Corporate Culture & Productivity

Inclusive company culture: key elements, benefits, and examples

Taylor Graves
June 1st, 2022

Creating an inclusive company culture is essential in today’s workplace landscape. Not only is it a top priority for executive teams, but an inclusive and diverse workplace culture has a profound effect on all demographics of employees. Moreover, it’s been proven that a higher level of diversity and inclusion affects productivity, retention, and the bottom line.

As we’ve learned from the Great Resignation and the rise of the hybrid workplace, employees have the upper hand when it comes to choosing their ideal workplace. And they’re not afraid to leave a company in order to have a better overall employee experience.

In this article, we review how inclusive culture is defined. Additionally, we look at key elements and benefits, and specific ways companies can create an effective culture of inclusion for a diverse workforce.

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What is inclusive culture?

An inclusive culture is a workplace culture where a company actively includes and addresses diverse and underrepresented groups. This is in order to increase employee engagement, provide a sense of belonging for staff, and embrace workplace diversity. Senior leaders must ensure their companies create an inclusive work environment for people of all gender identities, sexual orientations (2SLGBTQIA+), races, religions, ethnicities/nationalities, disabilities, marriages/civil partnerships, pregnancies/parental statuses, socioeconomic backgrounds, and age/generations.

A good company culture should ultimately create empowerment in the workplace for all employees and provide safe spaces for team members to be their authentic selves.

For instance, as an article in the Harvard Business Review explains, “Employees who differ from most of their colleagues in religion, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background and generation often hide important parts of themselves at work for fear of negative consequences. We in the diversity and inclusion community call this ‘identity cover,’ and it makes it difficult to know how they feel and what they want, which makes them vulnerable to leaving their organizations. The key to inclusion is understanding who your employees really are.” 

So how can companies address inclusivity? Firstly, companies with the goal of being more inclusive must lead from the top down. And their goal should be around providing the space for employees to communicate, listening to changes that are needed, and demonstrating inclusive behaviors through concrete actions and initiatives. While the human resources (HR) team may be tasked with executing many inclusivity and diversity initiatives, it’s essential that the entire C-suite leadership team as well as other key management stakeholders be committed to leading an inclusive organization.

Inclusive company culture

What are the key elements of an inclusive workplace culture?

According to Limeade, an inclusive workplace culture has eight key elements:

  1. Having a voice: employees who have the space to provide their opinion will be more likely to speak up
  2. Belonging: providing a sense of belonging increases the connection an employee has with their company
  3. Uniqueness: everyone is different and companies will do well to treat employees as individuals with unique opinions, experiences, strengths, and goals
  4. Feeling valued: an employee will have a better sense of their value when they feel that their unique self is appreciated
  5. Learning and development: an employee will feel like their company cares when they have access to education and opportunity to grow within the company
  6. Collaborative environment: collaborative environments can break down silos and increase productivity and camaraderie
  7. Access to resources: resources like support from managers, employee resource groups, work environment guides, and increased transparency lets employees know that their company is committed to diversity & inclusion
  8. Strategic alignment: alignment from all departments, specifically including the leadership team helps to ensure an inclusive environment

Four characteristics of an inclusive workplace culture

And in addition to the above key elements, an inclusive workplace culture has four hallmark characteristics:

  1. Providing space and listening to the opinions and expertise of employees, HR, and outside experts
  2. Creating definitive action to address suggestions, concerns, and potential initiatives
  3. Valuing input via adjusting policies and introducing new initiatives
  4. Measuring success through both metrics and communication between leadership teams, HR teams, and employees
Inclusivity company culture

Benefits of an inclusive company culture

There are many tangible benefits of having an inclusive company culture. Companies that embrace inclusivity are generally known to have a much higher level of employee satisfaction and retention. Additionally, they’re known to attract and retain higher caliber candidates. While embracing and creating inclusive cultures is the right thing to do, it also makes great business sense.

In fact, research by Deloitte indicates that inclusive talent practices drive measurable and predictable business outcomes. The research also shows that in organizations with inclusive cultures, people tend to feel that they can be themselves, share problems, make mistakes, innovate, and drive change.

And Deloitte further identifies a number of measurable benefits in their Diversity and Inclusion review, the diversity and inclusion revolution. Organizations with inclusive cultures are:

  • 2x as likely to meet or exceed financial targets
  • 3x as likely to be high-performing
  • 6x more likely to be innovative and agile
  • 8x more likely to achieve better business outcomes, including a higher level of profitability

But wait! There’s more! Deloitte also identifies that organizations with inclusive leaders are likely to result in a:

  • 70% increase of individual feelings of inclusion
  • 17% increase in team performance
  • 20% increase in decision-making quality
  • 29% increase in team collaboration

According to research by the Limeade Institute, employees who feel included:

  • Are 28% more engaged at work
  • Have 19% greater well-being
  • Are 43% more committed to their company
  • Are 51% more likely to recommend their company as a great place to work
  • Stay with their company three times longer

And according to PeopleScout, organizations with inclusive cultures are:

  • Two times more likely to exceed financial targets
  • Three times more likely to be high-performing
  • Six times more likely to be innovative and agile
  • Eight times more likely to achieve business outcomes

How do you create an inclusive company culture?

So how can companies actually create an inclusive company culture? Deloitte’s research reveals six principles to creating a more inclusive organization:

  1. Treat the evolution of diversity and inclusion as business-critical; not compliance-necessary
  2. Move beyond diversity to also encapsulate inclusion; organizations that focus on the value of inclusion typically enjoy superior performance
  3. Prioritize inclusive leadership
  4. Reinforce an inclusive culture by integrating diversity into all talent management practices
  5. Provide resources that empower individuals to take action and bring their authentic selves to work, manage unconscious bias effectively, leverage support of mentors, and offer all resources broadly—not just for diverse populations
  6. Drive accountability, not metrics tracking
Inclusive company culture

Tangible inclusivity examples

While many companies offer a variety of perks in order to retain and attract talent, they often fall short. For example, free coffee, competitive bonuses, a games room, and employee recognition aren’t enough to cut it in today’s workplace. 

For instance, picture a non-binary employee who doesn’t know if they can include their pronouns on their LinkedIn profile without consequence. Or a Muslim employee observing Ramadan who’s hesitant to share that they’re fasting when the team is grabbing lunch. Or a gay employee who doesn’t know if they can bring their same-sex partner to the holiday party with full support and acceptance.

With this in mind, here are a few examples of tangible ideas that companies can implement to help increase the culture of inclusivity:

  • Including unconventional parenthood support as a benefit: if someone is having a baby, they should receive the same amount of parental leave no matter the details, whether it’s maternal leave, paternal leave, or if they’re a non-birthing parent (i.e.: adoption or surrogacy through IVF)
  • Promoting or enhancing the use of pronouns in email and bios to support transgender and non-binary folks, and normalizing the use of preferred pronouns in a professional setting
  • Providing a variety of different holiday calendars (or floating holidays) to give people the days off they need to honor their given beliefs; this is particularly important when a company has offices across a variety of regions or countries, and can result in employees feeling more included

In summary, inclusivity in company culture is essential in today’s workplace. As a result, companies must support all employees and create an engaging, inclusive workplace for everyone through listening, positive steps to take action, and good leadership to adjust initiatives for the best outcomes.

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Photos: simarik, Marcos Elihu Castillo Ramirez, Rawpixel, Halfpoint