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Let’s Talk: How to create a truly inclusive culture

Please note that this is the second instalment of our Let’s Talk series on how to build a more inclusive culture. 

Here’s the first part: Let’s Talk: How to create a truly inclusive culture

Jodette Cleary, Chief People and Culture Officer, hipages Group

Let’s Talk: How to create a truly inclusive culture

“Businesses can create an inclusive workplace culture by ensuring that an Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion strategy is adapted across all business areas. To be lived and breathed as part of everyday values.

“Having clear Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) targets can highlight challenges and outline where to focus, to fast-track progress. These targets are then at the forefront of your mind when acquiring, promoting and managing talent. At hipages Group, we have proudly reached gender parity among our Non-Executive Directors, Senior Leadership Team and company-wide. 

“However, only one-third of our engineering, product and marketing team members are female, and we plan to move towards gender parity in these teams with specific targets and initiatives.

“On a day-to-day basis, diversity and inclusivity can be celebrated by participation in awareness events such as Mardi Gras, Lunar New Year, Harmony Day, International Women’s Day and NAIDOC Week. It can also be supported through policies, programs and benefits that impact workplace cultures, such as flexible working, parental and carers leave, women leadership training programs, and a collaborative team-based approach to working.”

Francesca Deery,  Global VP of People & Culture at Ignition 

Let’s Talk: How to create a truly inclusive culture

“An inclusive workplace is one that emphasises a sense of belonging, connection and flexibility. In a hybrid working world, with more people dispersed across geographies and timezones, it’s important to empower employees to choose working arrangements that cater to their individual needs and enable them to do their best work. 

“This could be working alternative hours if they have caregiving responsibilities or collaborating asynchronously with colleagues when choosing to live in a different timezone. 

“An inclusive culture actively seeks out individuals who bring unique and varied experiences and perspectives to the table. For example, at Ignition, we provide virtual and in-person opportunities for all teams to connect, where a wide range of perspectives and experiences are heard, valued and embraced.” 

“This ensures all employees are included in critical conversations and are exposed to different parts of the organisation for career growth while allowing the exchange of ideas across the business.”

Dee Fitzgerald, Executive Director, Russel Reynolds Associates

Let’s Talk: How to create a truly inclusive culture
31486-RR-Dee Fitzgerald

“Many organisations are intensifying their efforts to improve diversity within their leadership teams and across their workforce. However, while diversity numbers may increase and show signs of positive change, strategies to create an inclusive culture are essential to sustain these efforts.

“According to research conducted by Russell Reynolds Associates, leaders that demonstrate diverse and inclusive behaviours to their employees are more likely to create an environment of belonging.

“Senior leaders play a critical part in the establishment of an inclusive culture. The type of leadership they demonstrate can have a significant impact on employee experience and sense of belonging.

“Organisations who want to improve inclusivity should ask themselves:

  • Do our leaders understand and role model inclusive leadership?
  • What tools do our leaders need to advance inclusive strategies?
  • Have we consulted diverse employees about how inclusive our organisation is?
  • What are we doing to create an environment that is inclusive?
  • How are we measuring our inclusive initiatives?”

Jasleen Kaur, Senior Principal Advisory, Gartner

Let’s Talk: How to create a truly inclusive culture

“Having an inclusive culture not only fosters a sense of belonging but more importantly can have a flow-on effect on employee performance. According to Gartner’s research, a 20 per cent boost in inclusion can raise employee performance by 2.8 per cent and increase intent to stay by nearly 6 per cent. 

“This is particularly important in the era of The Great Resignation. There are three key pillars that organisations should consider when comes to creating an inclusive culture.

“The first focuses on the behaviour of their people. It’s imperative that senior leaders demonstrate inclusive values. By role modelling inclusive leadership behaviours themselves on a day-to-day basis, they can encourage and expect the same conduct from their staff, ultimately creating a culture with inclusivity from the top down.

“Secondly, organisations should adjust the systems and processes to ensure they’re unbiased, fair and equitable. Finally, inclusive cultures are measurable! Organisations must measure the success of DEI initiatives through reportable metrics to ensure they hold themselves accountable for achieving (or not achieving) DEI goals.”

