Inclusion and collaboration improve organizations in many ways. When all team members feel a sense of belonging, collaboration becomes more fluid and productive. Often, inclusivity is tied to diversity. Yet, inclusion is more than just inviting different groups of people to the table; it’s also creating an environment where all perspectives and experiences are welcomed and valued. Giving everyone on your team a voice, and the right environment to use, brings about collaboration with improved results.
What We Mean by Inclusive Environment
Merriam Webster defines inclusion as the act or practice of including and accommodating people who have historically been excluded. Today, inclusion in the workplace is more commonly defined as giving each employee what they need to thrive at work. Inclusion practices are the efforts that make each person feel psychologically safe on a team, and belong there. An inclusive team is a group of people that recognizes, welcomes, and values each of the diverse perspectives of every member of the team.
An inclusively collaborative team approaches differences, conflict, and even mistakes as opportunities for innovation and excellence. For these reasons, inclusive collaboration is the foundation of organizational success.
Using Change Management to Implement Inclusive Collaboration
While inclusive collaboration at work is an idea everyone can get behind, actually implementing it is another story. One way that some teams choose to implement inclusive collaboration is with the help of change management processes and tools. Change management tools can be powerful for helping teams embrace and flourish face change, including inclusive collaboration.
What exactly are change management tools? Change management tools support teams during times of disruption, and facilitate smooth transitions from one state to another. When applied to inclusive collaboration at work, change management tools can help teams stay laser-focused, productive, and results-driven, while starting to adapt critical inclusive collaboration policies.
How exactly do change management tools help implement inclusive collaboration? These tools can allow leaders to see trends at a glance, benchmark where teams are starting from, and get ahead of interpersonal friction by understanding the team’s dominant behavioral and conflict styles. Leaders can also easily spot where teams are thriving, enabling them to share best-practices with others, and get ahead of organizational weaknesses and below-benchmark results.
The Six Pillars of Inclusive Collaboration
Deloitte describes six signature traits of inclusive leaders: courage, cognizance, curiosity, cultural intelligence, collaboration, and commitment. Still, it takes more than inclusive leaders to form an inclusive team. Inclusion relies on daily interactions between employees, managers, team leaders, co-workers, and teams.
When teams engage in inclusive collaboration, it means team members align on common goals and interpersonal norms that ensure success for both individuals and the group as a whole. Our recent research here at RallyBright identified and examined the six key dimensions of organizational collaboration and inclusion.
Inclusive Collaboration Dimensions
When employee goals and team or organizational goals complement each other, performance is improved. Highly functioning teams reach an agreement on a common objective and form a commitment across the group to cooperate in pursuit of this goal. Teams working toward a goal they support become more engaged, which offers substantial benefits for any business.
A 2020 Gallup survey noted a recent and historic drop in employee engagement. The survey found that only 36% of US employees are actively engaged, while 14% are actively disengaged and 54% are simply not engaged. Disengaged employees show up, but put in the minimum effort required. Findings noted that clear direction can improve employee engagement.
Cooperation is a key component of collaboration. To improve cooperation, the focus should be on dividing work into clear roles and responsibilities, communicating effectively, and sharing knowledge freely.
Teams of individuals working toward a common goal reach the highest level of success when each employee’s strengths are recognized and utilized. According to a McKinsey study, 70% of employees say their sense of purpose is defined by work. Yet, when asked if they felt they lived their purpose in their daily lives, 85% of executives said they lived their purpose at work, while only 15% of frontline managers and employees felt the same way. When organizations fail to clarify the purpose, or role, of each team member, workers are more likely to seek other employment opportunities.
The willingness to help others at our own expense, and the consistent consideration of our own and others’ feelings may be the most critical component of collaboration. When team members show compassion, they help create strong team connections. This is a major contributor to a sense of belonging. Seeking a more caring culture is one of the top three reasons employees sought new employment in 2021. A workplace with compassionate leaders and team members is more likely to retain qualified employees.
The key to creating a compassionate work environment is to define what support looks like and explore how needs vary from team member to team member. For example, support can be emotional, like lending an ear or offering encouragement. Or it can be practical, like troubleshooting or brainstorming solutions. In addition, supportive behaviors can vary widely between cultures. The best way to explore and bridge these differences is for team members to develop deeper relationships.
Fairness and Diverse Teams
Fairness means willingness to address bias, paired with a mindset that differences within a group are not obstacles, but assets. Our differences should be seen as enriching our experiences, not dividing them. When an environment is fair, all team members have an equal chance to excel, and unique capabilities are valued. To address bias and embrace differences, employers and teams must be aware of bias and willing to address it.
While companies are working toward eliminating bias, employment statistics among diverse demographics should be considered. The average unemployment rate in the U.S. is 3.9%, but it’s 6.5% (men) and 6.7% (women) among veterans, 7.9% for disabled people, 7.9% for people with less formal education than a high school diploma, and 9.2% for foreign-born workers.
