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  • Writer's pictureDiana Palmerín Velasco

The Feelings of Inclusion in the Workplace

If you are reading this, it’s likely you already know inclusion is good for business. From increased team problem-solving to innovation and employee engagement and retention; the benefits of inclusive workplaces have been widely documented in the past few years.

When was the last time you created an opportunity for your team to openly and safely express how included or excluded, they feel in your business or organization? If you regularly conduct employee engagement surveys and ask about inclusion, what is the data telling you? And more importantly, what are you doing with this information?

In November 2019, Catalyst released a report[1] about the results of their latest Inclusion Accelerator survey. A total of 2,164 employees from 15 global companies in eight countries participated in it. According to their findings, large numbers of respondents reported “often” or “always” having a positive experience of inclusion at work. This is great, isn’t it? Well, it depends how you look at it.

What’s a large enough number for you to not be concerned with those who are saying they “rarely” or “never” feel included in your workplace? Who do you think are the ones that by not feeling included, are effectively being excluded?

If you are already leading diverse teams and organizations, it’s imperative to look carefully at how inclusion and exclusion play out in intersection with basic identity markers (race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, physical ability, etc.) By doing this, the real effectiveness of your culture of inclusion will become apparent.

By now you will be thinking, but what does inclusion look and feel like? How can I even measure it?

Catalyst has identified and measured five hallmarks of inclusion. We’ll go through each in this post.

1. Feeling Valued is related to appreciation and respect for the uniqueness you bring into the workplace.

2. Being Trusted is about feeling that your contributions are meaningful and influential in decision-making.

3. Being Authentic is about being fully yourself and expressing aspects about who you are, that might be different from those of your peers.

4. Feeling Psychologically Safe: Latitude refers to feeling free to hold differing views and make mistakes without penalty.

5. Feeling Psychologically Safe: Risk-Taking refers to feeling secure to address tough issues or take risks.

Taking all of Catalyst’s hallmarks into account, think again about how inclusion might be experienced in your diverse team, organization or community. It doesn’t matter if you are a small business owner or the CEO of a global company with thousands of employees around the world. You might even sell and offer top notch products and services, but if your people are not feeling valued, trusted, authentic and psychologically safe to innovate and take risks…you are missing out on what could be game-changing ideas and opportunities.

In my experience, inclusion is a skill that takes time to develop. It requires frequent introspection and a flexible mindset capable of adjusting to particular situations and needs. It requires humility to recognize that in spite of best efforts, your inclusion culture and leadership style might not be as inclusive as you think. And more than anything, it requires courage to change and lead by creating a fertile ground from which inclusion can be collectively (re) designed with the people that matters most at the centre of it…your people!

[1] Travis, J. Dnika, Shaffer, Emily and Thorpe-Moscon, Jennifer, Getting Real About Inclusive Leadership: Why Change Starts With You (Catalyst, 2019)

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