Priorities for your inclusion agenda: leadership accountability and action

Our Senior Inclusion and Diversity Consultant, Addison Barnett, reflects on what organisations need to do to develop inclusion agendas and build on the momentum of the last decade, and indeed in the last 12 months. Find out what his expert advice is for you to develop a truly inclusive culture and workplace in the next 10 years to come.

As leaders in the field of inclusion we have the privilege and challenge of working with our members to shape the inclusion agenda and keep working for genuine inclusion everywhere. For our 10th birthday celebrations we commissioned a survey to capture a snapshot of where our members and clients are now and where they see the future. You can see an overview of the key outcomes here.

Inclusion priorities for the next 10 years

As a member of the Inclusive Employers team, where would I like us to be in 10 years’ time? My ambitions echo those of our survey participants:

  • Taking an evidence-based approach,
  • Creating psychologically safe teams, and
  • An expectation of allyship as a core behaviour.

Leadership accountability

For me, the biggest gap I see at the moment is leadership accountability. Without this, inclusion efforts can only go so far. At Inclusive Employers we often talk about ‘everyday inclusion’. A simple phrase, but the implications of it are significant. We can only achieve everyday inclusion with real organisational and cultural change. This organisational and cultural change can only happen if leadership teams are driving momentum, acting as sponsors, role modelling inclusive behaviours and opening doors.

The reality is that at the moment, many leadership teams lack the knowledge and skills to do this. Here are my top tips to encourage and embed leadership accountability for inclusion:

  • Work with your Leaders to co-create your I&D strategy
  • Offer learning and development opportunities for leaders to upskill, specifically in inclusion
  • Create accountability: add inclusion KPIs into leadership objectives
  • Set up reciprocal mentoring programmes to develop Leaders’ perspectives
  • Secure buy in and sponsorship from the very top to keep up the momentum

Action-focused inclusion

Another focus of ours at Inclusive Employers is turning awareness into action. In 10 years time I’d like to have left the word ‘awareness’ behind. In what other area of business do we simply expect people to be ‘aware’ of things? Awareness is passive, it doesn’t engage deeper learning and create behavioural change. If someone was ‘aware’ of a missing fire extinguisher or a process that isn’t working, would we not expect them to take action?

Take time to develop inclusive cultures

I’d also like to move away from the idea that there is a set approach to inclusion, and instead embrace a more diverse and complex approach that complements and challenges an organisations’ existing culture, structures and ways of working. For many of our members the year 2031 will see their inclusive culture fully embedded and evolving, while some will be just getting established. That’s exactly as it should be: real change takes time, and the focus should be on progress not perfection. If the last 10 years had a theme, it was “why is inclusion important?”. The business case for inclusion has been well and truly established. We now need to move to how we all make an inclusive culture happen.

Inclusion today and in the future

What do we need to do today to create the foundations for inclusive cultures? We get the basics right. Inclusive cultures are built on strong frameworks. Inclusive cultures will harness the momentum that’s been built in the last decade and accelerated in the last 12 months. In the long term, this will create cultures where:

  • Inclusion is embedded into cultural change work,
  • There is ongoing monitoring of progress based on good quality data, and,
  • Workplaces are full of people who can thrive and be themselves at work.

I look forward to the next decade with you all.

To find out more about how Inclusive Employers can support you to progress inclusion in your organisation please get in touch.