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Workplace Inclusion

In HR, it’s often a case of another day, another buzzword. And as UK business still struggles with diversity and representation, the goalposts are shifting and this particular ‘buzzword’ has a lot of sense on its side.

The latest CIPD report sets out the context, stating that the focus so far has been on diversity metrics and measures (understandably perhaps, because metrics and numbered targets are easy to set and easy to measure) when it should really be about genuine inclusion.

What is inclusion?

At the risk of over-simplifying, diversity could be said to be about employing a workforce that represents the society in which it operates – i.e. the differences that exist within society also exist in the workforce, and in roughly the same proportions. And diversity remains incredibly important, both for legislative compliance and for good business.

To lift a definition from the CIPD, inclusion is, “how an employee experiences their workplace.” A diverse workforce is a surface appearance whereas inclusion is when everyone in your diverse workforce is bringing their (extremely diverse) skills and life experience to bear on their roles. How do you access all this skill and experience? By including the whole workforce and tapping the benefits of higher employee job satisfaction, reduced absenteeism, and more creative input.

Are you inclusive?

You probably know (or should do!) how diverse your workforce is, but how inclusive is it? How do you go about benchmarking where you’re at? How do you know whether you need to take action or not? Where’s the baseline?

Fear not. There’s an online test available with some searching questions around employee and manager understanding, whether exclusionary behaviour gets called out or not, and where senior management stand. Answer the questions and receive a tailored set of recommendations for inclusion actions…

Being more inclusive

Those recommendations can be used as a first step or initial plan focused on a number of key areas:

  • Employee behaviour – Inclusion can’t be ‘ordered’, it requires cooperation and an understanding from employees. What are your standards for treating co-workers with dignity and respect? How can you make inclusion relevant to the whole workforce?
  • Line managers – As in so many areas, line managers (as the name suggests) on the frontline. How they do their job, apply HR processes, and treat people in general are hugely influential on each employee’s experience of your workplace.
  • Senior leaders – As role modelsgo, the senior bosses carry weight (whether they like it or not) and people respond very differently to someone championing diversity and inclusion as opposed to someone paying lip service.
  • Policies – The boring-but-essential HR foundations… Do your formal processes feel inclusive of all? Are some people dissatisfied? And if so, is there any mechanism for raising an issue, giving the organisation some feedback?
  • Culture – If culture is ‘the way we do things around here’ then it’s potentially the most influential factor in your inclusivity. How is difference viewed in your workplace culture? Are employees involved in key decisions (i.e. are they part of the process or are they ‘done to’?)

Inclusion is a more practical perspective. Less how do you look, and more what do you do?

Here’s a simple starter question: Would your employees describe your business as a good place to work?

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