Become an inclusive employer of tomorrow

Today’s workplace is experiencing a fundamental shift in the dynamic between employers and employees. Flexibility, authenticity and sustainability are central to attracting and retaining top talent. Environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria are becoming important levers for employers who wish to maximize their attractiveness and, more than ever, employees are making their voices heard. Inclusion is a growing part of the ESG conversation and organizations looking to become the employers of the future are discovering the value that an inclusive culture can offer.

Inclusion is usually mentioned in the same breath as equality and diversity, but has often been overlooked in favor of the other two, more measurable goals. Inclusion is at the heart of employees’ sense of belonging at work; the feeling that they are seen, heard and valued as individuals. Inclusion goes beyond supporting people with the typical protected characteristics that employers experience through equality law. It’s more about removing barriers and helping employees feel safe to be themselves at work – neurodiversity, menopause, gender identity, fertility, family responsibilities and mobility social issues are topics that would simply not have been discussed by employees in most workplaces until very recently.

The pandemic has acted as a catalyst for greater inclusion; the range of personal circumstances and the blurring of work and family life meant that colleagues saw themselves through a different, more human lens. An inclusive culture undoubtedly creates a more diverse and creative workplace, with employees feeling empowered to leverage their strengths and work in a more personalized way. But what has surprised many employers is the “resulting” value this shift in focus has brought: increased productivity, better attendance, better retention rates, higher levels of engagement, and a hand – happier workforce overall – who’s to say no to that?

Today’s cohort of employees (especially Gen Z) are aware of the smoke and mirrors that can be created by smart recruiting, social media, and marketing teams. Vague sound bites from upper management will no longer cut the mustard; employees are now expecting and demanding concrete action. When it comes to inclusion, getting the basics right is a good start:


Where employers can, offering a flexible and personalized approach to the workplace, hours and general practices plays a vital role. The boost that agile working can bring to priority areas such as disability inclusion and support for working families should not be underestimated.

Policies, training and implementation

Having transparent and accessible equality, diversity and inclusion policies, with training in place to implement them, are essential. But these policies require regular and meaningful consultation, monitoring and evaluation to ensure they remain relevant and aligned with day-to-day working practices. It is not enough for employers to simply check the box and move on to the next project.

Representation and Affirmative Action

To feel truly included and supported in the workplace, employees need to see themselves reflected in the organization. Low-cost initiatives such as mentorship, shadowing, targeted training, and affirmative action in recruiting can all help identify pinch points and organically move toward a more inclusive environment.

Meaningful dialogue

Employees themselves are the ultimate benchmark for measuring inclusion. A big part of creating an inclusive culture is the ability to actively listen to staff. Employers who continue to talk to their employees about their lived experiences, what’s important to them, their challenges, and how best to support them are the ones who will go the distance and achieve their inclusiveness goals.

A truly inclusive culture cannot be built overnight and finding the right balance will be a challenge for businesses. Mistakes will be made, things will be tried that don’t work, and there will be many learning points along the way. But the potential rewards are well worth employers’ time, energy and investment in discovering what works for their organization and their employees. Successful employers will gain a critical advantage to succeed in today’s fast-paced, employee-driven marketplace.

Danielle Ingham is an Employment Partner at Trowers & Hamlins