3 Tips for Driving Engagement Through Inclusion in the Workplace

We have all likely encountered the term “engagement” in the workplace, and most organizations emphasize the value of having engaged individuals or an engaged workforce. This knowledge often drives the need to measure or assess engagement through various means such as surveys, pulse checks, and listening sessions, among others. In my professional career, the significance of engagement has been ingrained in me through academic study, knowledge, and practical experience. It is widely acknowledged that strong engagement feeds a positive psychological contract (the quid pro quo representing the informal obligations between an employee and their employer) which is germane to discretionary effort. Some benefits of discretionary effort include higher productivity, reduced sickness absence and turnover, and lower presenteeism.

I believe the intersection between inclusion-driven engagement is a sweet spot, as I have experienced inclusion or a sense of belonging as being a key contributor to engagement in the workplace. Here, I am sharing 3 quick tips for driving engagement through inclusion:

1. Promote Belonging

It is no surprise that we all thrive better in environments where we feel safe to be our authentic selves or bring our whole selves to work. The more we can bring our whole selves to the workplace, the deeper the sense of belonging that is created and the greater the level of engagement. Implementing a strategic approach to inclusion and belonging is essential. This involves garnering senior leadership commitment, defining what belonging means to your organization, and establishing mechanisms for driving a sustainable belonging agenda such as through working groups or committees. Develop initiatives that demonstrate strong alliance, promote awareness and learning, and advance a richer understanding of your organization’s demographics and those of its customers or service users. Explore opportunities to address systemic barriers to belonging that may be enshrined in practices, policies, and practices. Every opportunity should be seized to role model and energize belonging.

2. Mental Health and Well-being

The last few years have taught us many things. New words quickly became part of our daily vocabulary such as – physical distancing, pandemic, vaccinations, essential workers, surveillance testing, rapid antigen tests, masks, hand sanitizers, isolation, and endemic. These words hold different meanings to us depending on our individual experiences over the past couple of years. However, one thing has emerged very strongly – the importance of mental health and wellbeing. Equally important is the realization that the mundane offerings of traditional EAPs (employee assistance programs) are no longer sufficient. My fond term for a renewed focus on mental health and wellbeing is “check up from the neck up”. It is imperative to craft and co-design bespoke strategies to address burnout and improve mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. Begin by identifying what causes stress in your workplace. Develop ways in which you deliver your own suite of “check up from the neck up” plans, which could range from lunchtime yoga sessions, strategically located massage chairs, wellness spaces, kindness trolleys, self-care tips, duvet days, and mental health check-ins. The ultimate goal should be to de-stigmatize discussions around mental health and wellbeing, disassociate them from resilience, and create an environment where it is acceptable for someone to say, “I am not okay”.

3. Listening into Action

Listening into action is a concept I learned when I worked in the National Health Service (NHS) in England. Originally tailored for the NHS, it is a proven tool to help galvanize people by energizing, approaching issues with a solutions-based tactic, and giving people ‘permission to act’ on their good ideas. An approach of listening into action suggests the acquiring of feedback and the generation of ideas for easy change. Organizations can adopt this approach by establishing regular mechanisms to gauge the sentiments of their employees, but with the added dimension of extending inquiries to questions like “what would good look like” or “what could be done to change the status quo”. This solutions-based approach of seeking feedback promotes a deeper sense of ownership and, consequently, promotes a shared sense of responsibility for the resolution. Embracing transparency, open communication, sharing good news stories, and celebrating successes are integral components of the listening into action approach.

By practicing and implementing these easy tips, engagement through inclusion in the workplace can be driven, cultivated, and maintained. Remember though that sustained change is a slow burn, persistence and a PDSA (plan-do-study-act) approach would also contribute to success even more so with the dynamic and agile nature of today’s environments.


About the Author

Lola Obomighie

Lola Obomighie is an accomplished people leader. Enthusiastic and results driven, she has over 15 years experience gained from an impressive career in England, and Ontario, Canada. Lola is an insatiable learner, and she keenly maintains her continuous professional development. She holds a BSc (Hons) in Economics and Statistics, and an MSc. Human Resources Management. Lola has her CHRL with the HRPA and CAPM with the PMI. Additionally, Lola remains a Chartered Member (MCIPD) of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) England. She is also currently pursing her Certified Health Executive (CHE) program with the Canadian College of Health Leaders (CCHL). When Lola isn’t at work you would find her enjoying family time, watching a good show, travelling or being in church. Lola is dedicated to community service and is currently a member of the Board of Governors in an independent private school in the Northumberland County.

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