As all SBLs will be well aware, under the Equality Act (2010) organisations are legally required not to discriminate against employees, or potential employees, due to issues such as race, gender, age or disability. However, just meeting legal requirements is different from being an actively inclusive leader
Being an inclusive leader isn’t just about appointing people from diverse ethnic backgrounds and a range of genders; it’s more about having a fully inclusive mindset which involves genuinely caring about, and striving for, inclusion in the workplace beyond the hiring process.
To be a truly inclusive leader you need to go beyond the gender and race spectrum, and just looking at physicality of the team around you. You need to focus on each person at an individual level because comprehensive inclusion goes beyond just physical factors. You need to consider other factors that may not be so obvious such as sexual orientation, ability, socioeconomic background and even extroversion versus introversion. Being truly inclusive relies on an authentic connection with each employee meaning that the traits that may be harder to see are also taken into account.
The factors stated in the Equality Act can all be judged by the eye, but inclusion is more than just ensuring your team is made up of physically diverse people; in fact, the traits that can’t be seen are often the ones that have the biggest impact on who your people are and how they work. Culture and upbringing, for example, can affect beliefs and morals which impact most aspects of a person’s life. Mental health can also affect how an employee relates to the workplace, and personality will dictate how a person wants to be treated and how they prefer to be managed.
So, it’s not surprising that research has confirmed that inclusive leadership is beneficial for the whole workplace. A study by Deloitte Insights found that groups led by inclusive managers are 17% more likely to perceive themselves as high-performing, 29% more willing to believe in collaboration and 20% more likely to feel strongly about their collective decision-making.
Forming connections with your employees allows you to know what makes them tick, how they like to work and how they are currently feeling. Being in tune with these things will build a better workplace as you will be an informed and emotionally intelligent leader who knows each member of the team as an individual; this will allow you to better adapt and react to internal situations which may occur, creating a more harmonious and productive working environment for everyone.
When it comes to inclusion it’s not just about box-ticking, it’s about turning policy into practice. And, as research has shown, being an inclusive leader is not just a pointless exercise but one that will tangibly benefit you and your team.