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How leaders can cultivate a culture of inclusion

Dale Graham by Dale Graham

How leaders can cultivate a culture of inclusion

The leader’s guide to fostering diversity and inclusion


To be diverse and inclusive are two different things. Diversity is about numbers and inclusivity is about creating a culture where everyone feels comfortable and confident to be their best selves and contribute. In this article we dive into how leaders can create an inclusive environment.


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Recently our team had the opportunity to hear from IGPP at the Second Annual National Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) in the Workplace Conference 2024. This conference provided a platform where individuals and organisations could come together to collaborate and continue the conversations around diversity and inclusion, with a particular focus on the untapped potential of neurodivergent people within the workforce.

The aspiration of creating a workplace that is both diverse and inclusive are distinct, yet certainly interdependent concepts. At Q5, while we often see benefits as colleagues and clients become advocates of truly inclusive environments, there is still plenty more to be learned and implemented. A key takeaway from the conference is the variance in readiness to adjust and empower those on the peripheries of the workforce. For some organisations there are still considerable opportunities to benefit from starting to think about the conversations and adjustments they can carry out to be truly inclusive of everyone, whilst other organisations are farther along their EDI journey and enjoying the benefits.

Diversity and Inclusion: Progressing beyond numbers and tickboxes

Diversity, a quantitative measure of the myriad characteristics and backgrounds within an organisation, is the metric often used to define progressive organisations.To have representation and embrace the contributions from an intersectional workforce means having diverse representation in age, disability, religion, gender, sex, sexual orientation, and race. Equally, recognition of diversity should also extend beyond Protected Characteristics; at the conference, we heard examples of parents returning to the workforce or those dealing with loss being able to offer important contributions. Diversity needs to also be considered intersectionally across multiple diversity characteristics. When thinking about intersectionality, it’s important to remember that evaluating intersectional diversity shouldn’t only be considered during recruitment practices; organisations need to consider intersectional experiences across the entire ‘employee journey’. 

Progression from focusing on diversity – sometimes perceived as ticking boxes – to being inclusive must take a more qualitative approach. Organisations need to create cultures where everyone feels comfortable and confident to be their best selves, only by doing this can the potential that diversity offers be unleashed.

How do you create an inclusive environment? What must leaders do?

Many of the points and concepts explored in the conference were increasingly well-known and recognised diversity and inclusion enablers, such as creating inclusive and unbiased management processes in recruitment and beyond. This highlighted a few key takeaways.

Firstly, the approaches and enablers being discussed across industries and environments indicate these are sensible areas of focus with wide applicability. Secondly, many organisations are still at the start of their EDI journeys. Accordingly, we (as EDI advocates, practitioners and professionals) need to recognise how to effectively support organisations and individuals with respect to how far along they are in this journey; rather than how far along we might want them to be. Finally, perhaps most importantly, that many know what they need to improve, but not how or where to start. This is where capabilities like Q5’s approach to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) and culture diagnostics can be critical in helping to shape the right kinds of strategies, change narratives and interventions that embed these changes and ensure they stick, and deliver impact.

  • Job descriptions should use inclusive language and blind (unnamed) CVs can be important for increasing the diversity and strength of the talent pipeline
  • Go to where the candidates are’ – build the pipeline yourself
  • Bring inclusion to the forefront of conversations not only in recruiting but also in feedback sessions and touchpoints to keep it at the top of the agenda
  • Seek out unfairness and discrimination in your organisation, before it’s raised

The IGPP conference’s platforming of powerful speakers who explored the nuances of intersectionality and mental health served as important reminders of the human-level impact of organisations lacking inclusion. These speakers demonstrated how critical stories are in helping leaders to personalise and build momentum behind EDI imperatives.  

Other speakers shed light on often less-considered inclusion implementation challenges. For example, the potential for misalignment between Corporate Social Responsibility and inclusive recruitment initiatives; focusing on recruiting local candidates may be at odds with diverse workforces if the local talent pool isn’t diverse itself. This lack of alignment can lead to frustration for leaders and employees who are trying to do the right things.  

Another important reminder for leaders came from a conference speaker who recognised that “EDI interventions for the extreme also benefit the mean”. Addressing the needs and requirements of a diverse workforce, for instance, by providing accessibility tools, and even changing how inclusive an organisation’s physical environment is, are considerationsthat can benefit everyone, and so should be viewed by leaders as investments in light of the broad impact they can have. 

How can we help you?

To explore how tailored diagnostics, strategies, interventions and storytelling can help your organisation harness the opportunities of DEIB, contact Q5 to kickstart/accelerate your journey. 



Dale Graham

DEIB Client Lead & Principal Consultant

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