5 Actions You Can Take To Start Building An Inclusive Culture


by Angela Kambouris

The era of diversity as a check the box initiative is over. CEO’s, Directors and business founders must take ownership and drive accountability of inclusive working styles. Leading organizations in this digital era thrive when diversity and inclusion are woven into the fabric of the organization.

The Diversity Council of Australia describes an inclusive leader as curious about new and different perspectives, is responsive to diversity of people and perspectives, challenges accepted practices and creates teams in which people feel valued and respected. Inclusive cultures improve profit and performance, create higher levels of innovation, provide greater team engagement, improve employee well-being, improve conflict resolution and reduce employee turnover.

Diversity and inclusion are not a problem. They are opportunities to think about how to earn respect from people in the workplace and marketplace. To provide an opportunity to make an impact and have an influence over the growth of the company.

Diversity creates opportunity, value and respect for all. Inclusion ensures people feel it. Exclusivity breeds exclusion. Inclusion fosters connection and belonging. People want to feel included, heard and valued. Individuals will go beyond any expectations, elevate their own standards to fulfil their essential need to belong. They are more likely to help co-workers prevent or resolve problems, demonstrate initiative and care about the business performance.

Talking about diversity isn’t always straightforward. Too often people subscribe to cultural celebration as fulfilling their diversity quota. It’s time to explore the combination of diversity and inclusion to create opportunity for all people to meet their potential by eliminating biases and improve business outcomes.

Diversity and inclusion are a global issue. Not only is the public increasingly aware of this issue, think about what is portrayed in the media regarding the scrutiny of gender and racial discrimination worldwide. Unconscious and explicit bias is visible to the everyday person.

Leaders bear the responsibility for setting the tone in the workplace and must be held accountable at all levels of business. Awareness and training are critical in creating cultural shifts. To embed diversity means removing bias from systems and processes coupled with leader accountability and a new language to discuss bias.

Companies such as Facebook and Salesforce are publicly highlighting gender equality and setting strong examples. There has been a shift on eliminating measurable bias from talent processes. The state of Victoria, Australia is experimenting with removing all personal details from job applications to overcome a hiring bias.

No one ever said that breaking down walls was easy. Inclusion should be a purposeful trait that every leader embodies. Let me share with you 5 actions you can take to start leading with inclusion:


Adopt a curiosity mindset and foster a culture of growth

Curiosity creates an openness to new and different perspectives, creates flexibility in how we respond, allows us to challenge accepted practices and incorporate different perspectives into how business is done. Growth-focused mindset generates flavorsome dialogue and creates a diverse-thinking team. The hallmark of true inclusive leadership is grounded in an openness to all ideas


Importance of inclusion starts at the top

It is no surprise that diversity at the top promotes diversity throughout an organization. When leaders make an organizational commitment to inclusive leadership and culture, emerging leaders identify with role models. Discussions and shared knowledge, including research on the value of inclusion needs to be led by the top. Leaders need to be accountable through metrics and transparent reports. Like in Australia, anonymize resumes and implement training around removing bias. Inclusion must be practiced and owned by all leaders. It is a business responsibility, not a HR add on.


Catalyze opportunities for inclusion

Lead conversations, identify potential areas for bias and co-develop solutions with staff. When you embrace complementary differences, you enable more holistic and integrated solutions.  EY earnt the top spot on this year’s DiversityInc Top 50 Companies due to key results including accountability for equitable mentoring, sponsoring and advancing talent, empowering people to have a courageous conversation, hosted a webcast on the topic of race, equalized paid parental leave and created opportunities for high functioning individuals with autism.


Start observing unconscious biases in your workplace

Our workplaces and cultures feature subtle and not so subtle biases about gender, race, nationality, education, sexuality, body-type. They can blind us to the value that people from other cultures bring to our communities and limit opportunities for talented people.

Start observing unconscious biases in your workplace. Check assumptions and challenge stereotypes in you and your team. Open discussions to people outside your group, find commonalities with people you meet, bypass stereotypes and expand your working group for new and unexpected connection.


Having policy doesn’t create change

The Boston Consulting Group report, What’s Working to Drive Gender Diversity in Leadership highlights the significance of when a commitment to flexible work is made, this drives gender diversity in leadership. Jetstar Group Chief Executive, Jayne Hrdlicka, shared at the launch how she works to demonstrate that senior managers can work flexibly as she makes it home to her children by limiting her nights away from home.

Companies must spend more time listening to their people about gender diversity initiatives, to unveil the real obstacles that women face that prevents progression, focus on developmental experiences needed for succession in to the next role, expand flexible work arrangements and engage the entire organization in the execution of the inclusion strategy. As Gary Vaynerchuk, media mogul says, “we all have ideas, execution is the game”.




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