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Cultivating an Inclusive Workplace




In today's business climate, creating an inclusive workplace is not just a moral imperative but also a strategic advantage for virtually every enterprise. But what does an inclusive workplace look like?

BiasSync experts define an inclusive workplace as a place where employees feel welcomed, respected, and empowered. It goes beyond superficial diversity and strives to involve individuals from diverse backgrounds in decision-making processes.

Climate Versus Culture

An inclusive climate is shaped by the actions and behaviors of individuals, while an inclusive culture permeates throughout the entire organization.

Climate and culture can be improved by recognizing and rewarding inclusive behavior, holding individuals accountable for their actions, and integrating inclusivity into core values.

“It's just as much about how we recover when mistakes are made as it is about allowing and encouraging people to be their whole selves, whatever that looks like for them,” said Nick Franco, Ph.D., Associate Vice-President for Student Equity, Belonging and Voice, Eastern Washington University. “Some individuals find it important to bring their full selves, including their identities, while others may simply want to focus on doing the work. There's space for both approaches, recognizing that we are all imperfect creatures and mistakes can happen. In an inclusive climate, mistakes should not define us, and we should be able to move forward. The ability to recover from mistakes contributes to fostering an inclusive environment.”

The Importance of an Inclusive Climate and Culture

Research conducted by Deloitte reveals the transformative power of inclusivity in the workplace. For example, companies that prioritize inclusivity experience significant benefits in various aspects of their operations. They are twice as likely to exceed their financial performance goals, demonstrating a clear link between a supportive environment and financial success. This data underscores the importance of fostering an inclusive workplace culture that values and celebrates differences.

Actionable Steps

Creating an inclusive workplace is an ongoing process that requires a multifaceted approach. Experts suggest the following actionable steps:

  • Getting buy-in from the top and integrating inclusivity into core values.
  • Creating a task force dedicated to fostering inclusivity.
  • Expanding the company holiday calendar to acknowledge diverse religious beliefs.
  • Recognizing and rewarding everyone's performance.
  • Creating events and initiatives focused on inclusivity.
  • Emphasizing inclusivity in diversity training.
  • Providing personalized benefits and ensuring accessibility.
  • Offering opportunities for open dialogue and safe spaces.

Consistent leadership commitment, tracking metrics, utilizing personalized approaches in training, and focusing on behavior change are also factors of success.

What Not to Do

Tokenism and performative inclusion are significant obstacles to achieving genuine inclusivity. Tokenism occurs when individuals from underserved communities are merely asked to represent their entire collective identity. On the other hand, performative inclusion refers to actions or words that appear to reflect inclusive practices but lack depth and follow-through.

“There are two sides to tokenism,” BiasSync expert Atira Charles, Ph.D., notes. “Tokenism can be categorical or intentional. In the case of categorical tokenism, if a company happens to have one person of color on their team, and that's the first hire in that category, there wasn't necessarily an intent to keep it at one; it just happened that way.

On the other hand, intentional tokenism occurs when there is a deliberate effort to have at least one person of color on the team. In such situations, the goal might be to fulfill a diversity requirement without a genuine commitment to expanding the overall diversity composition. It's a practice often referred to as a ‘diversity hire’, where the primary focus is on checking the diversity box rather than actively fostering diversity and inclusion.”

Other Common Missteps to Cultivating Inclusion

To help organizations avoid potential missteps in cultivating inclusion, experts often highlight common missteps to avoid. These include: 

  • Performative hiring
  • The tendency to react rather than respond to challenges
  • A lack of understanding of human behavior and complexity in diversity and inclusion efforts

Dr. Charles notes the high incidence of burnout in the DEI space, especially when leaders – whether heads of DEI or members of Employee Resource Groups - are not given the resources they need to do the work. “I think one of the things we have to understand is that people have the right to tap out. It's important to acknowledge that many have been actively contributing to the cause for a significant period.

Personally, I've been using my voice since 2020, and now there's a call for an even greater effort, amplifying it tenfold. However, it's essential to recognize the burnout that arises, considering the ongoing challenges of social unrest and political turmoil. This burnout extends to leadership levels, particularly in diversity and inclusion-related spaces. Statistics reveal a high turnover among chief diversity officers, as they may opt out of what were once dream jobs. Some are choosing to prioritize their well-being, deciding to step back if they feel unsupported or lack the necessary resources to effectively carry out their work.”

“As teams become more diverse, it also introduces additional stressors,” Dr. Franko added. “The newness of things and the presence of different perspectives can pose challenges. Simply having increased diversity, whether in terms of race or gender, does not automatically signify the achievement of an inclusive climate threshold. It's essential to recognize that having a diverse team or organization does not guarantee inclusivity; the necessary work must be done to prepare the organization and teams to function as a cohesive community. This preparation is crucial for individuals to be productive team members, especially when working with people who may have very different backgrounds or identities.”

Moving Forward

BiasSync offers a range of valuable resources to support organizations on their inclusivity journey. Our Inclusivity Survey provides granular data on various factors associated with inclusive environments. BiasSync's Five-Stage Inclusivity Roadmap® offers step-by-step guidance, checklists, action items, and our proprietary Equity Audit to help organizations create and implement an effective inclusivity strategy. Other tools, such as our monthly microlearnings support meaningful behavior change and keep inclusion top of mind.

Creating an inclusive workplace is an ongoing process that requires commitment, but the benefits can shift the trajectory of an organization, boost team effectiveness, and benefit the bottom line.

about how behavioral psychology can be used to motivate change in the workplace, BiasSync’s expert-led virtual conversation “Harnessing Motivation to Change Behavior" is available for on demand viewing.

If you’d like to learn more about about BiasSync, we invite you to contact our team today.

Updated: 01/2024

Not just diversity. Inclusion.

Diversity is not just about numbers. It’s about people’s experiences in the workplace. If you’re ready to understand how bias impacts your company—with data to make effective changes, contact us now.