What Do We Mean by ‘Inclusion?’ 

Inclusion in its purest form is the act of including someone in something. It seems simple, yet in the workplace, it's rarely achieved successfully. Successful inclusion is about so much more than just a membership card or dedicated office space. It requires creating a space that makes every member feel comfortable being themselves and in a way that builds a sense of belonging. Creating an inclusive workplace is crucial to building successful teams and reducing turnover. It boosts job satisfaction among all employees and builds a strong company culture. 

In a 2021 survey, nearly 80% of workers said they want to work for a company that values diversity, equity, and inclusion. However, nearly half of employees believe their company needs to improve diversity of gender, race, and ethnicity. 40% also believe their companies should increase diversity in terms of sexual orientation. These numbers reveal that many businesses are failing to reach the diversity goals that employees want them to meet. More concerningly, it doesn't address the fact that diversity and inclusion don't always go hand in hand. The act of employing a diverse workforce isn't the same as making those employees feel like they belong. Furthermore, inclusion is much more difficult to measure. 

So, how can employers develop an inclusive workplace? Education is key. By learning more about the elements of an inclusive workplace and how to measure your efforts, you can build an inclusive culture that prioritizes belonging and psychological safety.

What Are the Elements of an Inclusive Workplace?

A visibly diverse workforce is a start toward building an inclusive culture, but it can be difficult to identify a sense of belonging and inclusion. When you consider how teams work and communicate together, you may be able to note camaraderie and respect. An inclusive workplace creates an atmosphere where individuals feel confident being their true selves and sharing ideas freely. A high-performing workplace is one where teams have mastered both collaboration and inclusion, as these come together in a powerful partnership that turbo-charges performance, innovation, and results. We call this magic combination inclusive collaboration, and while you might be able to recognize a workplace with an atmosphere of inclusive collaboration, the challenge is often how to get there yourself.

A RallyBright study conducted in June 2021 identified six key elements of organizational and team collaboration and inclusion. By noting and measuring these elements in your workplace, you can build a workplace that promotes and practices collaboration and inclusion.  

Alignment

It's no secret that when employee goals align with organizational goals, performance is better. A collaborative workplace ensures that teams share a purpose and a commitment across the group to cooperate in pursuit of that goal. Aligned teams are more likely to be open to a variety of ideas and practice productive conflict to reach solutions.

Cooperation

Individual effort is vital, but success for the team requires cooperation. In a cooperative work environment, roles and responsibilities are clearly defined. Because there is an emphasis on communication and knowledge sharing, teams can leverage the strengths of each member and get the information they need to do their jobs well. This contributes to a collaborative workspace with shared responsibility. 

Fairness

Many businesses are embracing the idea of hiring a diverse workforce and undergoing company-wide training to help identify and eliminate unconscious bias in hiring and recognition processes. . By becoming aware of biases, individuals can put measures in place to guard against their impact and help cultivate a company culture where differences within a group are treated as assets instead of obstacles – an attitude that is a boon to high-impact collaboration

Compassion

Compassion is about acknowledging your own feelings and worries, and those of others, so that you can help others more effectively. When employees show compassion for themselves and their coworkers, it creates an environment where people feel like they are supported through thick and thin. There's understanding and encouragement from colleagues. This in turn leads to greater collaboration because people feel like they can ask for help when they need it. 

Belonging

Of all the factors that drive inclusive collaboration, belonging has an outsized influence on team health and performance and forms the cornerstone of inclusion. Your workplace may not feel like a family, but it should feel like a community. Team members should feel connected to one another and valued for the distinct skills and knowledge they bring to the table. A sense of belonging is achieved when all employees feel confident in their contributions and connected to one another. 

Psychological Safety

People of all races, genders, and identities often fear showing their true personalities at work. Psychologically safe environments encourage individuals to speak up, share ideas, solve problems and make suggestions; they also make room for people to make mistakes. When individuals feel heard, supported, and able to take risks, they are more likely to feel a sense of loyalty to their team and workplace.

