Build support for inclusion

You need support to make sustainable and structural changes. A major pitfall in striving for an inclusive organisation is to start without support. D&I is not a trend, but a (developing) mindset. Integrate D&I into the mission, vision and goals of your organisation. Read below how to create support from the head of the organisation and from the employees. 

No time for a full staff survey? Then do a quick pulse survey. Pulse surveys are short, high-frequency questionnaires that can be used in addition to or instead of an extensive employee satisfaction survey. The questionnaires are designed to be administered on a weekly basis. Just as human health can be monitored by checking the pulse, the health of an organisation can be measured with a pulse survey. 


Diversity and inclusion are not the same

You want your organisation to appeal to a diverse audience. Yet you notice that a lot of people find it harder to find their way, even though your message is loud and clear: ‘Everyone is welcome!’ By failing to communicate inclusively, you miss a lot of potentially involved people. Or perhaps you start with a fresh, diverse group of volunteers every year. But you organise the division of tasks in such a way that these volunteers don't feel recognised or appreciated. As a result ... they drop out the following year.

Although diversity and inclusion are often mentioned in the same breath, they are two different things:

  • Diversity refers to recognising all aspects in which people may differ. Employees may differ in gender, age, ethnic background, culture or philosophy of life, as well as in competencies, skills and experience.
  • Inclusion is about how to deal with this diversity. An inclusive work environment means that everyone - regardless of gender, age, ethnic background, culture, philosophy of life, educational background, etc. - feels respected and valued, and participates in the organisation on an equal footing. So, it is not only the differences between people that require attention, but also what connects them. 

Diversity is not a condition for inclusion. When you are inclusive as an organisation, you automatically attract a diverse pool of applicants.

Inclusion is, of course, diametrically opposed to exclusion and discrimination - to treating someone unequally or unfairly on the basis of their personal characteristics. Belgian anti-discrimination legislation contains 19 ‘protected criteria'. Discrimination based on any of these criteria is prohibited and punishable. An organisation that does not tolerate discrimination is thus already taking the first important step in a policy of active support for diversity and inclusion.

Support from management and managers 

Leadership, management and managers play a crucial role in D&I. They set the tone and define the goals. In short, they involve the entire organisation in reflection, vision, plans of action and the change process. Sometimes there is already intrinsic motivation for diversity and inclusion at the top. Other organisations may discover additional arguments in favour of D&I by following the two routes below:

  • Develop a business case for diversity and inclusion

  • Collect and share inspiring stories

Develop a business case for diversity and inclusion

The business case for diversity is about linking diversity and diversity policy to the organisation's core objectives. Various business cases are possible, depending on the goals involved:

  • connection to different groups in society

  • diversity as a valuable source of new insights

  • adapting to changes in the labour and customer markets 

  • the positive effects of diversity and inclusion on the organisation profits

The business case is often overlooked, although forming a priority for the management of organisations.

In the book 'Koers naar talent in overvloed', (in Dutch) Bart Moens builds a business case for inclusive work on these benefits: 'You can recruit on a broader basis and give your organisation more breathing space. Your company image also benefits from inclusive working - it shows your (potential) employees that you are a good employer. The more diverse your team, the better you can tailor your product to a diverse set of customers - or even redesign your service.' 


Collect and share inspiring stories

Exposing managers and administrators to the positive experiences in similar organisations is a good idea. It helps them get a better idea of the challenges ahead and to look for solutions to some issues. 

Remember that inclusion is a process that is never complete and is also very much adapted to the organisational context. The stories below are not intended as ready-made templates to be copied and pasted, but as starting points for further discussion within your own organisation.

Seppe Nobels started a new project in the port of Antwerp with Chris Bryssinckx, Arne Cremers and the City of Antwerp. There restaurant Instroom serves fusion cuisine 2.0 and is staffed with newcomers speaking a variety of languages. Seppes' new sous-chefs have two things in common - they are all good cooks, and they have all fled their homelands in search of a better future.

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui was the artistic leader of dance at Opera Ballet Vlaanderen for many years. In 2022, the internationally renowned choreographer will start working in Geneva. In this TED talk (in Dutch) he talks about the added value and profitability that come from working on diversity.

Support from employees

Achieving an inclusive workplace is not a top-down process, but is achieved in collaboration with your organisation's employees. So, focus on developing intrinsic motivation to make the workplace as inclusive as possible. Once the vast majority of your employees understand the need for diversity and inclusion, a dynamic is created to tackle - things are done differently. Some valuable tips:

  • Create awareness of diversity and inclusion in the workplace

  • Engage in dialogue with your employees

  • Turn awareness into action

Create awareness of diversity and inclusion in the workplace

It is important to raise awareness of the topic and emphasise its importance. There is still a significant lack of understanding of the advantages of an inclusive organisation on the one hand, and the disadvantages experienced by people with a migrant background in the workplace on the other.

Bring the outside world into your organisation. Invite, for example, a speaker who will create a sense of urgency with hard numbers and gripping testimonies

'The chance of being invited for a job interview is 30% lower for people with a migrant background.'

Stijn Baert, Professor of Labour Economics (Ghent University)

Engage in dialogue with your employees

Does the importance of diversity and inclusion sufficiently filter through the workplace sufficiently? To what extent are employees engaged with these concepts? What do they think of the organisation's current approach? What obstacles do they face?

As a starting point, conduct an employee satisfaction survey. Use the results to initiate a dialogue around D&I and discuss where you want to go with the organisation.


Turn awareness into action

Satisfaction surveys and conversations with employees will help you to identify the pain points. Some tips for taking action:

  • There is a variety of workshops and training courses that promote an inclusive working environment and offer tailor-made paths, for example on the topic of unconscious bias.  
  • Start working groups, or appoint ambassadors to monitor inclusion and take initiatives to keep a sense of urgency alive in the organisation. Provide them with facilities and time for this, within the task descriptions.
  • Appoint accessible confidants to keep an eye on and be accessible with regard to discrimination and racism.
  • Organise knowledge-sharing with other organisations, to allow employees to learn from each other about creating inclusion.

It is important that employees are given the opportunity to influence the organisation's inclusion policy. This can be done by using collaborative hiring, an effective way to involve employees in inclusive recruitment and selection.

"We have to get rid of the idea that people within management know what is good, what works. You make an organisation all together, so it's important to get correct input from the entire organisation."

Chrysha Neels, Diversity & Inclusion Officer
  •   Challenges
  •   Diversity ≠ inclusion
  •   Support from management and managers
  •   Support from employees