What is an inclusive culture?

Mairi Doyle

Inclusion is rightly a hot topic for organisations looking to change their culture and improve performance. Many companies understand the importance of inclusion, and the business value it delivers. But what do we mean by an inclusive culture?

An inclusive culture is one in which every colleague feels a sense of belonging and connection. People are valued for who they are, their unique contribution and the difference they make, and they can fully be themselves at work. They are not just listened to, but seen, heard, and their views acted upon. Organisations who have failed to build inclusive cultures often do the listening, but don’t follow through with actions – or as we say, they do not walk their talk!

Defining characteristics of an inclusive culture

Through our extensive research, we have seen several common features among inclusive cultures, including:

  • There is psychological safety and people feel safe speaking up.
  • Diverse perspectives are heard and acted on.
  • Everyone is treated with the same level of respect.
  • People are recognised fairly for their contributions.
  • Exhibit high levels of innovation, collaboration, and meritocracy.

Key behaviors which drive inclusion

You don’t build an inclusive culture by simply developing more inclusive processes. Behaviours, systems, and symbols are critical, and while this is important for everyone, it starts with leaders. The simple fact is, inclusive cultures are built and sustained by open leadership behaving consistently day in, day out.

Our data has revealed three key leadership behaviours which drive inclusion:

  1. Humility – Leaders understand that there is a lot they do not know, and they don’t need to have all the answers. They have a learner mindset.
  2. Curiosity – Leaders are genuinely interested in learning more about people, and proactively seek out different perspectives.
  3. Openness Leaders listen to understand and demonstrate that they are willing to change their minds, thus creating a safe environment for people to speak up, challenge, and have respectful debate.

Download shaping a culture of inclusion white paper

For insights on culture view our selection of case studiesebooksreports and white papers or contact us to learn how we can transform your culture.


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