How to create an inclusive workplace
According to research, working women and minorities in the workplace have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. This situation must bring diversity front and centre on the leadership agenda and demands faster progress all round.
Image: Exhibit from 'The elusive inclusive workplace, March 2021, McKinsey & Company, www.mckinsey.com. Copyright (c) 2021 McKinsey & Company. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission. Source: MCKinsey analysis
Identify key themes relevant to your workplace and focus on common goals. Assess all processes and decision making from an inclusion standpoint.
An inclusive workplace values diverse perspectives, identities, and points of view and provides a continuous sense of connection and belonging for all employees. Inclusion is maintained through ongoing commitment and connectivity and should be embedded across talent, culture, and leadership practices.
1. Start from the top: educate leaders
Provide a business case and training. Encourage leaders to speak openly with employees about their own experiences and to adapt management styles. Encourage proactive intention and adopt a strategy to ensure accountability and zero-tolerance. Remove the ‘us’ and ‘them’ divide.
2. Listen to employees and build trust
Connect and consult with a diverse range of employees. Provide ongoing opportunities and multiple routes for feedback, such as anonymised questionnaires, third party facilitated interviews and workshops, and management one-to-ones. Be open minded, respect opinions that offer a different perspective, and value all input.
3. Use feedback to inform and embed supportive processes
Image: Exhibit from 'Diversity wins: How inclusion matters', May 2020, McKinsey & Company, www.mckinsey.com. Copyright (c) 2021 McKinsey & Company. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission.
Identify key themes relevant to your workplace and focus on common goals. Assess all processes and decision making from an inclusion standpoint. Seek out bias and privilege across recruitment, work allocation, performance management and informal sponsorship. Examine thought patterns and actions: who we listen to, the way we give feedback, who we spend time with, types of activities we organise, how we judge behaviour, who we invite to meetings or client calls?
4. Build awareness around specific inclusion challenges
Adopting inclusive recruitment and dynamic working practices. Supporting new mothers and women with menopause at work. Combating unconscious bias. Enforcing a zero-tolerance policy. Adapting communications for cultural differences and avoiding harmful language. Rethinking selection processes for promotion, awards, sponsorship, mentoring and publication opportunities. Targeting funding and fellowship opportunities for underrepresented groups. Reworking salaries based on job title and skills.
5. Design mitigation processes and actions
Integrate inclusivity into your core values. Rework and introduce new policies and guidelines. Provide unconscious bias training to employees. Provide team bonding opportunities. Reframe internal communications. Create safe spaces such as lactation rooms for new mothers, prayer or meditation spaces, quiet spaces, gender neutral facilities. Expand your elective holiday calendar to include diverse religious holidays. Design and enhance a ‘speak up’ culture.
6. Gain consensus on a roadmap and stick to it
Make a public commitment and take an inclusive culture pledge. Clearly articulate next steps to staff. Agree and implement progress metrics and reporting. Create champions, networks and working groups to drive the process forward. Open avenues of two-way communication between staff and decision makers.
7. Promote inclusive behaviour at the micro-level
Be aware of the effects of micro-behaviours. Encourage active listening. Be deliberate about messages being sent out. Honour everyone’s ideas during meetings. Respond to inappropriate and non-inclusive behaviours. Enable employees to speak up and call out harmful behaviour. Address unspoken tensions or negative feelings. Hold people accountable for their behaviour and its potential consequences.
8. Support and celebrate differences
Value different perspectives. Encourage talking and sharing of personal stories. Emphasise camaraderie and shared goals. Embrace positivity and mindfulness. Make every employee feel valued. Recognise and celebrate days of importance to other communities. Make pronouns matter. Reward inclusive behaviours and celebrate successes.
Listen to ‘The elusive inclusive workplace‘ where McKinsey leaders and talent experts Bryan Hancock & Bill Schaninger speak about the urgent need to increase inclusiveness at work 
For further insights, download the McKinsey report, ‘Diversity wins: How inclusion matters’