women in agencies

Promoting inclusivity in the workplace

Proactive steps to improve your agency culture
Proactive steps to improve your agency culture

Creating and promoting inclusivity in the workplace is top of the agenda for many companies around the world. The impact of significant cultural movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter over the past few years have thrown issues of sexism and racism into the spotlight. In response, many business leaders have prioritised improving diversity and inclusion practices.

Nevertheless, despite the clear ethical and legal obligation to ensure workplaces are open and welcoming to people from all backgrounds, promoting inclusion can also have benefits for companies.

McKinsey’s 2020 report on inclusion found that more diverse companies are likely to outperform less diverse competitors. That’s right, research has found that diversity in boardrooms is linked to increased revenue. Making your workplace an attractive and open place for everyone is one of the key ways to improve diversity.

Businesses have an opportunity to improve how their companies operate and improve their reputation to encourage future effective recruitment of highly skilled staff.


How to tackle inclusion in practice

When we think about inclusion, we often focus on the dynamics between managers and employees. This is unsurprising as many high profile cases of people experiencing discrimination, or even harassment because of their race, gender or other aspect of their identity are reported that reflect poor treatment of staff by management. However, when thinking about inclusion is important to think about the culture of your company, including the relationship between all employees and the environment in which work is conducted. While culture can often be defined – and management typically set the tone both formally and informally of what is acceptable – each employee also has an individual role to play in manifesting an inclusive environment.

One of the initial areas to focus on when considering inclusion is recruitment. An inclusive recruitment process can help a business ensure that a diverse pool of candidates is advertised to, selected and interviewed. It is not only about ensuring that underrepresented ethnic minorities, women or disabled people have fair access, although that is a laudable goal. It is also about creating a culture that commits to considering people from all backgrounds fairly and openly at all stages of the process; from how job descriptions are designed, where and how jobs are advertised and how interviews are conducted.


Creating an inclusive culture

The results are in – inclusion is the tool by which we can encourage and actively support diverse workplaces. But inclusion is more than a buzz word, it is a consideration that impacts how companies and other workplaces operate. For example, when you are designing training, seminars and other learning and collaboration activities, consider how to present information in multiple formats to accommodate the different attributes, skillsets and backgrounds of an audience. Encouraging openness and providing forums through which alternative points of views can be aired and discussed ensures that employees feel valued and supported.

Breaking down barriers, both formal and informal is another way to create an inclusive culture. Everyone has heard of the “boy’s club” that traditionally dominates corporate business. Creating networking and social events that everyone can enjoy – such as sports, team games and relaxed and fun activities that do not privilege the interests of one sub-set of employees has had great success at companies such as Google and across many sectors including media and communications, finance and technology.


An inclusive strategy for growth

 Inclusion should become a routine topic at every level of planning and strategic decision making. This can be done by appointing specific staff members to ensure inclusion is addressed during discussions, through policies and training. As well as addressing potential negative behaviour, such as discriminatory practices, bullying and harassment – incentives need to be in place to create an atmosphere that is conducive for all.

Business both large and small should look to provide leadership on inclusion from the senior level. Leaders have an obligation to ensure that the message from the top sets the standard on a culture that accommodates everyone, but encourages ideas and suggestions to be raised from every level of the organisation.

Beth Hellowell
Founder of Women in Agencies and co-founder of Signify Digital. Mother, social media scroller and frequent pasta eater.