Catherine Mapusua, Head of Lending, WLTH

Let’s Talk: How to create a truly inclusive culture

“An inclusive culture is key to creating a desirable work environment and decreasing staff turnover. There needs to be a conscious effort from the leaders of the company – and it needs to start with them.

“As we continue to live with COVID-19, and working from home or in a hybrid situation is the “new normal”, it is important to schedule times when everyone can physically meet. It can be as simple as one day a week to attend important meetings or even chat over a couple of drinks. Strong bonds, a sense of community and close-knitted teams are more easily formed in face-to-face meetings rather than over video calls.

“During meetings, department heads can ask for everyone’s opinion when it comes to certain topics, especially if it directly involves them. It’s also a good idea to encourage inter-department meetings between members of the business who don’t normally work together. There may be some friction as people sometimes prefer to stick to themselves, but it can be very beneficial to create an inclusive culture in the long run.”

Stuart Taylor, CEO & Founder, Springfox

Let’s Talk: How to create a truly inclusive culture

“Inclusive workplace culture is one formed by mutual respect, compassion, and trust – and at the core of each of these is psychological safety. Psychological safety is defined as the shared belief that it’s safe to take risks and think creatively without fear of admonition. It can be understood as the climate that exists inside an organisation that either compels you to keep your head down or speak up and share your ideas.

“In a workplace lacking psychological safety, employees will often be anxious, hypervigilant, and apprehensive about speaking up and inhibited by a fear of failure. They’re also less likely to collaborate and share ideas with their colleagues and more likely to work in silos, which can lead to feelings of cynicism, distrust, and conflict between employees or teams.

“In contrast, promoting and nurturing psychological safety encourages employees to speak their minds, communicate openly, voice their ideas, and connect meaningfully with their colleagues, which in turn fosters an inclusive culture in which people can truly thrive.

“Leaders can build psychological safety – and thereby create an inclusive workplace culture – by leading with honesty and compassion. Leaders should endeavour to communicate with teams throughout all levels of the organisation openly and frequently and celebrate innovation and creativity even when the outcome is less than what was desired. Most importantly, lead with a true people-first approach. Staff should be educated on the importance of personal resilience and encouraged to practice stress mastery, but these practices must be modelled by the C-suite, too. 

‘At the end of the day, leaders must understand that organisations cannot thrive unless people feel seen, heard and respected in their place of work, which is why an inclusive, psychologically safe workplace is so vitally important.”

Kate Furey, Career Insights Specialist, Indeed

Let’s Talk: How to create a truly inclusive culture

“Research from Indeed reveals that 65 per cent of working-age Australians feel the need to hide some part of their identity at work – a figure that has increased by 18% since 2019. This alarming statistic suggests that despite our increasing awareness of the importance of diversity and inclusion, we’re still not doing enough to make people feel supported, included and comfortable to bring their true selves to work.

“Leaders need to take tangible and meaningful steps to create and maintain an inclusive culture within their organisation. Employee engagement surveys can be a good place to start to gauge the level of inclusion within your organisation and highlight areas that may need attention. For those with children or personal commitments, what kinds of flexible working arrangements do you offer? Consider the accessibility of your physical workplace, including meeting rooms and communal spaces. Are they equipped for staff with physical disabilities? 

“Does your organisation acknowledge religious and cultural holidays and provide those who observe these holidays with paid leave? More broadly, is everyone encouraged to contribute their ideas and share their opinions freely?  

“Consider what your organisation does to make employees feel seen, valued and trusted, as well as how it responds when employees don’t feel this way. Indeed’s research reveals one-in-ten working Australians don’t believe their employers would act against workplace discrimination, and this is higher for those who are non-native English speakers (20 per cent) and for those with non-physical disabilities (26 per cent). In order to enable an inclusive workplace culture, organisations need to put their words into action and make sure all employees feel equally valued and supported by their workplace.”

Scarlett McClure, Chief Technology Officer, WithYouWithMe 

Let’s Talk: How to create a truly inclusive culture

“An inclusive culture is one where people can share opinions, aspirations and ideas freely, which in turn drives true innovation and performance. Achieving this requires psychological safety – the knowledge that people can contribute without being shut down or demeaned. 