Why Inclusion Is Important

Inclusion is the glue that holds a collaborative team together in pursuit of the same goals and the magic that helps the team communicate effectively to solve problems and break barriers. The foundation of inclusion is a feeling of belonging to the group, where each employee feels seen and valued for their contributions to the team and organization. This creates a feeling of community and connection where group members feel like they fit in as an integral part of the team. An organization that fosters a sense of belonging encourages individuals to contribute and values the skills and talents of each employee.

Layered on that foundation is the psychological safety that allows each individual to be their true self without hiding aspects of their identity in an effort to conform. This foundation creates an environment where all team members are comfortable speaking up about ideas and problems, knowing that mistakes can be made and will be forgiven.

The result of building a foundation of belonging and psychological safety is high-performing teams of individuals with a common goal who understand how each member can help achieve that goal. In turn, employees feel valued and recognized for their contributions, which increases employee engagement and reduces turnover.

How To Measure Inclusion in the Workplace

The breakdown between diversity and inclusivity often comes with the challenge of measuring inclusion. It's often suggested that inclusion is a feeling. Unfortunately, this would make it impossible to measure with quantitative data. However, inclusion isn't just a feeling, it's an environment that is continually created or dismantled through the actions of individuals. If diversity is measured by the people who are invited to the table, inclusion is measured by how many of these individuals are invited to contribute.

There are two main ingredients for a sense of inclusion: Belonging and psychological safety. By measuring the observable behaviors and reported feelings of your employees, you can get a benchmark measurement of how inclusive your team or organizational culture is.

We've established psychological safety and belonging as the foundations of inclusion. Basic psychological safety means that everyone can show up as their authentic self and without fear of speaking up, contributing suggestions, or making mistakes. There are a wide variety of actions that can contribute to psychological safety.

  • The ability for all individuals to speak up without negative consequences
  • Omission of phrases, actions, and physical spaces that could make groups of people feel left out
  • An environment that encourages confidence in discussing difficult issues or voicing contrary opinions
  • Encouragement of risks without fear of mistakes
  • A viewpoint that treats failures as learning opportunities

True inclusion also requires a sense of belonging. One in four employees feel like they don't belong in their workplace. This means 25% of your employees may feel uncomfortable in the office. Belonging combines the confidence that you bring valuable skills and knowledge to a group with the feeling of being intimately connected to its members. When team members are encouraged to contribute, they're more likely to feel they are valued members of the organization. Similarly, team members who treat each other as insiders build a sense of connection and belonging for each individual.

By gathering data from self-reported feelings of psychological security and belonging as well as data surrounding observable actions that foster a sense of inclusion, you can set a quantifiable benchmark score and devise concrete plans for improvement.

How an Inclusive Workplace Can Help Your Team

An inclusive workplace boasts an environment that encourages diverse teams to express their true selves in a way that brings a variety of viewpoints to an organization. This type of collaboration can result in a variety of benefits that will increase individual employee satisfaction and organizational performance. 

Research shows that workplace inclusivity leads to lower attrition and burnout while increasing job satisfaction, engagement, and performance. Consider these statistics regarding the positive effects of an inclusive workplace. 

  • 98.1% of employees in a highly inclusive workplace report being satisfied or very satisfied with their job, vs only 65.9% of employees where inclusion is low.
  • In high inclusion workplaces, only 2.4% of employees report thinking often or very often about leaving. When inclusion is low, 25.9% report thinking often or very often about leaving.
  • Employee burnout in inclusive environments is one-third of that of organizations with low inclusion.

With increasing evidence that workers are feeling less satisfied than ever about their position in the workplace, it's time for employees to recognize the drivers of positive change. By creating an inclusive workplace, employers reap the benefits of building an environment where individual workers and teams thrive.

The RallyBright Inclusive Collaboration Toolkit enables organizations to measure, diagnose and improve inclusive collaboration. It includes individual and team assessments and reports, benchmark data, strengths and vulnerabilities, and actionable roadmaps. These elements provide leaders and teams with measurable and practical feedback for improving inclusion and collaboration, which our research has shown leads to increased job satisfaction and decreased turnover intent. Learn more about the RallyBright Inclusive Collaboration Toolkit and sign up for a demo here.

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