Similarly, the average unemployment rate in the U.S. in 2019 was about 3.7%, while black people were 6.1%, and Hispanic or Latinx populations were 4.3%. The gap among minorities in leadership roles is even more notable, with all minority executives combined only making up 11.6% of executives in the U.S.
Ultimately, fairness is about everyone getting what they need to succeed – such as access to opportunities, connections and support – based on who they are as an individual and what they wish to achieve.
Psychological safety in the workplace is the ability to be your authentic self, speak up without fear, and make mistakes. A recent study by McKinsey & Company revealed that team climate is the most important driver of psychological safety. An organization where employees don’t feel comfortable speaking up lacks the equipment to prevent failure. When employees feel comfortable asking questions, facing constructive conflict, and learning from failures, they are comfortable being themselves. The organization reaps the benefits of such a culture with engaged employees who seek innovative solutions to drive success.
Our June 2021 study confirmed that a sense of belonging is the strongest predictor of job satisfaction and turnover intent. In organizations where belonging was indicated as high (in the top quartile), 97.7% of respondents indicated they were “satisfied or very satisfied with their job,” and only 1.8% indicated they “thought often or very often about leaving their current job.”
Belonging is all about the confidence we feel about the skills and knowledge we bring to the group, as well as the feeling of being intimately connected to other group members. The well-being of your team is crucial for optimal productivity. Team members need to feel both connected and valued, which starts with a sense of belonging among all employees. True inclusion only exists when all workers have confidence that they bring valuable skills and knowledge to the team.
It’s been argued that a sense of belonging is a feeling that exists within an individual. However, if the actions of leaders and team members within an organization make employees feel like outsiders, they aren’t truly included in the team. According to Gartner, workplace understanding, support, and trust reduce the likelihood of an individual feeling like an outsider. By making personal connections and valuing ideas that make an individual unique from their coworkers, every employee can feel comfortable making important contributions to the team.
How to Build an Inclusive Culture of Collaboration
Inclusive collaboration at work is the foundation of organizational success. It creates the sense that everyone belongs, both in terms of the work they are doing, as well as relationships formed within the group. It’s an environment where individuals feel confident showing up as their true selves, without hiding aspects of their identity. Organizations that achieve inclusive collaboration reap benefits through increased employee engagement, higher job satisfaction, innovative ideas that drive success, and lower turnover rates.
Companies and teams that view inclusivity as a process, not a program, build changes that transform the way the organization works. To build a culture of inclusive collaboration at work, organizations will need to adopt processes that encourage open communication. Consider these strategies to build a culture of inclusive collaboration in your workplace.
Hiring With Inclusive Collaboration In Mind
One of the most impactful ways leaders can drive inclusive collaboration at work is by starting with their hiring process, which goes far beyond standard (yet still important) diversity and equity initiatives. An inclusive hiring culture is comprehensive, and requires leaders to take thoughtful steps to minimize and eradicate biases, and to create inclusive hiring processes, from the time of application through the offer process.
How exactly can leaders ensure that their hiring process is inclusive? Here are some tips:
- Job descriptions: Job descriptions should ensure they use language that isn’t coded for gender, gender-neutral language (instead of “he” or “she”), be mindful of unnecessary requirements and “must haves,” and ensure your job descriptions are inclusive of those with physical and cognitive disabilities.
- Hiring process: Your hiring process should be clearly structured and level, where teams ask candidates the same questions, which are then judged under the same format.
- Candidates: You can also ask candidates to share their preferred pronouns, as well as the proper pronunciation of their name. You can also look for ways that candidates “add” to your company culture, instead of “fitting into” the culture already exists.
Provide Safe Spaces for Employees
Inclusivity isn’t limited to any specific group of people. Poorly designed spaces can hinder a sense of belonging for all, or the tendency to fall back on generic terms. Providing safe spaces can cover various actions that may include:
- Eliminating terms that assume gender identity, overlook disabilities, and suggest age or racial bias.
- Creating physical spaces like gender-neutral restrooms, private spaces for breastfeeding mothers, and accessibility for disabled employees.
- Offering benefits that offer all employees flexibility, free from fear of losing advancement opportunities.
In an environment where psychological safety is practiced, all employees feel free to behave authentically, fearlessly speak up, contribute, and make mistakes. As workers seek jobs with a caring culture, connections in the workplace will be an important driver of workplace satisfaction.
Define a Collaborative Environment
Creating an atmosphere where employees feel comfortable contributing to an organization’s success requires a concrete approach that encourages new ideas. For instance, employees need to feel confident enough to ask questions that allow them to fully understand certain concepts and voice ideas outside traditional thinking. For a collaborative workplace that prioritizes psychological safety, employees should have guidelines and modeled behavior from leaders that encourage constructive conversations. This could include established processes for handling (and learning from) failures, creating space for new ideas, and embracing productive conflict.
Use Measurable Data to Track Improvement
Providing routine employee surveys can give employees a voice to describe how efforts are working or could be improved. Anonymous suggestions could be used for discussion topics at company meetings to open a dialogue about new opportunities for change. Utilizing tools to benchmark and measure data related to the six pillars of inclusive collaboration at work provides organizations with a way to note strengths and vulnerabilities and create a roadmap for continuous improvement.
