These days, it’s not hard to argue the business case for being inclusive. For many organizations, not just being diverse, but also being inclusive, is an important part of their brand as a business as well as an employer.

But what role does leadership play in building an inclusive organization?

It’s important for leaders to be champions for inclusion in the workplace because efforts will fail without this commitment.

As important as bottom-down initiatives are, diversity and inclusion need to be embedded in the way the organization operates. It needs to be a strategic priority not an optional add-on.  It’s the leaders who show that this is a priority for the organization. As role models who shape the organizational culture, leadership sets the tone.

As a leader, what can you do to become a champion for inclusion in your organization?

In the last three years, TRIEC has worked with a number of leaders committed to building inclusion in their workplaces.  We designed a four-month program – the Certificate in Inclusive Leadership – that focuses on inclusive organizational practices and simple ways that you can make change. Here are some tips from the program to get you started:

  1. Start with building awareness. Look at intercultural competence in your organization – and in yourself. Understanding how culture influences your own experience in the workplace, and the experiences of your employees, is a critical first step.
  2. Assess where your organization is right now. How diverse is your workforce? How inclusive is it? What initiatives do you have in place to increase both diversity and inclusion in your workplace?
  3. Look at your recruitment and selection and onboarding procedures. What are your current practices, and how might you improve them? Simple things like looking into where you distribute your job postings, or reviewing your standard interview questions could make a huge difference. Similarly, designing an onboarding process that is based on two-way communication and also includes the “unwritten rules” of the workplace could go a long way. Explore ideas like assigning new employees a mentor or creating a list of frequently used acronyms.
  4. Focus on employee development. For example, what are your assumptions about giving and receiving feedback or expectations about leadership? How are they embedded in your practices? If these go unchecked, the way you manage the performance of your teams can reflect your cultural preferences to the extent that it excludes some people. This won’t necessarily help you make the most out of your staff.

Being a true champion for inclusion is really about intentionally looking at the practices of your organization and making sure that they don’t exclude employees. It’s also about building your own self-awareness and skill-sets to be able to walk the talk and model inclusive behavior.

Want to learn more?

TRIEC’s Certificate in Inclusive Leadership opens for registration in the Spring. Find out more:

For examples of what inclusive behaviour might look like in a workplace, check out TRIEC’s competency framework –