Inspired Leadership

Cultivating Wellbeing Through Inclusive Leadership

Inclusive Leadership

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) have become prominent buzzwords in the modern workplace. While positive strides have been made, many organisations still struggle to translate these concepts into practical action. The question remains: How can we truly move beyond the words and build a workplace culture that fosters not just diversity, but genuine inclusion and belonging?

At Inspired Leadership, we believe the answer lies in inclusive leadership.

We see a deep connection between inclusion and overall workplace wellbeing. When employees feel valued, respected, and heard, regardless of their background or identity (and sometimes precisely because of it), they are more likely to be engaged, motivated, and productive. In turn, this creates a positive and supportive environment for everyone to thrive.

This blog post offers practical steps organisations, lead by HR, and managers can take to build a culture of wellbeing, centered on inclusive practices.

Why is workplace inclusion important?

Inclusion isn’t just about having a diverse workforce; it’s about creating a sense of belonging where everyone feels valued and empowered to contribute their unique skills and perspectives. This fosters psychological safety: a feeling that it’s safe to take risks, speak up with ideas, and make mistakes without fear of retribution.

It reduces stress, increases trust, and promotes open communication. In an inclusive environment, employees feel comfortable expressing their authentic selves, leading to greater engagement and satisfaction.

Benefits of a Culture of Wellbeing

Creating a culture of wellbeing in your workplace goes beyond just fostering inclusion. It’s about prioritizing the holistic health and well-being of your employees. Here are some benefits of fostering a culture of well-being:

  • Increased Employee Engagement: When employees feel valued and supported, they are more likely to be engaged in their work and contribute their best efforts.
  • Reduced Stress and Anxiety: A supportive environment can help mitigate workplace stress, leading to improved mental and physical health.
  • Enhanced Creativity and Innovation: When diverse voices are heard and valued, a broader range of ideas comes to the table, leading to greater innovation and problem-solving.
  • Improved Retention: Employees who feel valued and supported are more likely to stay with their organization.
  • Boosted Productivity: Overall wellbeing leads to improved focus and cognitive function, resulting in higher levels of productivity.

How to promote workplace inclusion?

Promote workplace inclusion both at an organisational level and by taking individual manager action.

HR Leaders and Chief People Officers need to lead the conversation in the boardroom.

1. Revisit the DEI Strategy

A genuine commitment to inclusion is the foundation for a culture of well-being. Start by creating a robust DEI strategy which needs to include DEI in every step of the employee life-cycle: Hiring, promotion, pay increases, opportunity access, skill development etc. However DEI extends beyond ensuring policies and practices are fair and equitable for everyone.

  • Focus on inclusion, not just diversity: Diversity is about the makeup of your workforce; inclusion is about creating a space where everyone feels valued and heard.
  • Conduct unconscious bias training: Help leaders and employees identify and mitigate unconscious biases that can hinder inclusion.
  • Develop inclusive leadership programs: Equip leaders with the skills to build trust, promote psychological safety, and foster collaboration within diverse teams.

Case Study

We are working with a client currently who recognises the need to do more than talk, and together we are doing a company wide blended, adaptive learning path on unconscious bias together with facilitated story circles. To support this all-employee roll-out, we are deploying the Manager to Leader path on Creating a Culture if Wellbeing, which includes Inclusive leadership and building psychological safety to all their managers. This approach starts the conversation and equips managers to build and maintain their team culture to be a place where people feel like they belong, regardless of their diversity.

2. Promote Open Communication and Feedback Mechanisms

Open communication is crucial for building trust and psychological safety. Here’s how to encourage it:

  • Hold regular employee town halls and create opportunities for employees to share their ideas and concerns directly with leadership.
  • Implement anonymous feedback channels to allow employees to share concerns without fear of retribution.
  • Encourage open dialogue within teams and departments, fostering a culture of collaboration and mutual respect.

Case Study

Our partners at VHRS had a client relying solely on reactive measures, such as counselling sessions, incapacity investigations, and retrenchment, for employee issues stemming from disengagement, cultural misalignment, or poor performance. To address this, they proposed adopting Pulse, a weekly WhatsApp engagement tool. Pulse fosters communication between employees and managers, covering work challenges, energy levels, and stress.

AI integration via ChatGPT analyzes feedback sentiment, distinguishing insightful from non-insightful entries. Sentiment analysis flags negative entries, signaling HR and managers for proactive intervention.