“Authentic leadership is the backbone of driving an inclusive culture. To cultivate inclusiveness—where others feel safe to express themselves—leaders need to be bold in sharing their thoughts and feelings. Throw out ideas in team discussions, even if they aren’t complete or well planned, and be prepared to have the wrong answer. Be vulnerable. By showing it’s okay to fail, you build a culture where others are confident to share, grow, and innovate.

“An inclusive culture embraces different lifestyles and backgrounds. It’s one built upon diverse talent. One way to establish diversity is to hire people based on their skills and potential, over their experience. Rather than focussing on the experience-based employment model, leaders should look to recruit employees who have the right aptitude for a role.”

Mick Carr, CEO, Grub Lab

Let’s Talk: How to create a truly inclusive culture

“At Grub Lab, we believe inclusivity and culture is not just a policy that is laminated and sits on the wall. Our Executive team and I have all come from a corporate background, as a startup, we have a saying in our business “let’s not be corporate”. The beauty of being a nimble startup is that we can do things differently from a large corporate, from the time people walk through our front door, you certainly know we are different.

“We are currently embarking on a trial of a four day work week, our employees will retain the same salary as we recognise that every member of our team is human, They all have families and personal goals outside of work and as a company, we want to celebrate that.

“Our team is made up of parents, husbands, wives, friends, partners, aunties, uncles who each have a multitude of priorities that they need to attend to in their own lives. The only way we see this can happen is through trusting our team 100%, through transparency and openness, our supportive culture has become much more than a workplace.

“We’re also great at plugging good people into the team and then letting them gravitate to an area of the business or a role that suits their strengths and their interests, we’ve uncovered some unbelievable talents from within our team which have been hiding right under our nose with this approach.

“We are unashamedly us in every meeting, presentation and interaction within our community. We champion individuality in our people and ultimately, we believe the business should serve our staff as much if not more than our staff serve the business, if we get this right our team thrives and the business thrives.”

Myra Beal, Chief of Staff and General Counsel, Metigy

Let’s Talk: How to create a truly inclusive culture

“An inclusive culture lies at the heart of any successful business or startup. To attract quality talent, especially as businesses grapple with a talent shortage, it’s important to focus on developing and deploying inclusive recruitment strategies.

“Remote working is a great example of inclusivity. The pandemic has shown us that remote work arrangements don’t negatively impact productivity, and companies like us, that champion remote work, are able to hire talent from a  wider pool of applicants. Remote working doesn’t just help those who need to live in another city, it improves work/life balance, gender parity and creates greater opportunity for those with young children or other commitments that require some flexibility and understanding.

“We’re actively fostering a culture where flexibility is encouraged and celebrated. Our people do things like school drop-off and pick-up without having to explain or justify in any way because that’s life. The cliches of a tech startup workplace culture with ‘benefits’ like ping-pong tables and beanbags are outdated. Inclusivity drives something more meaningful, like genuine work-life balance because employees are searching for something of real value.”

Raj Anand, Director & Country Manager, Dedoco

Let’s Talk: How to create a truly inclusive culture

“Inclusivity is not just about creating a workspace where people feel accepted, but also encouraging a culture of diversity, thus, enabling cross-pollination of ideas. Particularly when the business world is advancing tremendously due to technology,  it’s important to cultivate a people-based environment of creativity and innovation through open communication across your team.

“You need to be able to capture and understand a range of voices to avoid bias and a siloed way of thinking. Not only will this mitigate the risk of resistance, but it will attract and retain staff because we’ve proven that people’s experiences and ideas will be acknowledged and valued.

‘It can be easy for leaders to seem all talk and no walk when it comes to diversity and inclusion, so it is motivating to have Daphne Ng as our CEO and co-founder embody our values. Especially when women in STEM still make up a small portion of the industries, having launched the Girls-in-Tech (GIT) Hub this year at Dedoco empowers our female employees to make their mark in the tech industry.”

