How Employees Can Ensure an Inclusive Culture

Diversity, equity and inclusion are collectively the top corporate human capital management priority in 2021, according to Brandon Hall Group’s HCM Outlook 2021 study and developing inclusive leaders tops the list of leadership development investment priorities.

The importance organizations now place on DE&I cannot be overstated. Brandon Hall Group research shows:

While inclusive leadership is critically important, the endgame for DE&I efforts is an inclusive culture, so advocacy must extend beyond leadership development.

In speaking to scores of organizations about DE&I, many are overwhelmed by the challenge of building a variety of programs and experiences to develop inclusive behaviors in leaders, let alone the entire organization.

Most organizations are early in their journey toward building an inclusive culture. But the ability to get the entire organization to embrace inclusion will determine whether efforts to build an inclusive workplace are successful.

• How can we do a better job creating awareness of inclusion and getting employees involved in building an inclusive culture?

• How can we embed the values of diversity and inclusion in all levels of the organization?

• How can we educate, motivate and inspire all employees to make themselves accountable for creating and sustaining a truly inclusive organization?

Developing a culture of inclusion is complex and takes time. But Brandon Hall Group research shows that individuals can significantly contribute to an inclusive workplace by simply demonstrating respectful and polite behaviors.

Everyday Behaviors That Drive Inclusion

Many of these behaviors are second nature to numerous people. Others will willingly do these things if they see others doing them or after receiving gentle direction or reminders. Other important inclusionary behaviors, however, require training, support and encouragement before individuals can effectively model them.

These include:

Challenging practices or behaviors that are not fully inclusive, which 82% of our research respondents said was important to drive inclusion. In an inclusive culture, everyone takes responsibility. That includes challenging bad behaviors. Many, such as making racial or gender-based jokes or insults, are obvious. Others, such as not listening to different points of view or interrupting and talking over someone, are more subtle and happen so often that people may not be cognizant of them without some heightened awareness.

After recognition, the next step is how to effectively challenge those behaviors. That requires resolve and conviction aided by knowing methods to handle conflict. Providing basic training or resources on confronting problems and resolving conflict can empower employees to challenge exclusive conduct — and can also help them in other aspects of their jobs and life.

• Suggesting new ideas and solutions for a more inclusive workplace. About 80% of research respondents said this is an important action for individuals to take. For that to happen, however, employees must be comfortable speaking up. That rarely happens unless they feel leaders are open to feedback, listen to it and demonstrate that they will act when it is given. Only 28% of research respondents agreed with the statement that “employees believe that feedback given by employees will be acted upon.”

• Creating opportunities for involvement. Half of research respondents said this is an important way for individuals to feel they can actively contribute to an inclusive culture. Highly inclusive organizations we interviewed advocate for employee involvement by:
> Offering frequent opportunities to discuss issues pertaining to DE&I. This happened frequently in many organizations in 2020 at the height of the social justice movement and during the pandemic.
> Establishing employee resource groups on a range of issues related to DE&I and encouraging employees to join or at least attend an informational session.
> Demonstrating the organization’s values of DE&I through outreach efforts to their communities and taking steps to actively involve a wide range of employees.

Most individuals want to contribute to their organizations and often simply need to understand how they can help and know that their efforts are welcomed and will be recognized. Employers who are serious about building an inclusive culture should find ways to make employees comfortable getting involved.


Brandon Hall Group Strategy Briefs answer the critical questions learning, talent, HR and business leaders must address to manage their human capital. To tackle these critical questions in more detail, we built tools, frameworks, research summaries and business builders based on up-to-date research and case studies for you to implement best and next Human Capital Management (HCM) practices. To gain access to these valuable resources, contact [email protected].

Leading minds in HCM choose Brandon Hall Group to help them build future-proof employee-development plans for the new era. For more than 27 years, we have empowered, recognized and certified excellence in organizations around the world, influencing the development of over 10,000,000 associates and executives.

Like what you see? Share with a friend.

Related Content