EW Group: Achieving inclusive leadership in times of change

In this Q&A session, we hear from Jane Farrell, Chief Executive & Co-Founder of EW Group, on what being an inclusive leader really means. We were also joined by Jane in our webinar, 'Achieving inclusive leadership', as part of our Disability Inclusion series.

Title 'Achieving inclusive leadership in times of change' with a profile photo of author Jane Farrell

1. What does being an Inclusive Leader mean to you?

Being an inclusive leader means that all aspects of advantage and disadvantage are considered and thought about in a holistic way. People are multi-dimensional and unfortunately some people experience more than one kind of discrimination and disadvantage, whether that is because of their gender, ethnicity, age, being disabled, sexual orientation, socio-economic status or a combination of these and other factors. 

The traits of an inclusive leader include: 

Awareness and understanding

Organisations are more effective and successful and happier when their leaders understand difference. Line managing people in a more sensitive way means staff are more loyal and committed, and more willing to make discretionary effort. Inclusive leadership also enables organisations to attract and retain the best talent, leading to greater creativity, ideas and innovation. 

Respect and support

There is a direct correlation between people who feel respected and supported at work and productivity and engagement. When the principles of inclusive leadership are weaved into the DNA of an organisation and become part of its values, every single day, this leads to more successful and profitable business. 

Recognition and willingness to adapt

Inclusive leadership is also about recognising that change can impact people differently. Organisational changes, for example, will impact some groups more than others, and it is about being sensitive and aware of this and making sure that certain groups are not disproportionately and unfairly disadvantaged.

Proactive approach for equal opportunities

Inclusive leadership also means people do not just choose the people that look like themselves for the promotions or acting-up positions. It creates a level playing field and gives everyone a fair chance regardless of who they are or what they look like. 

2. What are the first steps you feel organisations should take to create an inclusive culture where employees feel accepted and secure?

It is important that leaders demonstrate the ability to listen to what people in their organisations say and feel about their experience in and out of work. It is difficult to be an excellent leader without understanding the lived experiences of your colleagues.

By ensuring different voices are heard and allowing people who may not normally speak up in meetings to do so, they will feel empowered, valued and supported. 

Truly inclusive cultures are made when equality, diversity and inclusion is not an afterthought. ‘Firefighting’ as opposed to developing a proactive stance on diversity and the policies and processes that underpin it will have far greater and longer lasting benefits. 

Some important steps when working towards building an inclusive culture include:

  • Ensure the organisation’s commitment to addressing diversity and inclusion is part of its culture and values every single day. 
  • Build a robust business case for a more diverse workforce. Fortunately, there is now lots of great research and data that can help with building a solid business case for diversity. Some organisations know that they will not grow or thrive without attracting the best candidates, and in order to do this, they need to attract a diverse pool of talent.
  • Review your recruitment and selection process, to ensure one that is inclusive and will help your organisation to diversify its workforce at different levels. Think about where jobs are advertised and the criteria that is specified. When a recruitment advert states that applicants must have ‘good communication skills’, this can rule out potential talent of those with social communication difficulties, but who are experts in their industry with unique skills and talents.
  • Make sure executive teams and boards understand why diversity is a business imperative, as well as being the right thing to do. 

3. Why should organisations make disability a priority in their D&I strategy?

If organisations have strong ethical values, want to attract and retain the best talent, design and deliver the best products and services, have an inclusive culture that leverages and celebrates difference, then disability will be a key dimension to their D&I strategy, and their business strategy too.

Hear more from Jane in our Disability Inclusions series. Or, contact our friendly team for more information, and to explore how our technology can help you support a diverse workforce.

About the author

Jane Farrell is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive of EW Group. She is a specialist in inclusive leadership, unconscious bias, and organisational development. Her proactive approach to diversity and inclusion is founded upon a passion for building on existing best practice, weaving diversity and inclusion into everything, and focusing on pragmatic solutions.

Profile photo of Jane Farrell