Monica Watt, Group CHRO ELMO Software

Let’s Talk: How to create a truly inclusive culture

“Building an inclusive culture starts before a person joins you as an employee. It’s about the employer branding and the sentiment shared outside the organisation, how do people feel about you and can they feel the warmth of the welcome and the story of your organisation?  Feeling good about you before they engage encourages people to bring their true selves as they interact with you. That is what you want to get skilled, capable and authentic people in your teams.

“A key part of an inclusive culture is the hiring process. You must find ways to educate and remove unconscious bias encouraging diverse views across the organisation. A tactic we use at ELMO is recruiting through an anonymised CV process where any identifiable details that could trigger unconscious bias are removed.

“Communication is key in creating an inclusive culture, try asking your people how they would like to be regarded and included. Many organisations overthink, act and miss the mark to deliver little things that support or bring value to their people. It is important in a hybrid world to ask these questions routinely as things change and you do not want anyone being disadvantaged because of their location or circumstance.”

Asanga Wanigatunga, Regional Vice President ANZ, Snyk

Let’s Talk: How to create a truly inclusive culture

“Proving a commitment to inclusivity within a company can be a particularly difficult challenge. It’s not just what you say you will do, or the ambitious goals you might set to achieve; it is making the conscious effort every day to maintain an open and transparent culture. At Snyk, we’ve made a conscious decision to strive for true diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging within all departments because we know that diverse teams perform better at all levels. 

“From its foundation, Snyk has encouraged a flexible working policy wherever possible. Allowing Snykers to find their work/life balance and to feel trusted to manage their own time, has led to honest and transparent working relationships between team members and managers.

“Our hyper-collaborative ethos is another key ingredient to our successful culture. Our collaboration is many-to-many, using online conferencing and shared Slack channels. We strongly believe in protecting the transparency and autonomy that comes from having most of our communication take place in channels that are public and available to all.”

Lindsay Brown, Vice President and General Manager of APJ, GoTo

Let’s Talk: How to create a truly inclusive culture

“An inclusive work environment isn’t a natural occurrence, but one that requires dedicated focus with a people-centric approach to cultivate. By understanding each employee’s lifestyle choice and workstyle preference, leaders and managers can identify the different work personas that exist to more effectively cater to their differing needs. 

“Remote working can naturally lead to a sense of isolation and exclusion, but at the same time, it can also create opportunities to navigate working relationships with empathy. Since GoTo transitioned to being a remote-centric company, we’ve found the importance of understanding different workstyles which helps leaders to be thoughtful in how they’re engaging their teams, and for employees to understand how to manage their interactions with each other. 

“We also learned firsthand with the launch of a new program called ‘The Community’ that there are still multiple ways to engender connections with a distributed workforce and to foster a sense of inclusivity by testing new ways of meeting, engaging in social activities, and creating ‘virtual water cooler moments.  Adding all the tech in the world may help collaboration efforts but making sense of the human factor will always be at the core of inclusion.”

Katie Kinraid, General Manager of LSP & Carriers, E2open

Let’s Talk: How to create a truly inclusive culture

“Many organisations are placing increased focus on inclusion within the workplace as part of their strategy. As the pandemic caused people to take a step back and reassess their needs as an employee, many businesses experienced an increase in job resignations. According to Diversity Council Australia, 78 per cent of employees across all industries show strong support for their organisation to take diversity and inclusion actions, giving businesses an opportunity to develop an inclusive culture that will meet people’s fundamental needs and help assure employee retention. 

“Indeed, we have seen an increase in participation and engagement among employees across our DEI initiatives, including the expansion of our women’s network, E2WIN. 

“In an effort to create inclusivity within the workplace, businesses are wise to foster a culture of transparency. Providing a continuous and open forum with employees can allow people to feel safe to speak up and share their viewpoints.

“Open communication not only strengthens employee networks but can stimulate innovative ideas through diverse employee perspectives. Creating an inclusive culture is integral for businesses that need to increase employee engagement and generate better business outcomes through open dialogue.”

Kristie Twomey, Vice President, Human Resources, Asia Pacific at Genesys

Let’s Talk: How to create a truly inclusive culture

“As many organisations have adopted a long-term remote working strategy due to the pandemic, and are facing the challenges of the ‘Great Resignation’, it’s more important than ever to invest resources into building an inclusive and diverse working culture. This not only helps to combat these challenges but also leads to improved metrics in key areas such as employee engagement, satisfaction and productivity.

