Inclusive Management: how to implement an inclusive culture
24th July 2017
Inclusive Management highlights the fact that many of the decisions we make when managing people are influenced by our unconscious biases. The scope of those biases extends well beyond the more commonly highlighted management issues, such as gender and race, and include the profession, background or style of communication of both the manager and those they are managing.
Over the last few decades scientific research has shed light onto the working of the human brain and the concept of unconscious bias. The conclusions of this research has profound consequences for the way business thinks about how to attract, recruit and retain their talent and whether managers use the full spectrum of the diversity of experience, knowledge and ideas in their management teams.
What is Inclusive Management?
Since comparisons often facilitate understanding, let’s start with a quick definition of management. Although the list might seem endless, the bulk of management definitions distil down to a core concept: Influencing others towards a common goal.’ Aspects of the definition also point to what some have referred to as the management equation where results = engagement x strong shared purpose.
As this article from UGM explains, influencing involves affecting decision making and, ultimately, action. The individual exercising management is obviously a focus a vital, but only one, element of management.
It’s also important to state that management extends beyond the individual. Management is essentially focused on achieving shared (common) goals and it’s these goals that form part of the wider context in which the managing and being managed occurs.
Inclusive Management is the combination of working inclusively towards a common coal, making decisions inclusively, and ensuring that both managers and those being managed understand the wider framework and support structures of inclusivity in the organisation.
Inclusive managers at work
Take a moment to reflect on a few individuals you think are successful managers in a work context. It’s almost certain that being highly attuned to the needs of those of they manage, the amount of influence they have features prominently in their work.
Successful managers recognise, whether intentionally or unconsciously, that the brain’s reward centre has a profound impact on decision making. There are two parts to making the most of thus: The individual, and the company.
Most individuals in a work context make a contribution in anticipation of positively affecting their sense of belonging. When they’re feeling especially motivated, they’re inclined to work even harder in the hope of raising their sense of belonging further still.
The organisational focus is on optimising outputs from the collective effort of individuals. Research shows that high performing organisations focus on both organisational health and organisational performance.
Inclusive management helps to develop a healthy workplace culture, which in turn supports an engaged, hardworking and productive staff.
Why do we need inclusive management?
The context for managing today has been significantly shaped by profound changes in ways of working. Globalisation and unprecedented interconnectivity means that workplaces have become more complex requiring even more integrated solutions than ever before.
It’s not only that the speed of business has accelerated but for most people they are part of a diverse workplace. For many organisations, diversity has become not only a positive force but also a source of costly difficulties.
Yet those ahead of the curve are using the same or even greater levels of diversity to deliver benefits such as innovation, growth and a less stressful workplace.
For most organisations, people costs’ (the cost of talent) comprise between 40% and 60% of the total operating costs. In some knowledge work businesses it’s higher still. Any responsible manager would want to ensure their organisation was able to optimise individual contributions.
Taking an inclusive management approach places a focus and emphasis on creating a culture where every individual feels they are able to make a valued contribution, feel a sense of belonging, and deliver their very best work as a result.
Do you have an inclusive management culture?
These questions can help you determine if you yourself and your company have a culture of inclusive management.
- What does being inclusive mean to you and your company? It might be helpful to spend a few minutes clarifying that for yourself. Writing it down will allow you to return and reflect on your perspectives. It will also allow you to readily share your ideas with others.
- What does being an inclusive manager mean for others in your company? Once you’ve developed your own perspective, it might be useful to invite others to do the same and then compare positions. This can be especially powerful for managers and their teams. It can also be incredibly insightful for individuals who work together in less formal settings, such as a working group or project team, to clarify what being inclusive’ means in the context of the particular grouping.
- In the context of your organisation, what does / should inclusive management look like? Remember, not everyone has the formal authority of a manager but anyone who influences others toward a common goal exercises management.
How to implement inclusive management
In an article called ‘Part of the Team’, Candice Morgan, Head of Diversity at Pinterest, discusses how they went about designing an Inclusive Management culture at Pinterest.
Pinterest found that inclusive managers do a few things differently. Inclusive managers do the following:
- Create an open and empowering culture.
- Lead by example
- Distribute work with team input.
- Make time for connecting.
- Put in time to give support.
Let’s look at each in more detail.
Create an open and empowering culture. ‘Exceptionally inclusive managers communicate openly with members of the team, giving them a voice and soliciting their feedback. As a result they create cultures defined by transparency, honesty and trust. Through this culture, these managers empower people to make decisions, and employees feel they have greater ownership their work. This finding is consistent with Catalyst research that shows inclusive managers tend to ‘emphasize‘ traits like empowering their employees and humility. One manager said that at Pinterest, everybody is an owner. I’m doing a disservice if I’m not providing a way for people to voice their thought and opinions regularly’ It’s important to consistently find ways to empower people to take ownership and responsibility.’
Lead by example. Exceptionally inclusive managers not only communicate an inclusive culture, but they live the norms they seek to instill on their team. For example, they communicate their own mistakes, and are open and transparent with their team, encouraging their employees to do the same. For instance, when a manager talks about a mistake they’ve made and what they’ve learned from it, then their team is more likely to communicate, rather than cover up their own mistakes. One manager told us, I share my own experiences with the company talk about getting projects that I didn’t like, or found tedious or not motivating, that still solved a big problem.’
Distribute work with team input. Exceptionally inclusive managers see work distribution as a collaborative process between the manager and team member. They give people the opportunity to work on projects they’re particularly interested in, and make sure people have stretch assignments. In order to do this effectively, they solicit input from people before distributing assignments. One manager said: ‘We put people in places in which they are excited about the work they are doing. We work hard to make sure that they like the business they are working on, industries, some level of passion interest, or growth opportunity. It’s a pretty collaborative process.’
Make time for connecting. Exceptionally inclusive managers make time for structured socializing with their teams. Specifically, they hold frequent, structured team-building events, such as one-on-one lunches, happy hour, or offsites. ‘Research‘ shows that this type of structured socializing leads to more organizational trust and sense of belonging, especially for people who are underrepresented in an organization.
Put in time to give support. If a team member is struggling, exceptionally inclusive managers provide additional support. They may assign a peer mentor, or offer extra time personally to guide their colleague. One manager discussed how they respond when someone is struggling: I give more mentoring in my one on one meetings. And I’ll give additional meetings to go through particular preparation for a deliverable or presentation. Also I have the employees’ peers serve as mentors as well. I really try to step up the support when someone is struggling.’
Inclusive Management Training
If you’re looking to introduce Inclusive Management to your organisation understanding diversity is a necessary prerequiste, then our ‘Managing Diversity course‘ is for you especially if you are interested in how to be an inclusive manager.
With the aim of promoting best practice amongst managers, our ‘Managing Diversity course‘ aims to provide managers with an understanding of the importance of diversity, the obligations and duties placed on managers implementing diversity policies, and the latest developments in best practice on inclusive leadership.
The interactive course for managers or staff with managerial responsibilities aims to raise awareness of diversity and inclusion issues and provide the skills and confidence to build a more inclusive working environment within their teams and beyond.
- Understand the impact an inclusive workplace can have on productivity and wellbeing
- Develop understanding of the diversity / inclusion issues that staff may face
- Consider the role of the manager in creating an inclusive environment
- Identify practical ways for managers to both support the needs of their team members
- Ensure that the services and support they offer are inclusive
- To become aware of the support structures that enable managers to actively contribute towards making a workplace more inclusive
On completion of this course, learners should understand the following:
- What is meant by diversity?
- The importance of diversity
- Legal issues surrounding diversity
- How to handle key challenges positively