Why the ‘Great Resignation’ must lead to more inclusive workplaces

In this guest article, Dr Grace Lordan, Founding Director of The Inclusion Initiative and Associate Professor in Behavioural Science at the London School of Economics, shares her ideas regarding how employers can change their hiring and business practices in the age of the ‘Great Resignation’, so they can move towards a ‘great recruitment’ period – creating a more inclusive and positive workplace.

It’s very easy for companies to stay stuck in their old habits when it comes to how they hire and treat their employees. However, in 2022 they will soon find out this kind of attitude is no longer beneficial for business or even ethically acceptable. I believe those who wish to be the industry winners and best performers must deeply evaluate their own business practices and inclusion strategies if they wish to attract the best talent and have the most success in years to come.

We’re seeing now more than ever that investors, stakeholders, clients, customers and employees are demanding and backing businesses that have responsible and inclusive philosophies at their core. It makes sense because it’s these conscientious businesses that will be the most sustainable and successful moving forwards.

The starting point to create an inclusive culture is to create inclusive leaders. Inclusive leaders have positive diversity mindsets, in that they recognise that having diverse voices in their team is a gift and that diversity allows their team to improve product creation, customer service, risk assessment, and innovation.

Additionally, inclusive leaders aim for more than facilitating the formation of happy teams, since what makes the team happy isn’t always positive or good. A team can be happy because they spend all day focussing on unproductive work and are engaged in too many social meetings.

Dr Lordan, Founding Director of The Inclusion Initiative and Associate Professor in Behavioural Science at the London School of Economics

Dr Lordan

But a team can also be happy because they embrace dissent, deliberate, or discuss ideas in a manner that is comfortable and allows for better business outcomes, in addition to individual team member’s growth. An inclusive leader should aim to create a psychologically safe environment for individual team members so as not to harm their well-being when their ideas are being scrutinised. When people are growing, and are sure they are adding value to their organisation, they are less likely to resign.

Inclusive leadership is a strategy for a leader with great ambitions for their team’s performance. A team led by an inclusive leader is like a family who argues with each other, safe in knowing that every person wants the same outcome, with disagreements serving only to express a point of view.

However, different to a family, inclusive leaders manage teams with high levels of social distance. Social distance is higher when team members are from different cultures, backgrounds, or demographic characteristics. In contrast, social distance is lower when there are high levels of affinity between team members and low levels of diversity.

How do you know if you are engaging with an inclusive leader? If you are in a meeting with an inclusive leader, team members will embrace dissent to challenge one another’s ideas. They are also eager to hear one another’s perspectives and practice active listening while in the throes of dissent.

Focussing on inclusive leadership is a mechanism to build a more inclusive culture and enact change within an organisation. Increased diversity does not naturally lead to increased inclusivity or better outcomes. Therefore, it is necessary to nurture inclusive leadership as the leadership style of choice within organisations, so the value-added of diverse talent can be leveraged.

Something important occurs when a team has an inclusive leader. The progression of each team member is determined only by their skills, ability, and effort. In other words, there is a true meritocracy! There will then be better retention of talent.