7 Ways to Foster Inclusive Teams at Work (With Benefits)

Updated December 11, 2022

Effective teams prioritize the collaboration between individuals with diverse talents and perspectives to achieve shared goals. Inclusive teams leverage the experiences, thoughts, and ideas of all team members to develop creative solutions and appeal to diverse customer markets. Understanding how you can make teams more inclusive can help develop your career as a leader in your workplace. In this article, we define inclusive teams, list the benefits of promoting inclusivity at work, and review seven ways you can foster team inclusivity in the workplace.

What are inclusive teams?

Inclusive teams are those that counter discrimination and encourage the participation of all team members with different identities, backgrounds, and experiences. Inclusive teams in the workplace value the contributions of all participants and encourage the sharing of knowledge and perspectives that help the team develop solutions. When teams are inclusive, team members feel accepted, valued, and trusted. These types of teams offer members feedback opportunities and safe spaces to foster a healthy work environment. This open and inclusive environment promotes collaboration and encourages individuals to contribute to the team.

Read more: What Is Inclusiveness in the Workplace? (With Benefits)

Benefits of inclusivity in the workplace

Here are some benefits of prioritizing inclusivity in the workplace, specifically within teams or departments:

Improves employee happiness

When team members feel appreciated, valued, and welcomed by their colleagues and supervisors, they're often more likely to feel satisfied in their positions. Those who work in inclusive environments with professionals who genuinely value their opinions and contributions may be happier with their work. When employers promote inclusivity and improve employee happiness, it may increase employee retention, providing further organizational benefits. Individuals who work together for longer periods become more familiar with each other, develop strong working relationships, and contribute to a positive team environment.

Read more: The Great Realization: Is Happiness at Work Possible?

Enhances the workplace culture

The work culture of an organization is a collection of employee attitudes, behaviours, and policies that contribute to the unique feeling or atmosphere of a workplace. Demonstrating diversity and inclusion in the workplace can help employees feel welcomed and accepted, contributing to a more equitable company culture. When professionals have the opportunity to support social causes at work and understand a company's stance on important topics, it can lead to a positive corporate culture. Companies that prioritize inclusivity in teams can improve their work culture, which can help organizations recruit top talent.

Read more: What Is Work Culture? Definition, Elements and Examples

Increases employee knowledge

An inclusive team can consider the opinions of others, has the willingness to learn, and is interested in personal development. Professionals looking to expand their understanding of topics may also have a more diverse skill set. Employing those with a broad range of skills can help a company develop solutions that appeal to a wide audience and are sensitive to diverse perspectives. When individuals work with those with different ideas and experiences, they can increase their understanding, creating a more talented workforce. As inclusivity enhances employee knowledge, the ability of a team to innovate and develop creative solutions increases.

Facilitates productivity

Inclusive workplaces prioritize the success of diverse employees by ensuring their participation in meaningful conversations and contributions towards work products. Fostering environments where all team members can participate equally and generate new ideas from different perspectives can contribute to positive work environments. When employees feel valued and colleagues consider their opinions, they're more likely to contribute actively to work discussions and offer their skills to reach common goals. Inclusive environments foster productivity, as appreciated professionals are more likely to collaborate with others and offer solutions and ideas.

Read more: What Is the Importance of Productivity in the Workplace?

Increases cultural sensitivity

Companies can increase their cultural sensitivity by including professionals from different backgrounds on project teams. Considering the opinions of others helps the team develop more empathic and authentic solutions, which can help a company appeal to different audiences effectively. For example, an advertising team with cultural knowledge of the people they're representing can ensure they're using accurate, realistic, and appropriate imagery and language in their marketing materials.

Read more: What Is Diversity in the Workplace? (With Benefits)

7 ways to foster inclusive teams at work

Here are some ways that you can foster inclusivity on your team to promote a healthier workplace:

1. Be transparent

Developing open and honest communication amongst team members can help coworkers offer and accept feedback. Being able to have important conversations without the threat of judgment or repercussions can help team members learn from each other and develop their knowledge and skills. This helps teams discuss difficult topics in a way that promotes growth and advancement. When you create a culture where a team values feedback and incorporates it into regular work, it allows members to seek recommendations and offer suggestions. Transparency can help teams remain accountable for their inclusivity goals and evaluate any shortcomings of the group to address.

2. Use inclusive language

Language in the workplace may intentionally or unintentionally exclude some individuals. When communicating with your teammates and coworkers, be thoughtful about how your words may affect others. This can help you build and maintain an inclusive and respectful workplace and ensure team members feel accepted. Using language that's free from stereotypes, discriminatory views, or prejudiced thinking can help people feel included and valued. For example, when addressing a group of people, consider using gender-inclusive language to relate to all those in the room.

Related: How to Promote Inclusion and Diversity in the Workplace

3. Be an ally

You can be an ally for all individuals on your team by advocating for and encouraging underrepresented team members to share their opinions and ideas. Listen actively when others are sharing their thoughts and perspectives, and attempt to understand the experience of others. Create an atmosphere of acceptance and connection during all team interactions. For example, you can set expectations at the beginning of a meeting by stating that all participants may speak without being interrupted, giving everyone the chance to be heard.

Read more: 5 Steps to Become a Better Ally at Work

4. Educate yourself

When you acknowledge your unconscious biases and the limitations of your experiences, you allow yourself to grow and evolve. You can educate yourself on inclusive practices by exploring resources that can help you manage a team that prioritizes inclusivity. Consider using tools that can help you become a better ally in the workplace, such as attending seminars, watching documentaries, and reading publications. Focus on those that describe the experiences of underrepresented groups to advance your knowledge and understanding. If your employer offers diversity and inclusion training, you can contact the HR department to organize training for the team.

You can also educate yourself by asking thoughtful questions to help you better understand the experiences of others when appropriate. Disregard any preconceived notions, biases, or previously held beliefs and consider the information the individual is sharing with you. Accept that you may have made mistakes in the past, learn from those sharing their perspectives, and apply those lessons to future situations. Pursuing education to further develop your own understanding can encourage others on your team to explore further learning opportunities.

Related: How to Handle Microaggressions in the Workplace

5. Accept feedback

Acknowledging the limitations of our experiences and accepting feedback from others without getting defensive can help you improve the inclusivity of your team or workplace. If a colleague offers a recommendation on how you might improve the diversity of a team, use more inclusive language, or be a stronger ally, consider their feedback carefully. Be willing to listen to different perspectives and consider how your words or actions may affect others to further hone the inclusivity of the team environment.

Related: Giving and Receiving Meaningful Peer Feedback (With Tips)

6. Promote alternative perspectives

Learning from others involves amplifying the voices and experiences of those with alternative perspectives and experiences. For example, if you don't have a specific understanding of an underrepresented group, you can defer to team members who have firsthand experience or are subject matter experts. This gives those with unique perspectives the opportunity to be heard, increasing the knowledge of the team. Promoting these voices also increases the visibility of underrepresented groups and enhances the ability of the team to represent these groups accurately and respectfully.

Related: A Guide to Workforce Diversity (With Definition and Benefits)

7. Celebrate differences

When working with a team of professionals with diverse backgrounds, celebrating the differences of each individual can help you create a more inclusive environment. Acknowledging that individuals bring a unique perspective to the group and showing that you value their contributions can demonstrate that you appreciate the contributions of different views in the workplace. Consider increasing the accessibility of your meetings to ensure your team members have equal access, refer to each individual by their correct pronouns, and welcome all contributions to discussions. Further, when ordering lunch, think about your team's dietary restrictions to ensure you're including everyone.

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