Inclusion in the workplace is essential for several reasons. It is critical for retaining and making the most of diversity, and it builds trust and leads to higher-performing teams.
In finance, the better inclusion of people from different backgrounds has led to the development of innovative financial products and better customer service.
The virtual working environment that we find ourselves in at the moment means that inclusion will not happen serendipitously or naturally - it needs to be deliberate through effective management practices.
If, as a business leader, you are not mindful of inclusion, you are at higher risk of self-referencing bias (which can impact moral and ethical reasoning) as well as decreasing engagement, lower levels of innovation, missing client needs and mental health issues.
Humans need to feel connected with others. When people feel a connection with their place of work, they feel a part of it and want it to succeed and are more likelyto share new business opportunities.
Collaboration is a powerful vehicle for instigating processes and philosophies that support inclusion.
In theory, it unites people to achieve a common business purpose. In practice, it encourages people to bring their ideas, skills and opinions to the group.
And if that is not convincing enough, data from the 2008 recession shows that professional service firm partners that collaborated across the team saw little downturn.
Here is how to encourage more collaboration that will, in turn, drive inclusion – even when working remotely.
• Collaborate to bring in fresh perspectives.
Teams that are too similar in terms of their background tend to be more at risk of thinking errors such as ‘blind spots’ and ‘group think’.
Bring in fresh perspectives by inviting people who have a different speciality or experience to provide another viewpoint to gather investment ideas or engage in market chat.
If you work in a small team, invite people from outside your company such as customers, academics or professionals from your external networks. For larger organisations, you might want to invite people from other functions.
• Be purposeful when setting up meetings.
Before you invite people to a meeting, be clear about the purpose of it and explain to participants why they are invited.
If people know why they are there, they are much more likely to contribute. For further guidance on this, Harvard research shows how to structure your meeting.
• Save your opinion for last.
Research shows that a leader’s views can strongly influence how others interpret events and information.
If you are the leader, give your opinion last.
Also prepare for meetings by creating a list of all attendees, and at least one specific question for each.
Once the session starts, keep track of who has spoken so that you can invite silent participants to contribute and balance airtime.
• Create non-work related time to get together.
Developing more personal relationships between staff members tends to create more interpersonal trust and team cohesion.