(Article originally appeared in Forbes)
By Laura Hamill, Ph.D. Laura is Chief Science Officer and Chief People Officer at Limeade, an employee engagement company.
When you think of inclusion at work, what comes to mind first? An invitation to a co-worker’s birthday party? A weekly women’s group you attend during your lunch break? Your manager supporting your needs as a working parent? The answer is all of the above. Inclusion happens on a daily basis, from onboarding to an employee’s last day on the job. So how do you make sure the thousands of interactions that make up the employee experience are inclusive?
Inclusion can be measured by a sense of belonging, connection and community at work. It’s really about how you feel connected to your workplace and the people around you. An organization that has mastered inclusion is one where people feel encouraged to bring their “whole selves” to work. Between voicing diverse points of view and finding a sense of connection to others, this is what makes inclusion real.
The Power Of Inclusion
Research shows that inclusive workplaces are six times more likely to be innovative and twice as likely to meet or surpass financial goals. On top of that, employees who feel able to bring their whole selves to work are 42% less likely to plan on leaving for another position within a year. At the core, it’s true that the higher the level of inclusion, the higher the level of well-being and engagement in your employees, which can lead to better business results.
The Impact Of Inclusion On Employee Well-Being And Engagement
Can you imagine feeling good and living with purpose if you didn’t feel valued by your employer? Or if you didn’t feel like you could be yourself at work? Or if your manager belittled you? These questions are real — and they come up more often in the workplace than you might think. Inclusion, well-being and engagement are all related. And you need all three to truly cultivate an inclusive workplace.
Based on a study of more than 2,000 U.S. workers, we at Limeade found that individuals with higher well-being and engagement have higher inclusion. In fact, employees who feel included at work were more engaged and more likely to recommend their company as a great place to work. And while leader and manager behavior is important to perceptions of inclusion at work, interactions between peers is paramount.
An inclusive workplace is cooperative, collaborative, open, fair, curious, accountable and so much more. Take a look at these seven components of inclusion, plus tips for helping to create an inclusive workplace:
1. Access to resources: Give employees the support necessary to be inclusive. Whether it’s employee resource groups or technology, natural and valuable solutions are easy starting points to influence individual behaviors.
Tip: For more inclusive meetings, encourage employees to send agendas and materials in advance so everyone feels prepared. Protect time by setting up technology properly, and be sure to actively involve all members.
2. Having a voice: Employees need to feel they have a say in decisions that impact their work. And leaders and managers should proactively find ways to give employees a voice.
Tip: Talk informally, hold focus groups or have weekly surveys that measure or address inclusion. Make sure employees know that it’s not a taboo topic and that your door is always open.
3. Being accepted and valued for who you are: Individuals need to feel connected to a common cause — something bigger — but also recognized for their uniqueness. It’s crucial that employees feel their organization values the unique perspectives and skills they bring to work.
Tip: Have intentional conversations with your employees that not only recognize their great work, but explain why you value them and their great work. Acknowledge them at the individual level for specific achievements or even small wins to show you truly care and take part in their successes.
4. Learning and development: Employees must feel they have the opportunity to develop and advance their careers at their organization. Without learning and development as a key component of inclusion and broader company values, you’ll stunt employee growth and limit innovation.
Tip: Offer employees the opportunity — whether it requires time, funding or encouragement — to expand their professional and personal goals by supporting further education, learning a new skill or developing a hobby or passion.
5. Collaborative environment: When teams feel a stronger sense of connection between each other, they’re able to utilize the strengths and skills of every individual. Collaboration is key for the success of your business and a huge piece of inclusion in the workplace.
Tip: Pause to ask what others think in a meeting. Make sure to give credit where credit is due, even if the person who came up with the idea isn’t in the room.
6. Intentionally focusing on inclusive practices: Promote diverse ideas and perspectives and take action. Focus your efforts on inclusive practices that will become second nature to employees and are woven into the culture, mission and values of the organization.
Tip: Leverage the practices that you have, and think about how you’re using those to teach about inclusive actions. It’s not only about asking employees questions, but asking the right questions.
7. Creating a sense of belonging: Employees’ sense of belonging at their organization can affect their levels of intent to stay at their organization, and their well-being, engagement and overall success in their roles.
Tip: Make your inclusion efforts feel exciting — something your employees will want to rally around. For instance, we branded our inclusion program “Kaleidoscope” and executed an internal marketing plan that includes guest speakers, happy hours, employee-driven resource groups and even a hashtag to drive buzz.
When you break things down into day-to-day actions, it opens employees’ eyes to the repeatable behaviors that effect, influence and mold a culture. Make inclusion feel real to your employees — as true and authentic in closed conference rooms as in open hallways and company events. It’s not easy; it requires a lot of hard work. But when it comes down to it, inclusion is powerful for your people and your business.