I have been reading a lot about inclusion and inclusive leadership lately so I thought I would share some of the definitions, concepts, and models that I have reviewed. As it is a vast area of research, this blog article explores merely a select set of resources that I have explored to date.
So, what is inclusion? The Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) have used the following definition of an inclusive workplace within the CDS/DM Initiating Directive for Professional Conduct and Culture. It is “a collective culture in which people feel valued, respected, connected, psychologically safe, involved in decision-making, recognized as having unique characteristics that contribute to organizational success, and empowered to bring their authentic selves to the workplace” (CPCC, 2021).
In the newly published CAF Ethos: Trusted to Serve (DND, 2022a), inclusion is identified as one of six military values. It states that inclusion is “essential to creating a sense of belonging and cohesion,” and that it makes, “our military teams stronger” (p. 29). The CAF, “values the knowledge, skills and life experience that each individual brings to the team and needs to maximize this diverse potential through an inclusive culture” (p. 29). It also explicitly states that those who are inclusive will reject and take a “proactive approach to prevent, stop and report” actions related to “racism, sexism, heteronormativity, homophobia, xenophobia or any other form of hateful, discriminatory or hurtful behaviour, conduct or association” (p. 30).
There has been much research on the concepts of inclusion, inclusive leadership, and inclusive climates including the conceptualization of various models, the elaboration of proposed measures of inclusion, and the exploration of variables related to inclusion in various different contexts (e.g. healthcare, military).
Carmeli et al. (2010), for example, measured inclusive leadership based on three facets of leadership: 1) open-mindedness, availability, and 3) accessibility. Various researchers (Shore et al., 2011, Randel et al., 2016, Perry et. al, 2020, Chung et al. 2020) have based their research on a model where belongingness + uniqueness = a sense of inclusion. i.e. I feel like I’m a part of the team + I am able to bring my authentic, unique self to work = feeling included.
“Experiencing inclusion in a group or organization involves being fully part of the whole while retaining a sense of authenticity and uniqueness.” -Ferdman (2010, p. 14)
The US Army did research on inclusion (Brown et al., 2020) and devised a set of measures based on two dimensions: 1) Horizontal Social Inclusion; and 2) Vertical Informational Inclusion. The first dimension included social items such as feeling valued and respected within the team and helping each other out when needed. The second dimension seems to point to the importance of information flow within the military context. It included things such as communications effectively going up and down the Chain of Command and soldiers actively being listened to.
Bernardo Ferdman (2010) is a well-known researcher in the area of inclusion. He, with his research partners, proposed four key elements of inclusion: 1) feeling safe; 2) feeling valued; 3) being involved and engaged in the work group; 4) being embraced for one’s own authentic self. Although more empirical research is still required in these areas, he proposed that a high level of collective environment of inclusion (EOI) + high diversity in the work group + low dispersion of EOI (i.e. that there is a low difference amongst the group in individual’s feeling of inclusion) = the greatest levels of benefits in terms of work performance. In short, if Ferdman and his colleagues are correct: A highly diverse workforce where all employees equally feel a high sense of inclusion will yield the most benefits in terms of increased performance. That sounds like a worthwhile goal to me!
Other research has shown other positive relationships between an inclusion climate and/or inclusive leadership, such as with 1) creativity (innovation) (Carmeli et al., 2010), and 2) workplace/organisational improvements through sharing mistakes (due to the resulting psychological safety) and learning from them together (Nembhand & Edmondson, 2006).
Perry et al. (2020) proposed a conceptual model, based on extensive previous research, that stated that inclusive work climates would positively impact workplace outcomes, at the employee and unit levels, and negatively impact incidences of sexual harassment and other forms of mistreatment. Their conceptual model also proposed that inclusive leaders foster inclusive work environments that experience lower levels of sexual harassment at the individual and work unit levels. Of interest in the military hierarchical context, they state that, “inclusive leadership is a particular type of leadership that is important when status differences exist in the teams” (p. 438). “In order to eliminate sexual harassment, leaders must address both the overt reification of status differentials that harassment seeks to maintain” (p. 438). Leaders can do this through positive role modelling of inclusive behaviours, such as encouraging and valuing everyone’s unique perspectives.
While we work to increase diversity numbers in the CAF, it is important to understand that diversity, in and of itself, is not sufficient to achieve the potential benefits. Inclusion must be a key component in the equation. Diverse opinions, perspectives, skills, talents, and backgrounds are only capitalized upon when members feel safe and welcomed to contribute. Having a seat at the decision-making table is only beneficial if you also have a voice. Research linking diversity to increased workplace performance has been inconclusive on its own because the key mediating effect of inclusion must be taken into consideration.
That is to say, if employees, in all their diversity, 1) feel safe; 2) feel valued; 3) are being involved and engaged in the work group; and are 4) being embraced for their own authentic selves, the benefits of the diverse work force are more likely to materialize (Ferdman, 2010). If a diverse workplace is not led by inclusive leaders and if there is not an inclusive environment, the benefits from diversity will not be realized to the extent that they could be otherwise. Leaders at all levels have to play a role in ensuring our workplaces are, indeed, inclusive.
