While a lot of companies try to be more inclusive, they don’t always fully understand the benefits of inclusion. It’s also fairly common not to know the difference between inclusion, diversity and equality. If you’re looking to learn more about inclusion, and how it can help your business, we’ve explored this topic in more detail below:
What is Inclusion?
Before we start discussing the advantages of inclusion, let’s clarify what it actually means! An inclusive culture allows a diverse group of people to come to work and feel confident to be themselves. They should be comfortable in the workplace and able to work in a way that both suits them, and helps meet the goals of the business. Essentially, inclusion means that all your staff feel valued and have a say in how the business works.
To completely get to grips with the meaning of inclusion, it’s important to also understand what things like diversity and equality mean. Diversity is a fairly straightforward concept - it simply means a mix of people, from various backgrounds. It is also often used to describe people of different ethnicities, religions, sexualities, as well as genders.
Equality is about treating everyone fairly, regardless of things like gender or ethnicity. Within a working environment, equality is often linked to The Equality Act 2010, which legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace.
Importance of Inclusion
Feeling included is a huge part of a person’s mental wellbeing. Most people can remember a time at which they didn’t feel included - from being left out at school to feeling unwelcome or unappreciated when visiting a friend. In our day-to-day lives, we all like to feel included, made to feel welcome, and that we are cared for. So why is inclusion so important in the workplace? We’ve outlined five of the top reasons below:
1. Enhance Employee Engagement
According to research from Gallup, employees who work in an inclusive environment are more loyal to the business, and are much more engaged. However, this research suggested that only around a third of employees consider themselves to be engaged in the workplace. By making your staff feel more included, they should feel more engaged, which in turn can lead to higher productivity levels.
People need to feel that they are included, and fit well within the business, if they are going to be engaged and productive at work. And when it comes to staff retention, customer service and innovation, a sense of inclusion or belonging can play a large part in these key business metrics.
2. Improve the Employee Experience
Inclusion allows staff to be innovative, speak up and share new ideas. If your employees feel included, they will know that their perspective and ideas are appreciated. This can improve the overall employee experience, as well as improve loyalty to the organisation. An inclusive business is more likely to attract and retain some of the top talent, and these individuals will commonly become great advocates for the company.
While it’s important to strive for equality, inclusion can take it one step further. An inclusive environment can help people feel welcome, valued, respected and fulfilled. It’s also good to note that building such an environment and being empathetic towards staff isn’t just a nice thing to aim towards - it can also add strategic value to your company. Improving the employee experience comes with many benefits, as discussed above.
3. Create a Sense of Belonging
In a lot of ways, cultivating an inclusive environment is the same as developing a culture of belonging. Within the workplace, inclusion means involving people, regardless of their differences or quirks. Belonging is about being transparent and fair, whether it’s related to hiring, promotions, salary or benefits packages.
Creating a sense of belonging can lead to a much more positive company culture. This is especially important when staff are not all working in the same building - perhaps some employees work remotely or on a hybrid schedule. One of the best ways to help people feel like they belong in the workplace is to keep reaffirming that diversity and representation matter to your business.
4. Encourage Creativity and Innovation
If you want your company to be more innovative, inclusion is a great first step. Innovation can be risky, but if you’re able to cultivate a sense of belonging, employees should feel more comfortable taking such risks. Inclusion can furthermore lead to better problem solving and decision making, as staff won’t feel they have to stay quiet when offering ideas, suggestions or feedback.
Inclusion can additionally encourage creativity amongst employees, no matter their level. An inclusive workplace allows people to take their own pathway in terms of solving problems and creative thinking. And if you employ people from diverse backgrounds, this can lead to diverse approaches to problem-solving.
5. Strengthen Your Leadership Team
Research from Deloitte has shown that business leaders can make up to a 70% difference in whether staff members feel included. It’s therefore essential that your leadership team are noticeably committed to equality and inclusion in the workplace. Managers tend to set the example within a business, so if they are seen to listen to different perspectives, this should lead to better inclusion for everyone.
We all know how crucial things like inclusion and diversity are. In fact, Glassdoor found that 76% of job seekers felt diversity was an important factor when considering job offers. So encouraging your management team to consciously consider diversity and inclusion can only lead to a better working environment.