How to create an inclusive workplace culture

Diversity is only half of the D&I equation. So, whilst galvanising a talent pipeline is the first step for many organisations, to be truly inclusive, employers need to address workplace culture.

You can discover practical steps to achieve diverse recruitment here, but if you want to foster a sense of belonging and inclusion within your organisation, here are some proactive ways organisations of every size can move beyond diversity to focus on inclusion and belonging.

1. Coaching and mentoring

If representation and diverse role models in senior positions is currently an issue for your business, coaching and mentoring can be an effective way to provide talent with aspirational role models, while also developing the soft skills required for progression.

2. Identify and sponsor a protégé

Representation and support should begin at the highest level of an organisation. In her recent research and Harvard Business Review article, Stephanie Bradley Smith suggests ‘sponsorship’ is the most effective way to progress diverse talent, especially women, into c-suite roles. The most recent and effective example of this would be the Joe Biden and Kamala Harris partnership. Here the relationship was very public and beneficial to both parties; it is through this lens that a sponsorship should be undertaken.

3. Tailored professional development plans

Invest in bespoke professional development plans for your team, to ensure they get the support they need to excel and achieve their career aspirations. Work with them to identify barriers and holes in their skill set, before curating a program specially tailored to their needs.

“One of the biggest factors in building a successful inclusive workplace culture, is to foster a sense of belonging through visible role models. Get creative in how you offer opportunities for your staff to access role models, they don’t always have to be internal team members. In fact, it can be dangerous to rely heavily on a small number of senior talent of diverse heritage, when they likely have their own barriers that need to be addressed.”
Sonia Watson, CEO, Blueprint for All

4. Listen to your employees

Give your employees space and time to have a voice. Understand their lived experiences in the workplace to truly grasp how systemic, institutional racism, sexism and homophobia can be stamped out. You can do this in a number of ways, for example:

  • Create a diversity board with representation at every level of your business. Consider working with external consultants, stakeholders and customers to create the broadest picture of what diversity means to your organisation.
  • Ask for feedback on your application and onboarding process from new recruits. Don’t wait for exit interviews to uncover areas of concern, when it’s too late.
  • Consider a reverse mentoring programme pairing your senior leadership team with ambitious, diverse talent. Facilitate sessions to ensure both parties can get something from their relationship, but the focus should be on senior leaders listening and learning.

“We created a diversity board three years ago, and ever since its inception we have seen the feeling of belonging rate increase in our annual employee survey. It works because the board has representation at every level of the business and hold our senior management team accountable for demonstrable action.”
Head of Culture, Building Inclusive Futures Consulting Client, 2020

5. Enable leadership

Bring the whole leadership team with you on the journey to creating an inclusive workplace culture. According to McKinsey, leadership accountability is the leading way companies can impact their D&I effort.

“We hold regular, mandatory training for line-managers and leadership, from unconscious bias training through to bespoke team workshops. While the training itself won’t solve the problem, the fact these sessions are not optional means these conversations become commonplace and part of the fabric of our culture.”
Training and Development Manager, Building Inclusive Futures Consulting Client 2020

6. Work with external organisations

Keep your business accountable, by working with external organisations and continually review your commitment to diversity and inclusion. Be transparent about diversity and inclusion within your company, and what you are doing to progress the agenda.

7. Give to organisations that make a difference

There are a wealth of wonderful charities, community groups, and social enterprises making a difference on the ground to communities at a socioeconomic disadvantage. However, many fall through the net when it comes to corporate funding and donations, as CSR policies often restrict giving to organisations that have a turnover under £1m.

Corporate giving

Find a local charity making an impact in your area, or select one of the inspirational organisations we support through our BME Network and consider a one-off or regular giving.

Strategic partnerships

Beyond corporate giving, consider how the skills of those in your business can be put to good use. Our corporate partners are the lifeblood of Blueprint for All, enriching our programmes with their time, skills, and resources. This can also be a valuable learning and development experience for your staff.