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Inclusive culture: The beating heart of attracting and retaining diverse talent

Strategies for cultivating psychological safety, living values, and fostering belonging in the workplace.

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Employee turnover reached 13.8% in 2023.
Many organisations spend a lot of time developing their vision, mission, purpose and values.
we are wired to seek a sense of connection with others and build communities.

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With the rate of employee turnover reaching 13.8% in 2023, it is clear organisations are experiencing significant challenges around recruitment and staff turnover. Making diversity, equality, equity and inclusion a central part of organisational strategies allows employers to attract, recruit, onboard and importantly, retain diverse talent. Of course, everyone needs to earn a living and be able to pay their bills, but remuneration is no longer the only reason that people choose to work for and stay loyal to an organisation. What prevails now is, put simply, culture. Every organisation has one, for better or for worse, and it is an absolute imperative for organisations to intentionally develop and maintain an inclusive culture. People need to feel psychologically safe, have a sense of belonging, and want to be somewhere where their wellbeing and mental health is taken seriously.

Creating a psychologically safe environment

Having a psychologically safe environment where people can express their thoughts, feelings, views and concerns without fear of judgment or recrimination is essential. The openness required for psychological safety can only happen when people feel trusted and respected, and they trust and respect others. It’s not about being permanently positive, only giving praise, and always agreeing with others, even when you vehemently disagree, it’s about holding a kind and compassionate space for discomfort.

It’s about ensuring that employees feel empowered to take risks, explore ideas, try and fail, learn from failure, and own their mistakes and never blame others. This leads to more collaboration, creativity and innovation, making people feel part of something bigger than themselves.

Living your values

Many organisations spend a lot of time developing their vision, mission, purpose and values, and then put them in a drawer, never to be seen or heard from again. In our modern working world, an organisation that lives its values is crucial for attracting and retaining talent, particularly when Millennials and Gen Zers are looking for meaning and purpose in their work. When an employee does not feel aligned to their organisation’s values, or where the organisation does not live up to them, it can cause inner conflict and stress. Make sure that your organisation’s values are clear and that the behaviours associated with those values are upheld. After all, an organisation’s culture is only as good as the worst behaviours they are willing to tolerate.

Instilling a culture of inclusion

An inclusive culture is where groupthink is out and diversity of thought, views and approaches is in.  It’s one that involves employees in the decisions that shape the organisation and their working lives, where their voices are heard, and their views and opinions are valued and respected. This doesn’t mean that everyone in the organisation is banging the CEO’s door down and telling them how to run the place. It does mean that there is a fluid, flexible and agile means for everyone to be involved. This can be done by inviting contributions to ideation, development and decision-making, in a way that is relevant to their skills, experience and expertise.

Fostering a sense of belonging

As human beings, we are wired to seek a sense of connection with others and build communities. This is no different in the workplace, which is why having a sense of belonging is so vital, and even more important now that hybrid working is the norm. Employers need to intentionally create spaces for people to socialise, connect and get to know each other as human beings.

This doesn’t mean that work life boundaries are overstepped, but that people get to know each other in the workplace, understand what motivates them and what demotivates them, and allows people to find common ground and connections.

Taking care of employee wellbeing and mental health

Demonstrating that you genuinely care about your people through supporting their wellbeing and mental health is key to employee retention. It’s not just about wellbeing programs, such as employee assistance programs (EAPs), private medical insurance or mindfulness classes. While these are all fantastic, they need to be grounded in authenticity. For example, having programs, but at the same time imposing unrealistic deadlines and unreasonable workloads is unhelpful and at worst hypocritical. This will result in employee disconnection and attrition.

So, once you have your culture in place, how do you get the message out to prospective employees?

This is where your employer brand comes in. Firstly, you need to focus on how you articulate your culture. Secondly, how you amplify it across the channels where you may connect with prospective employees. You can start by having your vision, mission, purpose and values on your website, along with plenty about your culture and people. You’ll also need to ensure that your employees are your champions, using their networks, both online and offline, to let others know how great your culture is. It’s key to ensure that what you say about your culture chimes with what your employees say. Using social media to share news about your people and culture, as well as showing recognition and giving kudos will also help improve your employer brand.

Building a diverse workforce and an inclusive culture and amplifying this externally will place your organisation in the best position to attract and retain great employees who align with your values. These employees will have that invaluable feeling that your organisation cares about them, their wellbeing and their development.

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