How to build a diverse and inclusive culture

By November 26, 2019Inclusive Leadership

How to build a diverse and inclusive culture


Is building inclusive cultures a business priority in 2020?

Group of people talking - how to build an inclusive and diverse culture

Progressive businesses are increasingly embracing diversity and inclusion to forge a sustainable future. Businesses with a healthy balance of women and men are 15% more likely to outperform their competitors. Likewise, companies with employees from a good mix of ethnic backgrounds are 35% more likely, according to research by McKinsey & Co.

A survey of 10,000 millennials showed that over 80% said an employer’s policy on diversity and inclusion is an important factor when deciding to work for them. But diversity without inclusion doesn’t work. It’s often assumed that diversity and inclusion are the same thing. But that’s not the case. Identifying the need for greater representation is only the first step. Yet many studies have shown that diversity alone does not drive inclusion. Inclusion is the crucial connector that attracts diverse talent and fosters business growth. Without inclusion there is a lack of meaningful participation and innovation.

Building an inclusive culture needs to be more than letting the numbers drive your diversity and inclusion strategy. Whilst, data is important to understand what your diversity challenges may be. We need to look beyond the statistics. We need to dig deep into the everyday experiences of your employees to understand what actions need to be undertaken to foster a more inclusive workplace (check out our bespoke inclusive cultures training workshops).


We launch the 2020 Inclusive Culture Pledge

Salma El-Wardany presents to the inclusive culture pledge audience and reminds them to recognise their privilege

Our Inclusive Culture Pledge is a public commitment to building a more inclusive workplace culture. The Pledge began life at our 25th anniversary in 2018. It was so successful that we designed a new pledge programme for 2019 and again for 2020. Through the Pledge, we created a network of forward-thinking organisations. We provide support for them on four key topics throughout the year, on their journey to creating an inclusive workplace.

No matter where you are on your journey, there are always small acts we can all do that will make a big difference in creating an inclusive culture. A public pledge to inclusion shows your employees, customers and external stakeholders the importance you place on promoting inclusion.


Moving beyond the ‘why’ to ‘how’ we can create diverse workplaces

We have a collective responsibility to challenge established narratives. As well as a singular responsibility to make an impact on the everyday.

These are some tips on what we can all do to impact lasting change:

Recognise your bias. Adopt measures to work against bias. For example, when recruiting share the hiring decision with someone who brings diversity of perspective.

Recognise your privilege. Be aware of it so you can help people with less privilege than yourself

Catch the micro-aggressions (see below for more advice on this!)


Promoting inclusive behaviour in the workplace starts at the micro-level

When it comes to micro-behaviours, you may be familiar with the term micro-aggressions. Coined by psychologist Dr Mary Rowe in the early 1970s, it refers to the ways individuals may be singled out, overlooked or ignored based on unchangeable characteristics, like their race or gender.

In the workplace, these often-unconscious micro-behaviours might be as simple as:

• A quick glance at the clock during an interview
• Forgetting a junior member of staff’s name
• Giving an employee a nickname he or she might not feel comfortable with

Even in a short one-to-one meeting, we can exchange up to 50 micro-messages with the other person. Each one sends a signal that may affirm or undermine the person on the receiving end.

Our own work in addressing unconscious bias tells us we are more inclined to send affirmative micro-messages if the person we’re interacting with is like us. If they are different to us, we are much more likely to start dishing out micro-aggressions, whether we mean to or not. Find out more about our see our unconscious bias training options.


Micro-behaviours can make you a more inclusive leader

Take a look below at the micro-behaviours of the three inclusive leaders. You’ll see how simple and effective inclusive leadership is.

Leader 1: Think through who gets the high visibility opportunities
“My sales director recently asked a really junior member of staff to present to the board. It had never happened before, but she had led the whole project. We all knew the boss was saying she [the junior member of staff] was the most competent to present to the board.”

Leader 2: Be even-handed with your time, give everyone in the team a platform, and manage your own limitations
“Our director spends 5-10 minutes per week with everyone in the department, then writes a weekly blog about them. He’s a strong introvert and so this is his way of connecting with everyone without exception and highlighting people’s successes.”

Leader 3: Demonstrate the benefits of everyone contributing
“I was in a collaborative session recently where everyone shared a new idea. The leader in the room was obviously excited about the learning and thanked them for sharing. They showed they were listening by asking questions to help their understanding on how it might add to their current thinking.”

As such, there are many small acts we can undertake every day to positively impact cultivating an inclusive culture in your workplace. It starts at the micro-level. Be aware of your biases, privilege, and call out micro-aggressions in the office. What can you do to start promoting an inclusive culture at your workplace?


At EW Group, we can support building an inclusive culture in your organisation through our bespoke inclusive cultures training and workshops.

Lisa Jobson has worked with EW Group for 3 years as a Talent Management Specialist and Management Consultant and more recently as Interim MD with a primary focus on sales & marketing activities, and currently Director at EW Group. She has led inclusive leadership training for Neon Underwriting and Cushman & Wakefield and designed and delivered unconscious bias for managers workshops for ABN Amro. Lisa has more than twenty years of experience in the technology and finance recruitment sectors. She was Harvey Nash’s first Director of Talent with the brief to design and implement a talent management strategy for Group businesses across the UK and Ireland. Sign up to EW Group's monthly e-newsletter for industry updates, case studies, exclusive event invites and more!


Interested in hearing more? Listen to episode 2 of our company culture podcast, Reworked, with Salma here.

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