5 Ways Leaders Can Create A More Inclusive Workplace Culture

By Chong Jinn Xiung

We speak to an inclusivity expert from PwC Malaysia on how leaders can build a more equitable workplace and set an example for their team to follow as agents of change

Tatler Asia
Photo: Pexels
Cover  Photo: Pexels

Every leader has their unique style. Some are "directive", meaning the leader directs specific tasks to team members and typically makes decisions by themselves. Another common approach is "facilitative" leadership, which emphasises involving others in decision-making.

Increasingly, leaders are also being assessed on how well they promote inclusive practices within their workplace.

According to Vinesh Naidu, human capital leader at PwC Malaysia, an inclusive leader recognises that people deserve to be seen, valued and respected. “Leaders should view each individual as a whole person with different working styles, perspectives and experiences.” He adds that the key to being a truly inclusive leader is to listen, observe and learn more than you speak.

Here, Naidu shares five tips for how leaders can evaluate their own approach and build a more supportive and welcoming workplace for all.

See also: 6 Ways To Promote Mental Wellness In The Workplace

1. Invest in and build relationships

"Being inclusive is not a mindset; it is something that is demonstrated in a leader's daily behaviour," says Naidu. Inclusive leaders are often seen making the effort to get to know those they work with, whether it's trying to understand their working styles or taking the time to ask them about their lives outside of work. According to Naidu, this can help to make people feel more appreciated, respected and comfortable sharing their opinion at work. 

2. Give credit where it's due

Knowing when and how to give recognition to team members is crucial to a leader's ability to make people feel that their work is being valued, says Naidu. Giving credit also allows people to understand the role they play in their team and the wider organisation, which in turn will help give them a sense of belonging.

3. Develop your CQ

CQ, which is short for cultural quotient or cultural intelligence, is an essential part of an inclusive management style, says Naidu. Leaders who possess this quality play an important part in bridging knowledge and cultural gaps in an organisation, and identifying the best ways to tap on the different perspectives of its workforce. This, in turn, can create stronger team dynamics and encourage creativity and innovation.

See also: How To Achieve Both Profit And Purpose In Your Career, According To Social Entrepreneur Daniel Layug

Tatler Asia
Photo: Pexels
Above  Photo: Pexels

4. Create an open two-way communication channel

Naidu says leaders should take a step back and self-reflect on their own approach to managing a team. Regularly seeking feedback from a peer, mentor or team member can also help with this process. And the best place to start, according to Naidu, is with people that you trust to be fair and constructive in their comments.

Naidu also emphasises the importance of keeping an open mind during this process. "Instead of using the feedback as a way to 'confirm' or 'reject' beliefs that you have, see it as a way to better understand the experiences that are happening around you."

5. Recognise your own biases

It isn't easy to recognise your conscious and unconscious biases, but leaders who do have the potential to improve team morale and performance. This means being your own devil’s advocate and challenging your ideas and first impressions.

When conducting an interview, for instance, Naidu advises that leaders ensure there is diversity in both their interview candidate pool and recruitment panel, in order to make more inclusive hiring decisions. And when it comes down to the interview itself, he shares a piece of advice a senior leader in the education sector told him: "As soon as you meet a candidate, acknowledge your first impressions of the person within the first five seconds and spend the rest of the interview trying to prove yourself wrong about what you thought about them." 

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