So, how can you be more inclusive in your own workplace context? Luckily, the CAF and DND have already made efforts to describe inclusive behaviours, in line with our already-existing CAF competencies, outlined in the CAF Competency Dictionary, and in line with the DND/ public service core competencies. A working group, co-chaired by leaders within Chief of Military Personnel (CMP), chief, Professional Conduct & Development (CPCC), and Assistant Deputy Minister (Human Resources – Civilian) (ADM(HR-Civ)), and with input from Level 1 reps, developed two aide-mémoires, one for CAF members (CAF, 2022) and one for DND civilian employees (DND, 2022b). These list the behaviours relevant to inclusion, and provide fulsome lists of tangible things that you can do to increase your inclusive behaviours in your own workplace context.
Some of these great examples include:
- Become an ally; learn about the challenges that your colleagues face, speak up in your own social circles, and amplify the voices of those who may not feel heard.
- Ask: Which gender pronoun do you prefer? Asking is a sign of care for the person you are talking to and a way to give them the space to feel comfortable with their identity.(CAF, 2022)
- Capitalize on the diverse talents that each individual brings to the team.
- Do not make assumptions about someone’s abilities or preferences based on factors such as age, sex, gender, current job. When in doubt, ask.
- Be a role model, and remembering that little things matter. Supervisors/leaders need to be seen by subordinates as demonstrating integrity in their day-to-day interactions.
- Show a genuine interest in the personal life of your colleagues; get to know them, and acknowledge key events (e.g., birthdays, family, accomplishments) in their lives.
- Avoid giving your own opinion first, so that you don’t sway responses.
- Be open to feedback and ensure that your subordinates and colleagues feel confident to express themselves without fear of reprisals.
- Whether chairing a meeting or participating in one, don’t dismiss or disrespect other people’s contributions. Make sure to be welcoming and open to what they say, regardless of whether or not you are in agreement. Instead of dismissing them, use phrases like I see your point, That’s a new perspective for me, or I’ve never thought about it that way.
Working towards building a more inclusive workplace is a collective responsibility and the whole Defence Team will benefit. As stated in the Chief of Defence Staff/Deputy Minister Initiating Directive for Professional Conduct and Culture (DND, 2021), “diversity, inclusion, and equity must be fostered if we are to maximize the Defence Team’s operational effectiveness.” (para. 7). Indeed!
What actions will you take today to be more inclusive and be a good role model exhibiting these behaviours within your team?
Brown, T.A., Ratwani, K.L.., Key-Roberts, M.J., Simmons, M.J., Toumbeva, T.H., & Nishii, L.H. (2020). Contextualizing inclusion: Developing a framework and measure for a military context. Military Psychology, 32:4, 313-328.
Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). (2022). Aide-mémoire on Inclusive Behaviours and the CAF Competency Dictionary. [accessible only on DND internal DWAN]
Carmeli, A., Reiter-Palmon, R., & Ziv, E. (2010). Inclusive leadership and employee involvement in
creative tasks in the workplace: the mediating role of psychological safety. Creativity Research
Journal, 22, 250–260.
Chief, Professional Conduct and Culture (CPCC). (2021). Initiating Directive on the Integration of the Measurement of Inclusive Behaviours in the Defence Team. [accessible only on DND internal DWAN]
Chung, B.G., Ehrhart, K.H., Shore, L.M., Randel, A.E., Dean, M.A& Kedharnath, U. (2020). Work
group inclusion: Test of a scale and model. Group & Organization Management, 45(1), 75-102.
Ferdman, B. M., Avigdor, A., Braun, D., Konkin, J., and Kuzmycz, D. (2010). “Collective experience of inclusion, diversity, and performance in work groups”. RAM, Revista de Administração Mackenzie, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 6–26.
National Defence (DND) (2021) CDS/DM Initiating Directive for Professional Conduct and Culture
National Defence (2022a). The CAF Ethos: Trusted to Serve.
National Defence. (2022b). ADM(HR-Civ) Initiating Directive on Inclusion and Performance. Annex A: Inclusive Behaviours. [accessible only on DND internal DWAN]
Nembhard, I. M., & Edmondson, A. C. (2006). Making it safe: The effects of leader inclusiveness andprofessional status on psychological safety and improvement efforts in health care teams. Journalof Organizational Behavior, 27(7), 941–966.
Perry, E.L., Block, C.J., & Noumair, D.A. (2020). Leading in: inclusive leadership, inclusive climates and sexual harassment. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal, 40(4), 430-447.
Randel, A. E., Galvin, B. M., Shore, L. M., Ehrhart, K. H., Chung, B. G., Dean, M. A., & Kedharnath, U.
(2018). Inclusive leadership: Realizing positive outcomes through belongingness and being
valued for uniqueness. Human Resource Management Review, 28(2), 190–203.
Shore, L. M., Randel, A. E., Chung, B. G., Dean, M. A., and Ehrhart, & Singh, G. (2011). Inclusion and
diversity in work groups: A review and model for future research. Journal of Management, 37(4),