Inclusive companies do better business

In support of National Inclusion Week 2021 (27th September to 3rd October), Stephen Frost urged organisations to renew their commitment to inclusion as a commercial imperative that enables better business.

Team moving cogs together
As the nation recovers from lockdowns, the effects of Covid-19, the inequalities shown up by Black Lives Matter, and the fallout from Brexit, Stephen Frost is calling on employers to play their part in the recovery process of their employees.The workplace can become a true catalyst for change. "When we ask executives to name their closest friends and closest colleagues, nine times out of ten, their colleagues are more diverse than their friends,” says Stephen Frost, CEO, and founder of diversity and inclusion consultancy, Included“This means the workplace, not our personal lives, is the catalyst for inclusion and where real change can take place."
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Inclusive workplaces perform best

“In our professional lives, we have a responsibility to include in order to get work done,” Stephen Frost continues. “The workplace is where recalibration can occur, where people have to work with others from outside their cultural and social groups."Citing research, Stephen Frost highlights how inclusive organisations do better business, are more productive, generate more revenue, perform better on problem-solving and strategy tasks, think more creatively, are better at negotiating and make enhanced decisions.Additionally, employees at these organisations report feeling increased engagement, motivation, trust, and well-being in the workplace.

Higher satisfaction and business performance

More inclusive workplaces have higher customer satisfaction. Recent research in the health sector has shown that more inclusive practices lead to more engagement of health practitioners, leading to better patient outcomes.In other sectors too, this increased engagement drives productivity. The US Department of Veteran Affairs reported a projected $18 billion annual saving could be achieved with increased engagement from inclusive practices. McKinsey's How Inclusion Matters report shows that UK and US companies with gender or ethnically diverse executive teams, over 30% are likely to outperform those with less ethnic diversity or fewer women.

Stephen's top five inclusion practices all employers should embed in the workplace

  1. Psychological safety: This is the most important factor in making people feel included in an organisation. Psychological safety is how comfortable your people feel when they are looking to express dissatisfaction or disagreement, suggest innovation, or potentially make mistakes. A nudge that could be made to increase psychological safety is to assign a person to play devil's advocate in team working situations. This can help people feel more comfortable voicing their dissent, and the role can be rotated throughout the team. This can reduce bias in meetings and aid decision-making. Creating a space that encourages disagreement can be helpful to reduce groupthink and encourage people to bring their authentic selves to work.
  2. Transparency: To better retain talent, organisations need to ensure transparency and objectivity in their performance and reward structures.  Develop an open culture with strong communication in all directions within the organisation. Open dialogue and active listening are essential elements of the culture here. Actively seek feedback from your teams and take action on ideas and suggestions received. Keep lines of communication open through a range of accessible methods such as intranets, newsletters and other avenues of internal communication. It is also important to call out bad behaviour, establish clear, inclusive talent pathways, and internally publish salaries for pay transparency.
  3. Micro-behaviours: Often unconscious, sometimes unnoticeable behaviours such as language, tone and gestures, have a significant impact on various organisational outcomes including team effectiveness and perception of company values. All employees should be trained to understand and engage with inclusion in how they do their jobs and work with colleagues. This needs to be baked into the organisation's design.  Colleagues must understand that they have an individual responsibility to uphold these standards. Introduce clear processes to deal with all forms of harassment and bullying, to make it clear that this behaviour will not be tolerated.
  4. Measurement: Many organisations have become adept at measuring diversity, but few are measuring inclusion adequately.  The behaviours and experiences of the workforce must be measured to fully understand what needs to be done. Included has developed a unique Inclusion Diagnostic that leverages insight, research, and data to enable a more precise diagnosis and allows more targeted inclusive solutions to be put in place.
  5. The ‘Understand, Lead, Deliver' theory of change: First, we must understand the problem and define our own "why" in a way that makes sense to us and our work. Second, we must take personal responsibility for our own leadership. No-one else can lead for you. Third, we must deliver: focus on concrete actions that are thought-through, personal to us and make a measurable difference to those around us. 

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