True inclusion is created by embedding inclusive practices and values into the organisation's way of doing things. Whilst inclusion can't be the sole responsibility of the people profession, people professionals nonetheless have a key role to play. They can support employees, line managers and senior leaders to build inclusive behaviours and values, ensure policies and practices are inclusive, and challenge organisational values and behaviours that don't actively promote inclusion. Importantly, any action should be guided by organisational data and carefully evaluated – further research needs to test the most effective ways to build inclusion.

Explore the areas where you can take action to build inclusion

1. Involve all employees in inclusion

All employees need to understand their role in building inclusive workplaces. This involves employers setting clear standards of behaviour for inclusion, treating all colleagues with dignity and respect, and empowering employees to challenge exclusionary behaviour.

What you can do:

  • Make inclusion relevant to people at all levels of the business; what does inclusion mean in their job role and what they can do to be more inclusive?
  • Work with employee resource groups to highlight employees’ roles in inclusion, promoting alliance.

2. Develop people manager capability

Managers are key in inclusion. The relationship they have with employees, and how they carry out people management practices and policies, will impact employees’ opportunities and experiences of work.

Treating all employees with respect, supporting their development and ensuring they've a say in the workplace is core for any manager. Managers need to ensure there’s a level playing field for their team, and support employee’s individual needs. However, bias can play a role in the opportunities that individuals are given at work - given our preferences for people 'like us'.

What you can do:

  • Examine progression and hiring data to ensure that there's a level playing field and address any bias.
  • Embed inclusion in line manager training and development – for example, raise awareness of issues relating to inclusion and empower managers to carry out people management practices effectively.

3. Build senior commitment to inclusion

Many senior leaders are line managers themselves; they set the tone for the behaviour that’s expected in the business. And, with a drive towards increasing diversity on boards, attention must also be paid to how inclusive the boardroom is. People professionals should work with senior leaders to embed inclusion into the organisation’s way of doing things, highlighting the importance of their advocacy and buy in. Senior leaders need to:

  • actively champion and sponsor inclusion activities
  • develop self-awareness and understand their own biases
  • role-model inclusive behaviour in their own people management, and in their own leadership team.

4. Evaluate policies and practices

A two-step approach is needed to put in place people management practices and policies to support inclusion:

  1. Consider the formal and informal mechanisms that can be improved to enhance inclusion for all employees. For example, ensure that there are clear mechanisms for feedback that allow employees to feel like they have a 'say' in the organisation.
  2. Create specific policies and practices that support particular groups or individual needs. For example, make sure there are clear policies in place to support individual needs; these need to be implemented by managers and backed up by a supportive workplace environment.

Consider how you can:

  • embed inclusion into wider people management practices
  • communicate the policies in place that support inclusion
  • use organisational data to review policies and practices.

5. Examine organisational culture, climate and values

Creating an inclusive climate and culture requires fair policies and practices, recognising and valuing difference, and including all employees in decision-making processes. Senior commitment in the form of real advocacy and buy-in is important in creating a truly inclusive organisation. In some cases, organisations might need to evaluate their own norms and values.

What you can do:

  • Work with employees throughout the business to understand current norms and values; is 'difference' seen as positive or negative, and do employees understand their role in inclusion?
  • Evaluate people practices through an inclusion 'lens' - do practices and policies align with inclusion?
  • Ensure that senior leaders support inclusion, and, importantly, role-model inclusive behaviour and value difference, rather than distrust it.

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