mean offering equal access to resources and opportunities to all people, regardless of their age, gender, disabilities, race, ethnicity or religious belief. Historically, businesses have excluded people of certain backgrounds from reaching certain levels of business leadership. As a result, these marginalized groups have suffered from lower wages and reduced influence — and organizations have suffered from limited perspectives and lower innovation.
In truth, both types of inclusivity can be advantageous to businesses, their leaders and their workers. Thus, all executives can take advantage of the following tips for adopting inclusivity into their leadership methods.
Curiosity is one of the most underappreciated attributes in the workplace. Curious executives are more likely to advance to the c-suite — but only if they continue to develop their curiosity in positive ways. Curiosity is critical for inclusivity because it encourages executives to engage actively with their environment and the people within it.
Some of the best ways to improve curiosity and inclusivity together include:
- Continue learning. Engaging with education is a good way to keep curiosity keen. Executives can expand their knowledge with executive education online to hone the knowledge and skills they need to excel in current and future roles.
- Invest in relationships. Executives should learn as much as they can about their employees and professional peers by asking questions about their responsibilities, their perspectives and their personal and professional goals.
- Observe. The world is full of wonder and inspiration — Slowing down and observing, especially in unfamiliar spaces, can help develop curiosity and drive the desire to be inclusive.
Encourage Employees to Engage
Few employees expect their executives to have time or interest in perspectives, ideas and opinions from the lower levels of their organization. Thus, executives need to extend an invitation to employees, allowing them to develop a stronger engagement within the organization.
Some effective ways for executives to encourage participation from employees include:
- Invite employees to key meetings. Employees who perform tasks pertinent to meetings should always be invited, as they might offer invaluable input to influence decision making.
- Consult with employees of different levels. It is easy for executives to surround themselves with fellow business leaders, but doing so limits their perspective. Executives should make it a habit to approach employees of all levels when developing solutions to business problems.
- Develop programs for shadowing or mentorship. Executives can work with HR to create programs that allow employees of marginalized backgrounds better access to business leadership.
The most important lesson about inclusivity for executives to learn is that inclusivity is not an issue that can be solved with a single project. Inclusivity requires continuous effort on the part of every business leader and worker within an organization, to ensure that every employee has equal access regardless of their level or background. Inclusive leadership is incredibly worthwhile for individual growth and organizational success.