The ABCD of inclusion: Leaders’ role in creating an accessible and sustainable workplace

As the pandemic resets major work trends, here is a chance for leaders to acquire a few traits that can enable their organisations to holistically transform into a more inclusive workplace.
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Today, we stand at a once-in-a-generation opportunity to restructure and rewrite the flow of our workplace to create a more lasting and inclusive environment than before. Inclusion should be the new DNA of the organisations with the readiness to make it a central part of the workplace.

However, orchestrating the revolution in this “new-normal” set-up needs the right structure and ownership support from leadership at the highest developmental stage.

An accessible, inclusive, and sustainable workplace is not designed overnight. Leaders form the foundation of this ecosystem, where an inclusive work culture recognises unique talents, traits, and the expertise of a differently-abled workforce.

The right set of actions and attitudes of the senior leadership will determine if the initiatives will drive a real, lasting, and sustainable change in the workplace. The support should go beyond surface enthusiasm and lead towards management who prioritise inclusion and hold themselves truly accountable by investing the right amount of time and resources.

According to a recent report by Unearthinsight, India houses close to three crores of people with disabilities (PwDs), of which around 1.3 crore are highly employable but only 34 lakh are employed across organised and unorganised sectors, government-led schemes, and self-employed.

The report further stated that the country stands a potential worker bandwidth of 3.4 lakh non-tech graduates, polytechnic, and diploma holders, who could be skilled and brought into the mainstream services sector and knowledge industry to push per capita income.

With such numbers in sight, it is imperative now more than ever that organisations should rethink their workforce and employee planning, management, performance, and experience strategies.

Disability inclusion is a key driver of a successful business. A research report by Deloitte suggests that if just 10 percent more employees feel included, the company will increase work attendance by almost one day per year per employee.

Moreover, it was also found that companies, who embraced inclusion and diversity in all business aspects, witnessed their inclusive teams outperform their peers by 80 percent in team-based assessments.

Both inclusion and evolution take a lot of practice, patience and commitment. As the pandemic resets major work trends, here is a chance for leaders to acquire a few traits that can enable their organisations to holistically transform into a more inclusive workplace. The ABCD of Inclusion:

Awareness

Awareness of existing bias as an individual and as an organisation is the first step towards creating an inclusive workplace that will run for a longer duration.

Once the leader is open to accepting existing bias in the workplace, they can work towards learning to self-regulate and take corrective steps to ensure fair play.

This can further lead to establishing transparent policies for making merit-based decisions across the workplace.

Belongingness

Instilling a sense of belonging is strongly correlated to higher employee engagement in the workplace. By cultivating a sense of belonging, inclusive leader empowers the employees to feel a greater sense of commitment and motivation towards the team’s successes.

This will build a narrative for a shared vision for the team and work towards the common goals or interests of the organisation. The aim is to not let anyone in the team feel left out at any point.

Collaboration

Collaboration is the key that empowers the workforce to challenge and build on each other’s ideas.

Inclusive leaders have the ability to nurture a collaborative practice of sharing ideas, resources and energy amongst the employees for accomplishing team goals and creating an inclusive environment.

As a result, individuals feel empowered to offer their ideas and expertise to ensure the success of the team.

Distinctiveness

Leadership need to understand what makes individuals unique and embrace the individual distinctiveness, differences, ideas and ways of working. Leaders who support disability inclusion do not differentiate when it comes to ideas.

Especially for a post-pandemic workplace, leaders should recognise the value of a team with a wide range of skills, passions, and viewpoints. When individuals feel respected for their distinctiveness, they are more resilient, cooperate, perform better and feel comfortable in taking direction from their leaders. In essence, it not only benefits employees, but the entire organisation.

As we begin to imagine the pre-requisites of a post-pandemic world needs, we have an opportunity to re-build the places where we live, work and play, as more accessible and more inclusive for the future.

Inclusive leaders need to recognise individual differences, take note of employees’ voices, and tap their talents and skill for greater organisational successes.

Highly inclusive and accessible leaders can show paramount commitment towards diversity and inclusion, only if these goals are equally aligned with their own set of values and ideologies.

Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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