How inclusive is your culture?

Elle Robinson our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 12 December 2023

Building an inclusive culture in your business isn't just a moral obligation, it's a strategic imperative.


In my experience, and research also shows, that organisations who foster inclusivity not only boost innovation and employee engagement, but they also excel in talent acquisition and overall business performance .


Creating an inclusive culture can be challenging, particularly if you don’t know where to start. In a nutshell though, it’s about establishing a workplace environment in which everyone feels respected, valued and empowered; fostering an environment where people feel safe, differences are celebrated and where all employees have equal opportunities to thrive and succeed.


In this article, I explore the criticality of an inclusive culture for organisations, the ‘say-do’ paradox, and what steps you can take to grow, develop and maintain a culture that is inclusive of all.

Why cultivate an inclusive culture?

An inclusive culture benefits every person in a business. It's a catalyst for unlocking creativity and driving innovation. When people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives come together, the exchange of ideas flourish, leading to new solutions and fresh approaches.


And more than that, inclusivity enhances employee engagement. Employees who feel valued and understood are more committed and motivated. This heightened engagement translates into better performance, customer satisfaction and ultimately, a stronger bottom line. It doesn’t hurt your employer brand either!


In fact, the business case for inclusion is extremely compelling. Diverse executive teams mean a company is more likely to perform better - up to 36% better. And according to Harvard Business Review, inclusion “will drive higher revenues through better innovation and smarter market development, while allowing you to spend capital more efficiently through better decision-making, higher retention, and higher productivity.”

Are you suffering from the ‘say-do’ paradox?

The absence of an inclusive culture, or the gap between talked-about (say) and actual inclusivity (do), poses significant risks.


Claiming to be inclusive while lacking tangible actions to support those claims can erode trust and damage a company’s reputation. This ‘say-do paradox’ is not uncommon. In a recent McKinsey survey, 70% of people said that their company claims transformative EDI aspirations, yet only 40% of people said that they have the infrastructure to realise them.


According to the CMI’s ‘The Everyone Economy’ report, “despite many organisations and staff embracing EDI initiatives, the UK has systemic challenges around workplace inclusion, with specific challenges for minoritised groups who feel overlooked and face discrimination.” Their findings show large gaps between ’say’ and ‘do’, including a rather astonishing 85% (say) to 5% (do) gap in respondents who thought older workers were underrepresented.


The ’say-do’ paradox undermines employee morale and can lead to high employee turnover rates. It can also alienate potential customers, partners and other stakeholders who value inclusivity. In the long run, it hampers innovation and hinders your company's ability to attract and retain top talent.


How would you rate your organisation’s inclusive culture? If you’re leaning more in the say than do direction, or just aren’t sure where to start, below are a few tips that can help you.

Tips for building an inclusive culture

Building an inclusive culture is about intentionally designing a workplace environment that embraces diversity and fosters belonging for every employee. Here are my top tips:


  • Inclusion should be a top-down approach. Senior leaders must not only endorse inclusivity, but actively model inclusive behaviours.
  • Set clear goals and metrics for inclusion and regularly assess progress. This helps turn good intentions into concrete actions. What’s not measured, doesn’t get done.
  • Review and adjust your company policies to ensure they accommodate the needs of a diverse workforce, including different genders, ethnic backgrounds, those with disabilities and neurodiverse individuals. This could mean offering flexible working hours, accessible office spaces and inclusive hiring practices.
  • Recognise and celebrate your employees’ diverse backgrounds and experiences. This could be through cultural events, acknowledgment of various international days or diversity spotlights in company communications.
  • Support the formation of employee-led groups that can provide community and advocacy for underrepresented groups.


And ultimately, you need to make inclusion a part of your long-term strategic plan. Consider how future trends and changes in the workforce demographics, including the increasing prevalence of disabilities, will impact your business.


By investing in these strategies, you can start to build a truly inclusive culture that not only supports your current employees, but also attracts more diverse and talented individuals.


As a leadership expert, I've seen first-hand the transformative impact of inclusivity on organisations. It's about creating a better workplace for today and a promising future for everyone.


If you’d like to discuss how to cultivate an inclusive culture in your workplace and explore how to close your 'say-do paradox', contact me directly and let’s set up time for a call.

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