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A Different Type of Climate Change: The Climate of Inclusion

How is your company’s climate for inclusion? This article outlines what it takes to move beyond the policies and create an employee-driven, inclusive business climate.

Moving Beyond Corporate Policies

Meaningful and measurable inclusion often requires a fundamental shift in an organization. It requires changing the way people interact with each other at work so that traditional stereotypes can be debunked.

Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) are common terms these days. Your organization probably has practices around the topic and some may even have been in place for a while. 

Things like targeted recruiting and mentoring programs attract people to your organization and help to hire a more diverse group of employees. 

But those practices don't guarantee that the employees actually experience inclusion and will stay with the organization.

How is Organizational Climate Different?

Organizational climate refers to the shared meaning employees attach to the events, policies, practices, and procedures they experience and what that communicates to them about the behaviors they see as being rewarded, valued, supported, and expected within the organization. 

It’s imperative to have people who support the formation of inclusive climates. This can include things like reward systems, training content, and the factors that are emphasized in selection and promotion decisions. 

Additionally, when people can start interacting in more authentic ways, it can lead to an environment in which social category memberships, like gender or race, ethnicity, or disability status, are no longer predictive of how successful you can be within an organization or how integrated somebody feels within the organizational context. 

It's also important to keep both direct and indirect communication from up above about the importance of inclusion within the organization. 

The day-to-day behavior of managers also plays a very important role in forming climate. 

Managers communicate to their employees what's important based on the kinds of behaviors that they model, the kinds of behaviors that they reward in their employees, and the expectations they communicate. 

Another thing that helps to shape climate is the set of behavioral norms employees create within their work group. This is what they actually do and what they expect of each other. 

Inclusive climates provide the conditions under which people rely less on stereotypical thinking, and groups are less prone in-group/out-group dynamics that can get in the way of that diversity value chain. 

Three Key Dimensions for Inclusion

  • First - employment practices need to be implemented in a way that is fair, but is also perceived as fair by the people that the policies apply to. 
    • We need people to truly believe that HR practices are fair for them to buy into message that inclusion is valued
    • Employees are always looking for cues to tell them whether or not some members of groups, are favored.
    • They will see based on a demographics, whether or not somebody has a higher chance of success or has greater access to resources and opportunities. If employees see this trend, it will perpetuate the myth on which the hierarchies are based.
    • If practices are implemented in a way that makes it clear they don’t have anything to do with demographic background, those hierarchies are invalidated. They become delegitimized. And that's what we need. 


  • Second - there needs to be strong norms and examples which show that cultural differences among group members will be integrated. 
    • People need to know that they are not expected to check their identity at the door when they come to work. 
    • The culture should invite people bring their whole selves to work. People should not feel pressure to assimilate to some dominant majority, and should also be given the latitude and the opportunity to engage in the kind of discussion that leads to more personalized understandings of one another.
    • The diversity is now at work. But it will only benefit the organization to the extent that the diversity of perspectives are actually leveraged in decision making. 


  • Third is the extent to which those inclusion and decision-making groups have to take proactive steps to actively seek and integrate the diverse perspectives that are represented. 
    • People must have a common and shared commitment to working through those differences. 
    • People are committed to doing the work and there have to be mechanisms in place to make sure that those different ideas are actually expressed within the group.

How is your Company’s Climate for Inclusion?

Need help finding answers? Sia Partners can help you assess your culture, provide recommendations, a roadmap to a future state, and help to execute on the plan. For more information, please don't hesitate to contact us.