The importance of inclusivity in the workplace and why it impacts employee engagement
Inclusivity in the workplace is essential in our ever-changing business landscape. Employees from all backgrounds deserve to feel accepted and respected wherever they’re working. But beyond that, inclusivity is a key piece in the employee engagement puzzle. By creating a culture and working environment whereby every employee feels valued, supported and rewarded, your business will drive retention, productivity and, crucially, business performance. Let’s take a closer look at the importance of inclusivity and its impact on employee engagement.
What is inclusivity?
In the work context, inclusivity refers to the sense of belonging and acceptance employees feel by their employer and colleagues. In an inclusive workplace, employees feel comfortable bringing their true selves to work, whether that’s in-person or remotely, and safe to express themselves without fear of judgement or discrimination from senior leaders or their peers. On top of that, to have an inclusive workplace means that every employee is supported, rewarded and given the same opportunities to thrive, no matter their age, race, gender, sexual orientation or any other characteristics. It’s all about creating a culture and working environment that respects and celebrates people’s individuality and differences while treating them in the same, fair manner.
Why is it important?
Building inclusive workplaces is a crucial part of ensuring there’s equality in society as a whole. Movements such as Black Lives Matter and #MeToo have shone an important spotlight on the inequality and discrimination still present in the world, rightfully giving businesses further impetus to make inclusion a key priority.
Inclusivity is beneficial from a business perspective too. Businesses that celebrate diversity and make people from all backgrounds feel accepted and valued, have greater opportunities for innovation, creativity and success. On top of that, they’ll likely see better recruitment, retention and engagement levels. In fact, according to Deloitte’s inclusion pulse survey, 80% of respondents reported that inclusivity is important when choosing an employer, while 39% said they would even leave their current employer for a more inclusive business.
Why does inclusivity impact employee engagement?
Inclusivity is a people-centric business approach because it’s all about making people feel valued, no matter who they are. As a result, it naturally drives employee engagement. Here are a number of key areas inclusivity in the workplace supports and, in doing so, drives employee engagement.
Sense of belonging
If employees feel seen, heard and respected by their employer and colleagues, they’ll feel valued as individuals and part of a community at work. A strong workplace community not only creates an engaging employee experience but increases employees’ likelihood of forming an emotional connection to the business they work for.
Positive work environment
Inclusivity fosters teamwork, appreciation, wellbeing and many other attributes that make up a positive work environment. Employees are treated as individuals and supported no matter what, creating a positive atmosphere conducive to engagement. In short, it makes work a nice place to be, whether that’s an office, warehouse, shop or even a digital environment.
Fulfilling employee experience
If employees don’t feel comfortable being their true selves at work – that they have to hide parts of themselves for fear of not being accepted – it’s naturally going to create a negative experience and therefore be detrimental to their engagement. Therefore, by ensuring employees feel accepted and comfortable at work, they’ll feel more fulfilled and enjoy their time at work.
Tying into the above point, if employees can express themselves freely at work, they’re more likely to build strong, meaningful relationships with their colleagues and feel part of a community. Having close connections at work and camaraderie with others boosts employees’ social wellbeing – which is a key pillar of overall health and wellbeing – and in the process, contributes to building a happy, motivated and engaged workforce.
Having an inclusive workplace is conducive to an engaged workforce because employees are celebrated, supported and rewarded, no matter who they are. It all comes down to feeling valued – something we talk about a lot because recognition is such a critical piece in the employee engagement puzzle. Celebrating people’s differences and creating an environment at work where they can not only be their authentic selves but thrive is a powerful way to build a motivated, unified team and drive performance.
See real-world examples of how we help businesses drive employee engagement on our resources page here.
What’s the difference between diversity and inclusion?
Diversity and inclusion are often talked about together, but it’s important to make the distinction between the two. Diversity refers to the make-up of your workforce – how representative it is of different demographic backgrounds. Inclusivity, on the other hand, is about the sense of belonging and acceptance employees feel by their employer and within their working environment. It’s commonly mistaken that the two go hand-in-hand, but in fact a business can be diverse but not inclusive – and vice versa. It’s therefore critical that businesses focus on both areas as separate initiatives that ultimately support each other.