Inclusive workplaces start with inclusive leaders
The power of inclusive leaders: how to help your employees develop the mindsets and behaviors that create belonging
The world is not what it was a few years ago. This is obvious. What’s less obvious is how we’re supposed to adapt to so many changes at once. The events of recent years have brought to light a myriad of societal problems. In response, we have seen a sea change in the way work is done and in the expectations and needs of workers vis-à-vis employers.
With an increase in remote and hybrid offices, dispersed teams and an “always on culture”, work now happens from dawn to dusk in kitchens, living rooms, hotels and cars. The merging of public and private spaces has led to the collapse of context – the characters of family and friends have merged with the professional – and the result is a new type of person showing up at work. A whole person, with a full and authentic self.
For the Authentic Self, systemic racism, climate change, and wealth inequality are all front and center. For employers, ignoring the concerns of the whole person fosters a sense of alienation. Then comes burnout, agony and the Great Resignation (or big reshuffle).
The tasks of team leaders are more complex and more important than ever. This is why Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) initiatives are essential and why a focus on inclusive leadership must be a top priority for leading organizations.
We know that people drive the success of any organization and that when workers’ needs aren’t met, they leave. However, 25% of employees say they do not feel a sense of belonging at work.
Why does this happen? For several reasons.
First, DEIB has traditionally been relegated to human resources, making it a “them” problem rather than an “everyone” solution.
Second, many organizations increase workforce diversity by hiring a percentage of new employees without making changes to leadership, culture, or support initiatives. While company-wide representation is important, leaders who embody inclusiveness and diversity make a difference in terms of retention, culture, and opportunities for recognition and advancement.
Third, many organizations that need DEIB training offer single sessions – although science proves that we forget most of what we learn this way – and don’t need leadership to participate. And these organizations often don’t have systems in place to track progress.
Finally, the responsibility for the execution and implementation of DEIB initiatives too often falls on staff members from underrepresented and marginalized groups.
According to a 2020 report by The Josh Bersin Company, a team of analysts whose goal is to research how people work in order to support HR efforts. As a result, only 35% of DEIB programs in UK organizations are adopted and 39% of workers believe their employer implements DEIB initiatives just to look good.
What are the effects of a non-inclusive workplace? First, feeling left out makes people 25% less productive. Moreover, they are actually not willing to work hard for the team. A sense of belonging is a basic human need; we experience exclusion as physical pain. When employees don’t feel a sense of belonging, they naturally abstain — they don’t share ideas or give feedback — which means teams can’t benefit from the diversity of ideas and experiences. they bring to the table.
If that’s not enough, the most important factor for a team’s success is not the talent or even the IQ of its members, but their sense of psychological safety, according to a research project conducted by Google. People who feel insecure cannot think clearly, let alone access their creative potential. Without a sense of ownership, innovation is held back.
There is an answer, however, and fostering an inclusive environment where psychological safety is paramount is within reach. It starts with inclusive leaders.
Inclusiveness is ultimately a simple principle: at its core, it is the practice of being observant, fair and empathetic. An inclusive leader – a people manager or team leader – has six defining qualities:
- They invest time in relationships, which means they know how to support the people they supervise.
- They recognize and verbalize their recognition of the work of others and reflect the value that each member brings to the team.
- They are empathetic. They know who everyone on the team is and what they are doing, see their efforts, and behave non-judgmentally.
- They have a real social connection with those they supervise and encourage bonds between their teammates. Belonging is based on real social connections as human beings, not just as colleagues.
- They elicit participation, especially from those who might not otherwise speak out.
- They generate alignment by communicating the company’s vision and goals and ensuring everyone is working towards the same things.
It might sound easy enough, but part of the reason only 31% of employees view their leaders as inclusive is that driving inclusivity requires a significant effort and top-down, company-wide growth paradigm. . For many, becoming an inclusive leader requires a change in mindset, which requires ongoing practice and training.
BetterUp’s 1:1 coaching is designed to meet the needs of every organization. On average, after coaching, we saw significant and measurable growth in all six pillars of leadership. Inclusive leaders have an immediate and positive impact on their teams: our research shows a 150% increase in the sense of belonging among direct reports to leaders who received 1:1 coaching.
When people feel like they belong, they’re 10 times more likely to be satisfied with their jobs and more than twice as engaged. Turnover drops (sometimes by up to 50%), employees take 75% fewer work stoppages and innovation increases.
It’s clear that belonging begins at the heart of your business, with your employees. Let’s make this year the year of belonging.
Learn more about mindsets, skills and behaviors necessary to explore diversity beyond demographics.