“Employee experience technology plays a key role in building inclusivity, particularly when ensuring learning and development content is updated and appropriate to an employee’s knowledge and skill level. Personalising the learning experience from onboarding onward will ensure employees are engaged with the content and are continuously improving in their roles.

“At Genesys itself, we take steps to empower the creation of safe spaces for all individuals to be their authentic selves and ensure every employee feels true belonging in our workplace. Building a welcoming, inclusive culture is not just one team’s job, It is an ongoing endeavour that involves everyone from across the business.

“As part of this, we have established employee-led inclusion groups to build supportive communities for unrepresented demographics, including women in tech, LGBTQIA groups and people of colour. We have implemented diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) councils around the globe and are continuing to provide DEI training by experts to help reinforce inclusive behaviours.”

Shannon Karaka, Head of Expansion ANZ, Deel

Let’s Talk: How to create a truly inclusive culture

“Organisations are starting to understand the importance of a diverse workforce, but to make this successful it must go beyond simply hiring people from diverse backgrounds. Creating an environment of inclusiveness means that everybody has the opportunity to succeed in their roles and nobody is disadvantaged. 

“The first thing to remember is that no two people are alike, so flexibility is key. You can’t assume that everyone will be able to fit into the same mould – do your best to work with people’s needs and create a workplace environment that works for everyone, even if it’s different from what you’re used to. This can include everything from working remotely to having flexible hours and childcare options or empowering employees to block off their calendars for ‘No Meeting Wednesdays’. 

“The next step is to make sure everyone feels like they have a voice and are heard. This can be especially important if you have employees from different countries or different backgrounds than yours; give them the tools they need to communicate clearly and understand each other so no one feels left out of conversations because of language barriers or cultural differences. For example, encourage colleagues to share their opinions on video conferencing in different locations.

“By taking small steps like these every day, companies can ensure that every employee feels included and has a chance to contribute.”

Grant Emanuel, Director, Marketing & Strategic Partnerships, Chamberlain

Let’s Talk: How to create a truly inclusive culture

“At Chamberlain Group, creating an inclusive work culture is part of our ‘One Team’ company value. Our blueprint for creating an inclusive work culture is as follows:

  • Everyone needs to remember we have two ears and one mouth – and that we all need to listen more (particularly the leaders)
  • Make sure all employees have a voice and have the confidence to voice their own views
  • Recognising bias and actively working to remove it
  • Hold leaders accountable and ensure they lead by example – demonstrating respect, empathy and inclusivity
  • Ensure collaboration is real and not just spoken
  • Allowing strategic alignment across the business. While this can be hard to implement in many organisations, we overcome this through a dedicated focus on constructive discussions with the team. We actively reinforce that their work is meaningful and help them to understand how their work contributes to the delivery of our overall business strategy”

Pete Murray, Managing Director, ANZ, Veritas Technologies

Let’s Talk: How to create a truly inclusive culture

“Building a successful team starts with cultural fit. Skills and certifications, whilst important, must come second to boosting an inclusive culture. When an organisation’s collective culture works together to achieve both its own vision and individual goals, it’s an unstoppable force.

“At Veritas, we define success as people achieving their personal and professional aspirations in life. With this in mind, we lead with a people-first approach. An inclusive culture is significantly enhanced by leadership traits such as transparency and vision setting, alongside effective strategies that motivate a collective culture and tear down barriers that inhibit success.

“At Veritas, we also embrace intentional diversity spanning from culture, language, age, gender to the background. We believe the more diverse our people, the better we can innovate, solve problems, succeed and have fun along the way.

“As an example, gender diversity plays a significant part of our culture in Veritas Australia, with females making up over 40% of our workforce, and two-thirds of our leaders. A working environment centred on growth will open pathways and create a culture where people are inspired to do more, give back to the community and better manage the balance between work and life.”

Julie Mitchell, Chief General Manager, Personal Injury, Allianz Australia

Let’s Talk: How to create a truly inclusive culture

“We’ve seen organisations improve at addressing mental health concerns in the workplace, however, challenges brought on by the pandemic continue to place pressure on culture and employee mental health. Since the pandemic began, Allianz has seen a sustained increase in mental health (psychological) injury claims, with the rate of claims 12% higher than pre-pandemic levels. 

