It’s a diverse workforce but is it an inclusive organisation?

In order to get the best out of their workforce how do organisations make individuals who have very different experiences of life and work feel accepted , comfortable and valued?
Traditionally managers recruit people who think like them (even look like them) and organisations promote people who respect the hierarchy, show commitment and demonstrate loyalty. People who question and challenge are considered a mixed blessing, a source of innovation but also disruptive rule breakers. Individuals are expected to fit in with the team and  the organisation not the other way round.
In recent years organisations have found themselves with an increasingly diverse workforce,  a workforce in which it has become apparent some employees don’t  feel comfortable, don’t feel they belong and don’t feel valued. To address this organisations looked to HR who sort to challenge discrimination and bias by providing training courses for managers and promoting the organisation as an equal opportunity employer. This has led to greater awareness about the diversity within the workforce but if anything increased feeling amongst some groups that they are not full accepted, they remain outsiders.
Leaders have for some time spoke of the additional value a diverse workforce can offer both in terms of fresh and different thinking but also in recognition that services need to meet the different wants and needs of an increasingly diverse population. To put it bluntly there is not much point in recruiting a diverse workforce if you reject and discourage different perspectives and there is little point investing heavily in recruitment if the experience of newly recruited employees is to feel unaccepted, undervalued and so uncomfortable and frustrated they leave.
In response to this organisations have talked about the need to be inclusive and a new style of leadership is emerging referred to as inclusive leadership. In many ways this style of leadership includes the more compassionate, insightful practise already being adopted in progressive organisations, the difference is inclusive leaders are aware of their own biases, actively seek out and consider different perspectives to inform their decision making and collaborate more effectively with others. As a leader they model this approach and expect all managers to follow it.
Leaders and managers have to overcome several hurdles to become inclusive they must have the insight into how their behaviour effects others, do they have a tendency to shut debate down rather than open it up, do they react to dissent as if it was personal disloyalty, do the listen enough, are they as approachable as they would like to think? Are they confident enough in their own abilities to ask for help and to be challenged without feeling their authority is being undermined? Can they creat a psychologically safe environment for employees to say what they are really thinking and have they the skill to challenge that thinking in such away that helps the individual understands better rather than feel corrected.
This is a long way from the idea that management is about getting people to do what needs to be done. It’s asking a lot more of managers than simply focusing on budgets and performance. But it is about getting the best out of every individual. The job of management just got a lot harder.

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    6 December 2023


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