How to Encourage Inclusive Collaboration
Building a culture of inclusive collaboration at work begins with an understanding of your organization’s current position and a definition of the organizational culture you expect to achieve. By getting a firm understanding of what inclusion means and how to practice it, you can create open communication between leaders and employees in your company.
Consider how these tips can help you improve inclusive collaboration:
- Open various communication channels. Employees and company leaders should meet face-to-face, send emails, and communicate through messages throughout the workday. Some of these communications should include an entire team or company to bring everyone together. Multiple options offer convenience that is most likely to keep communications open.
- Utilize measurable data to track your company’s progress. By using data to determine the climate for collaboration, as well as how team members feel based on self-reported feelings of psychological safety and belonging, you can get a firm understanding of where your company stands and where to focus improvements.
- Celebrate personal moments and achievements at the workplace. By celebrating holidays, personal milestones, and achievements unrelated to work, co-workers can form a bond and develop a sense of compassion and belonging.
- Encourage personal connections between co-workers. By scheduling team events, weekly or monthly meals, or a simple get-together, you can create a community among employees that fosters psychological safety and belonging.
Diverse teams do not drive company success alone. Inclusive collaboration is the mechanism by which teams can reap the benefits of their diversity. It doesn’t matter how diverse a team is, if the team culture is one that doesn’t recognize, value, or welcome those diverse perspectives. Teams should operate in a way that seeks authenticity, contribution, free exchange of ideas, and respectful debate. It’s not enough for diverse members to have a seat at the table. They also need a voice.
Why Inclusive Collaboration Matters for Your Team
Inclusive collaboration is a way to work together towards a common goal, where every member of the team is expected to contribute and feels comfortable. When teams collaborate inclusively, they align on common goals and interpersonal norms that will ensure success for both individuals and the group as a whole.
Inclusive collaboration at work evolves from a psychologically safe space that allows individuals from all races, genders, demographics, ages, physical abilities, and backgrounds to communicate respectfully together. Inclusive collaboration is important to businesses in all industries to achieve employee satisfaction, retention, and higher performance.
The Importance of Inclusion and Collaboration
Consider how your business would suffer if a third or half of your employees weren’t there. You would expect lower profit margins, less productivity, and lower success rates. The results are similar when you have employees within your organization who don’t feel comfortable speaking up or sharing new ideas. By creating an inclusive atmosphere where employees can offer their best ideas without fear, engagement is increased, and the organization performs at higher levels.
Ultimately, a cycle of success is created that helps your organization recruit and retain highly qualified employees while increasing financial gains. Consider the data on how diversity and inclusivity lead to a collaborative atmosphere that helps companies succeed.
We already know that diversity improves workplace performance. Case in point:
- Gender-diverse companies outperform gender-homogeneous organizations by 50%.
- Companies with above-average executive team diversity are 36% more likely to financially outperform non-diverse competitors.
Employee Contributions Improve Company Culture
By creating an inclusive environment, you encourage each member of your team to contribute more and perform at higher levels. You also create an attractive company culture that engages workers and encourages new recruits to join your organization. This is crucial in a competitive labor market with exceptionally high turnover.
Over 28 million workers quit their jobs in 2021. The November 2021 Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLTS) report shows that 4.5 million workers quit in a single month. Yet, another important statistic in the same report shows that these workers aren’t quitting work altogether. The “hires” section of the report reveals that 6.7 million employees were hired in November. For employers, this means that the opinions of job seekers and those leaving current positions are crucial to management decisions in 2022. Consider these statistics about employees entering and quitting positions:
- 76% of job seekers say a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers.
- 80% of workers want inclusive companies.
- The top three reasons employees quit in 2021 were: 1. Burnout, 2. Seeking flexibility, and 3. Seeking a more caring culture.
It might seem startling to employers that money isn’t driving the employment decisions of most employees. However, when you consider RallyBright data on the connection between inclusive collaboration and burnout, it’s not that surprising. Employees must feel included and valued to offer their best performance on the job.
Inclusive Collaboration is Better for Employees and Their Employers
Inclusive collaboration at work is critical, both for high-performing and satisfied teams, as well as their employers. When teams are practicing inclusive collaboration, they’re able to best work together, align on goals, and achieve overall success. Likewise, when inclusive collaboration is in play, leaders can expect to see more productivity, great teamwork, higher success rates, and even higher profit margins.
And while the benefits of inclusive collaboration are numerous, actually transitioning teams to a state of inclusive collaboration can take some effort. Leaders need to look at their hiring processes, employee spaces, and team atmosphere, while using measurable data to ultimately transition to inclusive collaboration. While this can sound like a big undertaking, leaders don’t need to do it all on their own: RallyBright is here to help.
RallyBright’s Inclusive Collaboration Toolkit is designed to measure inclusion and collaboration across six key behavioral and attitudinal dimensions. By measuring progress and taking targeted action toward improvement, job satisfaction and turnover rates can be improved. To learn more, schedule your free demo today.