Everyone has a role in creating an inclusive culture

During the month of December 2021, AMBITION will be highlighting its top 25 most-read articles of the year in reverse order, in the form of a thought leadership advent calendar. Here’s what is behind today’s door.

Inclusivity and diversity in the workplace regularly topping the agenda, but it is still very commonly thought to be the role of HR to ensure that a diverse range of people are employed and that everyone is supported within the organisation. This is not the case, as Teresa Boughey finds out

Originally published 16 July 2019.

An inclusive culture can never truly be created, without the efforts of leaders, managers, colleagues and those outside the workplace,

I’m setting out to show the key role that everyone has to play, alongside that of the HR department, in order to ensure an organisation is welcoming and supportive. 

Leaders and managers

Leaders and managers play a vital role in creating a wholly inclusive culture. For inclusive policies to trickle down to everyone else in the workplace, they need to be role modelled by the leaders and managers – employees will do as they do, not just as they say.

Inclusivity will only take hold if it is being embraced by everyone, senior leadership team included. Similarly, leaders need to always be identifiable and accessible so that any concerns can be quickly brought to their attention and actioned. 

It is also the duty of the senior members of staff to ensure everyone has a voice. It is common for a few employees to regularly be heard as they will volunteer for training, forums or mentoring however this means that a large proportion are going unheard. This is detrimental to creating an inclusive culture because everyone should be able to share their experiences, and each experience should be considered equally valuable. This is not only valuable for the senior leadership team, but it also broadens the viewpoint of colleagues. Leaders and managers need to ensure that everyone is heard to provide a rich tapestry of experience. 


Employees also have a vital role to play in implementing the policies to create an inclusive workplace culture. Without the support of every employee, a policy will never be truly embedded. An engaged employee is one which will feel enthusiastic to do their best for the company as if everyone is working to a shared vision and purpose, they will be much more motivated. 

Employees can be given a key role in creating an inclusive culture by ensuring that there is an easily accessible feedback structure in place so everyone is able to contribute their ideas to improve the workplace. This can then be reported back to everyone by leaders in a ‘you said…’ ‘we did…’ format that clearly displays the importance of the employee voice. If feedback is considered a one off event, this will only provide a snapshot of the current feeling. Instead, it should be a regular occurrence that is combined with other initiatives that check in on employee wellbeing. Similarly, when leaders are creating a plan to establish a great place to work, employees should be involved through the whole process from the ideas, to implementation and celebration. A committee could be established from individuals across the business dedicated to improving the workplace culture for all. 

Colleague to colleague 

It is also important for colleagues to be paying adequate attention to their colleagues and calling out any behaviours they deem unacceptable. We spend so much time in the workplace, it is our colleagues who are likely to be the first people to notice changes in our mood, behaviour or habits that indicate something may be wrong. An inclusive culture is one which is united behind shared values and looks out for one another so if a colleague has a concern about someone in the workplace, they should be able to share this with their managers or HR to ensure they receive the level of support required.

Colleagues should feel comfortable enough to call out any comments or behaviours from others that they deem unacceptable to ensure everyone feels welcome. Similarly, colleague lunches or team days are a great way to learn about the experiences of others in the workplace and ensure everyone feels welcome. 

Male advocacy 

Male advocacy is a very important part of creating an inclusive culture. While the number of women in business and female leaders is on the rise, it is unfortunately still a man’s world. This doesn’t mean that it is ‘men’s fault’ but the society that may have worked previously, is not one that benefits society today. The movement for change should always feature highly on the agenda and for this to be the case, the movement needs to be advocated by men in the workplace just as prominently as their female colleagues. Inclusion isn’t about just one gender or groups, it is for everyone’s benefit and it’s going to take the support of everyone for it to really take hold. 

Male role models are necessary in creating inclusivity. Within the corporate world, a high proportion of boardroom and senior leadership positions are taken up by men. This does not mean they should apologise for this, but they need to recognise the key role they need to play in shaping society into one which celebrates diversity and inclusivity. Ambassadors, advocates and allies are crucial to the movement to support minorities in the workplace. An effective method to lead to allyship is the LEAD acronym.

Males in the workplace should Look and Listen to what is around them. Is it the same people always putting themselves forward for programmes or speaking in meetings? They should always be open to Educating themselves about the experiences of others. Action is the next step including confronting unacceptable behaviour or the lack of representation. Finally, Determination should also be focused upon – recognising that they are not always right but they are determined to learn more. Following these points will encourage male leaders to champion everyone in the workplace, not just those who shout the loudest. 

Those outside the workplace 

Whilst those looking from the outside of an organisation may not have as much power to change how it operates, there are certainly things that can be done to encourage an non-inclusive business to change their policies and embrace diversity. With gender pay reporting in particular, the data submitted to the government portal is available for the public to consume and if this does not meet their idea of inclusivity, they may choose to not purchase from them or apply for a job role there. The public calling out the behaviour of non-complying organisation is an important step to push them to change their behaviours and support the societal change that is taking hold. 

Teresa Boughey MA FCIPD is CEO of award-winning Jungle HR and works with Executive Boards and Leadership Teams during times of change and business transformations. She is passionate about enabling organisations to create inclusive workplace cultures. Teresa is a UK Female Entrepreneur Ambassador and a member of the Women and Enterprise and Women and Work APPG. Teresa’s revolutionary new book Closing the Gap – 5 steps to creating an Inclusive Culture is perfect for any business professional at any stage of their inclusivity journey.Learn more at www.junglediversity.com       

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