What is an inclusive working environment?

Well-meaning slogans, fancy marketing, policies alone do not create an inclusive work environment.

Inclusive working environments are created through culture change and cultivating a a set of organisational values and practices.

An inclusive work environment is characterised by an affirming culture that leaves no room for unconscious biases, discrimination or unequal opportunities. Instead, it celebrates diversity and its role in the success of the organisation. An inclusive work environment does not pretend that everyone is equal, but instead acknowledges differences and systematic differentiation by taking responsibility through the creation of equal opportunities for all.

However, it is important to know the difference between a diverse workplace and an inclusive workplace. A diverse workplace, despite its diversity, does not necessarily have an inclusive culture. Conversely, an inclusive workplace does not necessarily have diversity. 


It is therefore important to create an inclusive working environment characterised by both diversity and inclusion - a working environment that makes all employees feel valued, welcome, included and integrated in the workplace.

Why is it important to promote an inclusive working environment?

Research shows that work environments characterised by diversity and inclusion are more productive and innovative. In addition, it helps both attract and retain employees, whatever their background may be. The inclusive workplace also has an increased competitive advantage in that it can reach customer and client bases more widely. 

In addition, inclusive workplaces also contribute to:

  1. Increased engagement 
  2. Improved employee well-being 
  3. Reduced perception of discrimination and inequality
  4. Improved cooperation between colleagues

What is psychological safety?

Psychological safety is an important component of an inclusive work environment and covers the interpersonal safety to speak up without fear of reprisals.

It may sound trite, but think about the last time you even withheld an opinion or some information because you weren't sure how the response would be. Psychologically safe teams and organisations give employees the right to criticise and see everyone's input as valid, essential and important to the development of the business.

For example, when was the last time you gave feedback to your manager, challenged the status quo or critiqued the way your company is structured? Read more about psychological safety here.

"Everyone can be mission critical"

Amy Edmonson, Professor and author of 'The Fearless Organisation'

6 ways to ensure an inclusive work environment

  1. Create a reporting mechanism for non-inclusive behaviour (including microaggressions and sexual harassment)
  2. Offer training and knowledge on diversity and inclusion as part of your onboarding, management development and psychological safety creation
  3. Conduct ongoing diversity and inclusion surveys
  4. Create a D&I dashboard (management tool) to keep track
  5. Have an equity approach to all employees' development: everyone must be treated differently to be treated equally
  6. Cultivate values and practices that make the organisation change-ready and inclusive (curiosity, empathy, EQ & CQ, developmental at least). Make sure to include employees in the design and implementation to ensure ownership and commitment.

If you need concrete advice on how your company achieves an inclusive working environment, please contact us here!

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Nikoline Nybo

BA Anthropology and Chaos Pilot.

Experience in cultural analysis and anthropological methodology, project management and process design, organizational development and facilitation.

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Louise Marie Genefke

Cand. mag. Marketing & Communication, MA Management and External Lecturer AU.

Experience with management, talent and organizational development, facilitation and Employer Branding.