Organisations worldwide are facing increasing pressure from employees, job seekers and shareholders to boost their levels of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

Inclusion is a core pillar of DEI, but it’s one of the more difficult elements to handle. Inclusion is about a feeling of belonging, security and acceptance – so it’s subjective and difficult to quantify. It’s not always certain that one employee’s standard of inclusion will be shared by all the others.


download our checklist for an inclusive recruitment process

download our checklist

However, Surveys like our 2024 Workmonitor study show that an inclusive workplace is one of the most attractive qualities in an employer for job seekers, and there’s indications that it can help with employee retention and even financial results.

In this article, we’ll clear up the uncertainty around inclusion, show some examples of what an inclusive workplace could actually look like, and give some ideas for how you could start measuring your current and future levels of inclusion and DEI performance more generally.

the definition of inclusion, in the workplace context

We like to define inclusion as diversity in action. It’s about making sure that every person can bring their whole self to work and feel accepted as a member of the team who can make meaningful contributions – regardless of their gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, disabilities or any other similar factors.

Inclusion goes beyond the figures and is more about how employees experience the workplace. For that reason, it’s possible for an organisation to be diverse, but not inclusive – for example, if the employees belonging to a minority feel like they’re not valued, their differences aren’t accepted by the majority, or that they are unable to contribute in the same way as their colleagues in the majority group.

Four colleagues having a meeting in a meeting room. Financial charts in the background.
Four colleagues having a meeting in a meeting room. Financial charts in the background.

what does an inclusive workplace look like in practice?

Inclusivity can take many forms, depending on the existing culture of the workplace and the backgrounds of its employees. But here are a few qualities or specific practices that inclusive companies already have that can give you an idea of what inclusivity looks like reality. Which ones could you implement in your organisation?

  • Inclusive companies celebrate a wide range of holidays – Many companies celebrate Christmas or Easter with gifts or after-work events, as well as time off. It’s hard for an individual company to add new national holidays to the calendar, but you could at least highlight some holidays celebrated by colleagues with different backgrounds, like Ramadan or Diwali. This is a great way to help everyone feel equally included and knits the team more closely together.
  • The office layout is optimised for inclusion – Mixed, collaborative workplacesare commonplace in all industries today. They were initially popular with innovative tech companies like Apple and Microsoft, who wanted to break up the old hierarchical office layout and encourage chance encounters between employees. This workplace style is great for inclusion as well. Even though open offices are the norm today, different groups of employees are often physically separated – for example, between blue-collar and white-collar employees. Breaking down these barriers and introducing shared meeting or break rooms could be a good way to encourage mixing between employees with different backgrounds, reducing segregation.
  • Employees can bring their whole selves to work – This expression is commonly used when talking about inclusion. In practice, it means they can be themselves and act naturally without fearing judgement or exclusion. For example, this feeling could manifest in the form of a gay employee feeling comfortable bringing their partner to a work event. Or an employee feeling praying on their break without fearing judgement. 
  • The office is fully accessible for everyone – There’s still many companies that claim to be inclusive with offices that aren’t fully accessible for disabled people. A lack of ramps or elevators, heavy unassisted doors and desks that aren’t height-adjustable are just a few examples of serious issues that make life harder for disabled people. In an inclusive workplace, all colleagues can navigate around the premises easily.
  • The company’s leaders set a good example – Leaders are key for defining and maintaining a company’s culture. According to our 2024 Workmonitor report, over a third say that they wouldn’t accept a job if they did not agree with the views of the organisation’s leadership (37%). No matter how much the HR department works with employer branding and culture building, they will struggle to make a difference if those at the top of the company don’t practice what they preach. Leaders show they care about inclusion by taking an active role in the company’s DEI initiatives and spending time listening to employees from across the organisation.

Business resource groups (BRGs) are thriving — Everyone feels more secure and confident when they’re part of a community, especially at work. It can be hard being a lone member of a minority in a large company, even if the company is an inclusive one. Many employees benefit from joining BRGs, where colleagues with similar backgrounds or experiences can gather to share ideas and build a community. These groups are great for fostering a sense of belonging, and they’re a vital source of input for company leadership that wants to improve diversity, equity and inclusion. Some examples of thriving BRGs are Randstad’s Abilities in Motion group, which represents disabled colleagues, and African Heritage, for African-American team members.


download our checklist for an inclusive recruitment process

download our checklist

how can you measure inclusion in the workplace?

Inclusion describes a feeling among employees and a wider attitude in the company, so it’s harder to quantify than something like diversity, for example. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to track it.

inclusion surveys

The best way to measure inclusion is through asking your employees. They are the only ones who can say whether the organisation is inclusive or not. In order to accurately measure the current situation and track change, it’s best to ask them in standardised surveys, conducted on a regular basis, that assess their experiences in the workplace. You can design these surveys yourself, but there’s a huge range of expertise and tools out there that can do the job for you, including multiple companies that specialise in DEI analytics.

tracking retention

You should already be tracking the rates at which employees leave the company, so it’s easy to start looking at it from an inclusion angle. Are certain groups of employees leaving at a higher rate than others? Inclusion problems may not always be to blame, but it’s good to investigate and identify potential issues in your organisation or culture

act on the findings

Running inclusion surveys and failing to make change based on the feedback could lead to making feelings of exclusion even worse. So make sure to plan for change before surveys are even conducted, and communicate your work with the whole organisation.

about the author

jonathan alonzo

director - industrial & inhouse services

stay up to date on the latest recruitment and labour market news, trends and reports.