It's business-critical that leaders encourage debate and inclusivity in their teams, says Shumon Choudhury, a residential property manager at Lendlease Europe.
Whether it is related to gender, ethnicity or sexuality, being excluded has a devastating effect on workplace harmony.
Exclusion can hurt employee confidence, leading to decreased productivity and, often, attrition. Promoting an inclusive environment, on the other hand, leads to happier and more productive team members who are eager to contribute to the organisation.
So how can managers promote inclusivity?
1. Educate yourself and your team
Prioritise inclusivity as you would any other commercial ethos. Commit yourselves to staying current and genuinely understand what inclusion is.
Inclusiveness can be anything from inviting team members to take part in a group activity or join in a workplace conversation.
Embed inclusiveness into your decision-making; for example, relying excessively on past experiences may impact a team member's future opportunities and experiences of work. Speak to other senior members of staff about the personal and commercial benefits of being inclusive and how it should form part of the organisation's employee onboarding programme.
2. Attend inclusivity workshops
Attend external inclusivity workshops to understand the benefits that diversity and inclusion bring to the cohesion and effectiveness of a team.
Explore the impact of language on the work environment and ways to address inappropriate language. For example, there are some factors which may influence a manager's response to inappropriate language such as the nature and context of the language being used and the impact on the reputation of the organisation.
Ideally, there should be a policy in place outlining what is and isn't acceptable.
Identify the relationship between inclusion and diversity; we sometimes confuse these terms and use them interchangeably. Diversity and inclusion are complementary and depend on each other. Inclusion is the conscious effort organisations exert to support diversity.
Workshops can help realise the improved outputs and opportunities that arise from more innovation, creativity and understanding of organisational needs.
These types of workshops will play a crucial part in becoming more accountable by helping managers acknowledge their own unconscious biases and overcome them. This results in becoming more self-aware and objectively seeing how their organisation is performing.
3. Celebrate and embrace differences
Create a shared calendar of culturally important holidays, festivals and other events and observances. Appoint a small committee comprising team members from varied backgrounds to ensure the shared calendar is filled with a comprehensive mixture of observances. The committee can also lead any celebratory preparations.
4. Listen to your team and other colleagues
When a manager cares about their team members, they tend to work harder and aspire to exceed expectations. Most team members want to be led by those who care about them and understand how they fit into the broader team structure. They also want to feel needed and supported by the manager and fellow team members.
Listen to your team members to show them you care. This begins the important task of building a connection, which can lead to a longstanding relationship.
5. Encourage debate
Strive to develop a platform where ideas can be discussed freely, avoiding a "blame culture". This can be achieved by creating a non-judgemental ethos, handling any failings constructively, always focusing on team learning, and even praising team members who make mistakes so long as it teaches valuable lessons that lead to future innovation.
They must welcome scrutiny and be open to explaining their thought process. Such an approach instills confidence in the team to be more transparent and accountable in their actions. If they confidently take ownership of their failures, the rest of the team will respect and mirror this level of transparency.
Quite often, organisational objectives are not made relevant to each team member, and this can be a serious error – team members need to be aware of how their role feeds into the organisation's ambitions.
We all want to feel valued and accepted at work. As managers, we should strive to be inclusive if we want our organisations to excel and attract talented people.
Image credit | iStock