This approach not helps the organisation to listen to the sentiment behind the feedback and the feedback itself. Proactively opening dialogue on concerns that emerge before they become issues.

3. Prioritise Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is essential for employee wellbeing. Here are some strategies to promote it:

  • Offer flexible work arrangements: This could include hybrid or fully remote work options, flexible working hours, or compressed workweeks. 
  • Discourage presenteeism: Focus on results rather than just the number of hours worked. 
  • Provide generous leave policies: Offer and expect employees to take vacation time, sick leave, and mental health days. In many companies there is an unwritten rule that expects people to work whilst on leave, respond to emails on their phone whilst in hospital and otherwise compromise their physical and mental health. This practice is likely counter the policy, and needs to be discouraged at every opportunity. Senior leaders set the tone on this and HR need to take decisive action to discourage it.
  • Promote healthy boundaries: Encourage employees to disconnect and recharge outside of work hours. Sanction anyone who insists on instant replies outside core work hours or who places expectations on others to be available and responsive 24/7. 

4. Invest in Employee Wellbeing Programs

Offer resources and support programs to assist employees in their holistic well-being. Consider programs that address:

  • Mental health: Provide access to Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and mental health resources.
  • Physical health: Offer on-site fitness programs or gym memberships.
  • Financial wellness: Provide financial literacy workshops or resources for debt management and investing

Managers need to step up and create an inclusive culture in their team.

For a culture of wellbeing to truly take root, leaders need to embody it. Senior leaders and execs might set the tone for the organisation, but managers directly impact the day-to-day experiences of their teams. Here are some actions managers can take to promote a culture of wellbeing centered on inclusive leadership:

  • Create Psychological Safety: Foster an environment where team members feel safe to take risks, speak up with ideas, and make mistakes without fear of retribution. This might involve actively listening, encouraging open communication, and showing appreciation for different perspectives.
  • Recognize and Celebrate Individual Contributions: Take the time to recognize and celebrate the unique contributions of each team member. This goes beyond just formal performance reviews. Offer public praise, provide opportunities for growth and development, and delegate tasks to your team members to build their strengths and capabilities.
  • Offer Regular Feedback and Coaching: Provide regular feedback to your team members, both positive and constructive. Use coaching techniques to help them develop their skills and reach their full potential.
  • Promote Work-Life Balance: Encourage your team members to take advantage of work-life balance programs and make sure you set your own boundaries between work and your personal life. Lead by example by taking breaks yourself and not expecting around-the-clock availability. Consider adding an email signature line that says: “I’m sending this email at a time that works for me. Feel free to respond whenever is convenient for you.”
You can find these resources here:
Angela de Longchamps IL CEO and Founder Pic 1

“I was once told by a very senior female executive at a women’s leadership training course, that women are very good at working exceptionally hard and expecting what we do to stand out and that should be enough to be noticed and promoted. The impact is that the more we do, the longer the hours, the more we produce, the less balance we have and the more porous our work and personal boundaries become. She said these profound words which have stuck with me ever since: No one will create your boundaries for you, that your job! No one will ever tell you to work less-hard. So put your own foot down, no one can do that for you!”

  • Be a Resource and Advocate: Be a resource and advocate for your team members. This could involve helping them access company resources (with the proviso that you know what exists and who to connect them to), connecting them with mentors or sponsors (with the proviso that you have invested in your own network and can leverage it to connect your team members to others inside or outside your organisation), or addressing any concerns they may have about discrimination or bias.
  • Hold Regular Team Check-ins: Schedule regular one-on-one meetings and team meetings to check in on your team’s well-being, discuss workload, and address any challenges they may be facing.
You can find these resources here:

Conclusion: A Continuous Journey

Building a culture of wellbeing centered on inclusion rather than diversity is a continuous journey; there’s always room for improvement. However, by taking the steps outlined above, organisations and managers can create a work environment where everyone feels valued, respected, and empowered to contribute their best. This, in turn, leads to a happier, healthier, and more productive workforce.

At Inspired Leadership, we are passionate about helping organisations achieve this goal. We offer a range of leadership development journeys, including manager training on promoting a culture of wellbeing, to equip leaders with the necessary skills. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you build a thriving workplace where everyone feels included, empowered and unleashed to do their best work!

Speak to our partners at Vhrs to learn more about Pulse

Contact Rose Elcock, CEO

+WA 0845260067

Do you need to equip your organisation to lead themselves and others well? Download our brochure to find out how we can help.

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