“With almost 1-in-2 Australian employees feeling uncomfortable engaging in crucial conversations with their manager about their concerns in the workplace, and 1-in-10 employees stating they plan to discuss resigning with their manager in 2022, more can be done to improve workplace mental health and well-being. 

“As staff return to the office with expectations of improved work-life balance, more sustainable workloads and enhanced mental health support, fostering a more inclusive culture that facilitates open and honest conversations is a critical step in developing more mentally healthy workplaces.

“Organisations can improve their approach to workplace mental health by providing safe environments for employees to voice their concerns to well-trained leaders, scheduling regular check-ins and implementing or updating mental health policies. Through these proactive measures, organisations can foster a culture that empowers employees to have transparent discussions and feel more mentally healthy and engaged at work.” 

Justin Dery, CEO APAC, Doddle

Let’s Talk: How to create a truly inclusive culture

“As a tech company, we see inclusivity is essential to our performance – to be innovative, we want everyone on our team to be creative in how we solve problems for our customers in eCommerce. So one of our core values at Doddle is that we are enthusiastic pioneers. What we mean by that is that innovation can come from anyone and everyone, so we want a diverse team where everyone is able to offer insight and suggestions.

“We also try to create a “no-toes” culture. Sometimes people worry about doing something great, fearing that they’re stepping on someone’s toes. We’re not territorial about who can contribute and how, because we assume on the principle that they’re doing it with positive intent.

“Feedback is also a really important part of creating an inclusive culture. We proactively seek feedback both internally and externally on our work and our working practices, so we can keep improving.”

Paola Molino, General Manager People and Culture, TAL

Let’s Talk: How to create a truly inclusive culture

“Strong company culture is one that is inclusive of all people and committed to professional values, supporting employees of all backgrounds, genders and ethnicities.

“At TAL, creating and fostering an inclusive workplace is in our corporate DNA. Our people shape our culture, so we create and encourage a sense of belonging from all our leaders. We know that role model and mentoring – both formal and informal – play a key role in encouraging and enabling progress for our culture and our people.

“Focusing on creating inclusive experiences for our people from the way we recruit talent, providing growth and opportunities for all, listening to our people so they feel heard and valued, celebrating our differences, modelling inclusive language, and activating purposeful leadership are all effective ways that we create a sense of belonging and inclusiveness.

“Building a culture that is confident creates exciting opportunities for our people. In my opinion, the varied and unique perspectives and experiences of people are what leads to more innovative thinking and higher performance.”

Sean Byrne, Head of VC ANZ, Logitech

Let’s Talk: How to create a truly inclusive culture

“The evolving hybrid workplace has made it difficult to embrace diversity and inclusion practices. This is because many workplaces have essentially lost that connection — or ‘water cooler moment’ — that made it possible for business leaders to understand the challenges that their team is experiencing. From personal experience, I find this small talk is the key to continuously improving workplace diversity and inclusion practices for a high performing team.

“I’ve found the first step to supporting diversity and inclusion in the hybrid world is to ensure all employees are empowered to connect and collaborate equally — be it in the office or at home. Each employee equally deserves to be heard and as business leaders, we need to enable this by providing the tools for them to do so.  In particular, collaborative environments like meetings need to have the tools to support equitable conversation around the physical and virtual room. I have a strong opinion that everyone has the right to provide their perspective on a topic.

“I am thankful to be working in an environment where we often question how we are defining our corporate collaboration space and how we are helping our employees share their stories and perspective. I also consciously adapted my style to lead any discussions with conversations to understand and know the person.  I believe that without the right infrastructure to enable equality and diversity in a meeting we are missing out on some amazing perspectives and insights. Addressing the ‘seen and not heard’ challenge in modern-day business will be core to supporting diversity and inclusion in the long term, so it’s important to start thinking about it now.”

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Yajush Gupta

Yajush Gupta

Yajush is a journalist at Dynamic Business. He previously worked with Reuters as a business correspondent and holds a postgrad degree in print journalism.

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