Creating Culture of Inclusion

21st September 2023

Article by Meg Shona Halpin-Webster, Graduate eLearning Content Writer at Marshall E-Learning Consultancy, a Ciphr company

The last week of September 2023 marks National Inclusion Week, an important opportunity for organisations to cultivate greater inclusivity for their employees, and offer support and appreciation for those most at risk of exclusion. Being inclusive is an essential skill in the modern workforce, and contributes significantly to creating an accepting culture across your organisation. Understanding the reasons why this is so important, alongside how to implement inclusivity into your everyday actions, is paramount to ensuring that you are acting as an inclusive line manager.

Marshalls strives to empower organisations, giving them the knowledge, tools and resources to effectively promote and foster inclusive environments across workforces and institutions, such as our suite of diversity micro elearning courses. This guide to creating an inclusive culture as a line manager can be used effectively alongside our Inclusive Line Management e-learning course.

What makes a line manager inclusive?

How do you define inclusive line management? Inclusive line management:

  • Actively promotes diversity, fairness and belonging
  • Strives to create a positive environment where employees feel respected, valued and able to contribute their own unique perspectives
  • Aims to ensure all employees feel equally valued and included, regardless of their background or role

Being an inclusive line manager allows you to make fair operational decisions, build and sustain positive relationships with colleagues and generate a strong culture of belonging and acceptance that enables staff to feel motivated, productive and empowered. As a line manager, it is your responsibility to ensure that your actions and behaviour are always inclusive, so that employees can learn from you and mirror your behaviour.

What behaviours should an inclusive line manager avoid?

To be an inclusive line manager, you have to actively promote inclusivity and acceptance. To avoid acting in an exclusionary manner, be sure to avoid the following:

  • Purposefully excluding some employees from discussions, meetings and email communications that are relevant to their role
  • Making assumptions about the availability of an employee based upon their age, family or marital status, name and culture
  • Continuously mispronouncing an individual’s name
  • Only consulting certain people for tasks, discussions and ideas
  • Praising and celebrating an individual member of the team for the achievements and work of several team members

It’s important for line managers to be mindful of their potential personal biases and assumptions and actively work to remove them – being reflective, fair and understanding are core components of being inclusive.

How to create a culture of inclusion as a line manager

1. Encourage participation and engagement from all employees

Actively seeking contribution from all team members helps to ensure that all members feel equally valued and respected whilst also preventing the formation of a stereotypical or assumptions-based hierarchy. This is especially important for teams that have diverse personal or professional backgrounds as all members should feel equally respected and valued.

Inclusive line managers should aim to create a culture that appreciates different perspectives and ideas, and encouraging all employees to have their say helps to foster an environment of collaboration and belonging. Your team’s culture should be cohesive, embrace individuality and celebrate the collective strengths of its members.

2. Be aware of the challenges that minority groups face

As a line manager, you need to be authentically yourself, so that your employees feel comfortable doing so as well. Encouraging this creates a positive culture, but, unfortunately, not everyone feels they can be themselves without being judged. This is supported by research from Deloitte, which determined that LGBTQ, Black and disabled employees tend to feel the need to ‘cover’ their authentic identity to fit in within their workplace.

Effective and inclusive line managers have the responsibility of being aware of such challenges, especially ones predominantly faced by minority groups. Being aware of this is important so that you can offer reassurance and make active efforts to make these members of your team feel included and accepted.

3. Being ready to call in and call out

Do you know what it means to be ready to call in and call out? Calling in is a strategy that line managers use to address problematic and harmful behaviour in a non-confrontational and supportive way. This approach avoids public shaming and focuses on positively engaging with an individual and having a constructive conversation that offers educational resources, expresses concerns and encourages both reflection and behavioural growth. Rather than adding to the perpetual cycle of negativity, the primary focus of calling in is to facilitate positive changes and cultivate a greater understanding.

On the other hand, calling out is suitable when immediate action is needed to address a particular situation that involves harm, oppression or discrimination. Often, calling out becomes necessary following a pattern of negative behaviour or if it becomes obvious that a person of authority needs to become involved to enact change. Unlike calling in, which typically happens in a private setting, calling out involves publicly addressing concerns about problematic behaviour.

4. Maintaining awareness of potential tensions

Having a diverse team with a variety of perspectives, skills and backgrounds offers many opportunities and benefits. Line managers should be aware of the fact that, in some cases, a diverse team may give rise to occasional tensions due to differing perspectives and ideas. Part of being an effective and inclusive line manager involves being well attuned to your team’s dynamic(s) and aware of potential tensions that could develop. Maintaining a firm understanding of these tensions and dynamics gives you a greater opportunity to reduce a problem before it spirals into something more significant.

One way to maintain awareness of this sort is to work closely with your team to establish a clearly defined framework that clearly determines acceptable, and unacceptable, behaviours, encouraging effective allyship, collaboration and a generally positive culture. When seeking to avoid tensions, an effective and inclusive line manager will make an effort to see the point of view of each individual and, in the event of a disagreement, listen to all involved to reveal the root cause of an issue.

5. Be an effective ally

Line managers can foster a positive, welcoming environment where all employees feel seen and valued for who they are by treating everyone fairly and with dignity. Inclusive line managers should be effective allies, meaning that they make the effort to genuinely get to know their employees and their unique experiences.

Being a valuable ally also involves reflecting upon your own biases and assumptions and working towards developing strong empathy for all. Being an ally also requires action, such as speaking up against problematic behaviour, exclusionary attitudes and injustice, whilst also ensuring all voices and ideas are able to be heard.

How Marshalls can help you become an inclusive line manager

Here at Marshalls, we have developed a suite a diversity micro elearning courses that provide learners with in-depth, accessible knowledge and resources in a number of areas, including inclusive line management. Our Inclusive Line Management elearning course provides many opportunities to reflect on your current approaches as a line manager, whilst also sharing examples of behaviours you should avoid and behaviours you should strive to implement.

Available both off-the-shelf and as a bespoke, customised e-learning course, tailored to your organisation, our inclusive line management e-learning course is a strong  first step towards creating an inclusive workplace culture. To find out more about this course, or our most popular diversity in the workplace eLearning course, please get in touch.

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