The Growing Importance of Inclusion and Belonging in the Workplace

Research shows that the way we work and flexible working practices – which many companies and organisations adopted following the COVID-19 pandemic – have benefits for everyone, particularly for those with disabilities or from marginalised communities. The way we now think about our place of work has changed significantly, and this has resulted in many candidates caring a lot more about their working environments. Instead of simply accepting a role and hoping that the workplace offers an environment that caters to them, many candidates are looking for employers who focus on well-being, inclusive practices, and achieving balance.

Today, an employee’s ability to make their professional life work for them can make or break a hiring decision.


Are Employers Keeping Up with the Expectations of Employees?


After the pandemic, we saw many organisations offering remote, ‘work anywhere’ incentives to candidates to attract a broader talent base in the ‘great resignation’ period of 2021. This approach improved the talent base for employers but also benefited candidates who either enjoyed or needed to work more flexibly.

But are pre-pandemic habits starting to creep back in? In 2023 we have seen an increase in incentives to get people back into the workplace, ranging from free lunches to enhanced social spaces, and even some organisations making charitable donations to reward in-office attendance.

Why is this? And is this the right solution?

Would it not be more fruitful for organisations to focus on creating environments that incorporate inclusion and belonging: an environment that demonstrates priority to support a diverse workforce?


Creating inclusive workplaces


Of course, on-site work is occasionally essential, whether for physical tasks or tricky collaboration. However, employers often take a standardised, inflexible approach to policies, like requiring everyone in the office one day a week, that disregards diverse needs. Rather than mandate set attendance expectations, we should create environments that encourage people to connect in the best ways to optimize their productivity.

Those desiring face-to-face interaction can have that option. But remote workers should also be accommodated per individual preferences. By catering to both on-site and off-site needs, workplaces can become truly inclusive. This undoubtedly benefits those needing flexibility for caregiving while also allowing employees improved management of disabilities.

With skill shortages and an aging workforce, many professionals now prefer blending passion projects with reduced hours. Yet we’d all still gain from their expertise. Leading with inclusion means creatively supporting personalized arrangements so all feel welcome to contribute their talents. Catering to unique needs spurs recruitment and retention.


The Importance of Inclusion and Belonging in Diversity and Equality


Employers who make these changes will create environments where employees feel accepted and connected to the people and organisations in which they work. Candidates are attracted to these organisations.

The basics, of course, need to be covered:

  • Policies and workplace practices are required to protect employees and employers.
  • Individuals need role models. Candidates need to see themselves positively represented at work, even more so when it comes to those in a position of responsibility or influence.
  • We need allies, people who can champion, support, and challenge to enable others to see, appreciate, and accept alternative perspectives.
  • We need Employee Resource Groups to raise awareness, support, and lead on business change to create more diverse workplaces.

But let’s not forget inclusion is a behaviour, and belonging is a feeling or outcome of that behaviour. We need to go further than just looking at a culture that aims to promote diversity and equality.

Belonging positively affects everyone’s well-being and mental health, and being happy at work is a vital part of the job search for professionals today. So, employers need to think about what their workplace has to offer. Did you know that up to 69% of employees will reject a job if they know the workers from that business are unhappy? That’s a lot of talent to be missed out on.


What Action Can Employers Take? 


So, before you post that vacancy, is it worth considering:

  • Do you need that role to be onsite, or full-time? Would you be open to hearing from candidates with the right skills requiring a different work pattern? If so, be clear in your job description and advert.
  • How do you engage with prospective employees? What information do you share about your company that demonstrates an inclusive and welcoming culture where everyone feels valued?
  • Do you have a workplace in which people are accountable? Are your processes transparent (and this includes the hiring process)? Do you share and publish these processes or wait to be asked? Is this seen and felt in the assessment, selection, and onboarding of candidates?


Final Thoughts


The beauty of all this is that by creating inclusive cultures where people feel they belong, we can start talking less about making adjustments because they will happen naturally. No one needs to feel lesser than or different. Uniqueness is the norm.

Today is International Day of Persons with Disabilities, so it’s an apt time to reflect on diversity, equality, inclusion, and belonging in the workplace so that every single individual sees, feels and believes that they belong.


Julie HyamBy Julie Hyam 

Partnerships & Embedded Solutions Director


LinkedIn: View Profile



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