Diversity and Inclusion

Promoting inclusive behaviors at work: How to encourage them [with examples]

There's a mountain of research showing that diverse and inclusive organizations perform better. So how can we encourage more inclusive behaviors at work? In this article we break down 10 ways organizations can encourage inclusive behaviors among their employees.

Ryan Carruthers

November 4, 2021

We live in a diverse culture, and our organizational structure should reflect that diversity. But a recent study by McKinsey & Company discovered that inclusivity efforts have been waning. Some organizations have even been slipping backwards on the efforts to support diversity in their companies. The challenge may be that many leaders are unclear on how to encourage inclusive behaviors at work. Some may even be unconvinced that it is an important initiative that directly impacts the success of a company. 

Why inclusion is important at work

Research shows that diversity, particularly at the executive level, impacts the profitability of a company. McKinsey’s analysis found that companies with more gender diversity were 25 percent more likely to see above-average profitability in their organization. Companies with higher cultural or ethnic diversity were 36 percent more likely to earn more. 

However, diversity does not equal inclusion. Simply hiring diverse employees does not automatically lead to an inclusive workplace. You need to ensure that there is a sense of openness and connection among employees. More inclusive workplaces create a sense of belonging, a connection among co-workers and cultivates an engaging culture. They are also more innovative. 

A study by CloverPop found that inclusive teams make better and quicker decisions 87 percent of the time. Moreover, these decisions bring better results 60 percent of the time. In other words, inclusivity can boost your business productivity substantially. 


10 examples inclusive behaviors at work

To better understand how to bridge the gap between diversity and inclusivity, here are some examples of ways to encourage inclusive behaviors at work. 

1. Consciously connect with people who are not the same as you

It’s natural to gravitate towards those with whom we have things in common, but it can hinder inclusivity efforts. Encourage your employees to make a cognitive decision to build connections with those who are different than themselves. Considering pairing up employees through a peet mentoring program. You can connect employees of different backgrounds and encourage them to share their lived experiences. This can increase feelings of empathy, belonging, and create a more meaningful culture. 

Check out our article on how to be a great peer mentor to learn more about peer mentorship.

2. Practice active listening 

Listen to hear and understand. Consider what the speaker is saying with their words and their body language. Don’t be quick to jump into the conversation with statements or questions. Rather, reflect to the speaker what you think their position is by stating it in your own words. 

3. Consider colleagues needs and personal circumstances when planning activities

Carefully think out activities and events and consider if any of your employees may be uncomfortable about the celebration. You may even find that some employees are not able to attend non-work events due to personal circumstances. It’s essential that you plan activities that allow for everyone to attend and build connections. 

4. Encourage and seek reverse mentoring opportunities 

Reverse mentoring is when a younger employee mentors a more senior one. Allowing the tables to be turned in this way can cultivate a deeper understanding between your team. It can also increase the visibility of minority employees for potential leadership opportunities. 

5. Join an employee resource group

Employee resource groups or ERGs unite employees from a similar minority group for support and encouragement. They can also be key to bringing positive change to your workplace, particularly when it comes to diversity and inclusivity. Employees should be encouraged to join ERGs at your organization. One of the best practices for ERGs is to ask senior leaders to sponsor groups, so they have the support needed to succeed. 

6. Adapt your management or communication style to engage more effectively with different team members

We all have communication styles. Get to know what your approach is and be willing to adjust it to improve your communication efforts among your team. It will not only improve your engagement with employees, but it can inspire your team members to work on their communication style. 

7. Work toward creating a psychologically safe learning environment 

A psychologically safe learning environment is one where everybody feels respected. It is a space where team members trust each other enough to engage in honest discussions. 

8. Make time to discuss cross-cultural issues when they arise

It’s vital to be open about cross-cultural issues and not try to ignore them or sweep them under the rug. If something traumatic happens on the news that may impact others in your workplace, address it. Make time to privately check on these employees to see how they are handling it. You may even want to talk about it as a team to build on the connection between members. 

9. Self educate on microaggressions and unconscious bias

Seek to learn more about unconscious bias and microaggressions that can hinder the inclusivity efforts at your organization. Unconscious bias refers to ingrained prejudices that we may not even be aware that we have. Microaggressions refer to words or actions that stem from the unconscious bias that we have. 

10. Be honest in your efforts to be more inclusive

Inclusivity in your organization is a journey. It’s essential to realize that everyone is a work in progress. It may be necessary to identify our own non-inclusive behaviors. Accept these struggles and be straightforward with others. Let them honestly see that you’re working to improve. 


Examples of non-inclusive behaviors

Some actions can hinder our move towards an inclusive workplace, and we’ll want to eliminate these types of non-inclusive behaviors. 

Avoiding challenging conversations

To cultivate a meaningful connection between employees, which will build an inclusive workplace, we need to be honest with one another. Don’t avoid conversations because you’re afraid of potential conflict or difficult discussions. Instead, establish an atmosphere of safety to have these types of challenging conversations. 

Ignoring feedback from others

No one is perfect, and we all have areas where we can improve. If someone has identified one of your weak areas, don’t ignore their insight. Instead, welcome it and work to improve. 

Not seeking out different points of view

Uniformity can hurt your business. Research has shown that companies with higher levels of diversity do better. Whether you want to improve your company culture or connect more with customers, seek to understand and appreciate different points of view. 

How to encourage inclusive behaviors at work

To be an effective instigator of change at your organization, you’ll need to encourage inclusive behaviors in others. Here are a couple of ways to do that. 

Support inclusive leaders

Every meeting or interaction you have in your workplace contributes towards your efforts to create a more inclusive environment. Be sure to speak up and acknowledge the efforts of those leaders who are striving to create a more inclusive organization. For example, at GM, they’ve made a Leaders at the Front program to recognize employees that have put in extra effort towards inclusivity. 

Invest in employee resource groups and mentorship programs

Employee Resource Groups need the support and sponsorship of leaders in your organization. This allows their voice to be heard in the executive offices. It can also open doors and help them access resources to further their efforts towards a diverse and inclusive workplace. To strengthen your efforts, create a diversity mentorship program that can build connections between employees. 

An industry that struggles with diversity is the video game industry. King Games, a division of Activision and creators of Candy Crush, wanted to be different. They made the decision to leverage Together’s mentorship software to seamlessly match up members of their Women@King employee resource group. Our pairing algorithm suggested the most relevant mentors to each ERG member based on their skills and goals and gave them the ability to choose which one they wanted. King successfully matched over 250 employees, providing them with career-changing mentorship that led to more confidence and empowerment among their employees.

Workplace mentoring programs can also build understanding between employees from different levels and backgrounds. Statistics show that employees involved in successful mentoring programs are happier and feel more valued at work.

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