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Inclusive managers make for thriving teams

Fostering a sense of belonging among employees isn't just a nice-to-have; it’s a must-have for boosting retention, performance, and overall organizational success. These are table stakes in today's business landscape. 
We'll explore the practical role of inclusive managers in building thriving teams, providing actionable insights and strategies to help you implement effective diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practices.

The impact of inclusive workplaces

Consider this: employees who feel included are 50% less likely to leave their jobs and perform 25% better. These compelling statistics highlight the tangible benefits of fostering an inclusive workplace. This should motivate and drive us to create a more inclusive environment. 
Employees who feel they belong are more engaged, productive, and loyal. This reduces turnover rates and saves companies significant costs related to hiring and training new staff.
People managers play a pivotal role in shaping this inclusive culture. They are the frontline in implementing DEI initiatives and ensuring every team member feels valued. 
Managers with strong inclusion skills, such as empathy and active listening, can significantly boost employee engagement and innovation. It’s not just about policies but everyday actions and attitudes that make a difference. The performance feedback they give can make all the difference.

Common issues in feedback

Performance feedback is a critical aspect of management but a hard skill to master. A lot of managers struggle with these very common performance feedback issues:
  • Personality-based Feedback: Managers may provide feedback based on personality traits rather than job performance, which can feel personal and demotivating. A staggering 52% of managers still focus feedback on their employees' personalities rather than their job behaviors
  • Lack of growth suggestions: Employees can feel stuck and unsure about improving without actionable advice. 30% of managers don't offer enough suggestions for growth.
  • Harmful language: Using offensive or insensitive language can alienate employees and create a toxic work environment. 15% of managers use harmful or offensive language in their feedback,
  • Unconscious Bias: Sometimes, managers may unknowingly let biases influence their feedback, leading to unfair evaluations and resentment. This overshadows an employee's actual performance and potential. Recognizing and mitigating these biases is essential for fair and effective feedback.
Objective, actionable feedback is essential for growth and development. It focuses on specific behaviors and outcomes, providing clear guidance on how employees can improve. 
This type of feedback builds trust and helps employees feel supported and valued.
87% of people stated they were motivated to foster an inclusive culture, but only 40% understood how to do so. 
This indicates that people want to create an inclusive culture and recognize their crucial role. Still, they need assistance in identifying effective strategies to achieve this goal.

Address bias in performance reviews

Bias significantly affects feedback and career progression. Alarmingly, leaders often fall short in providing effective feedback, with the quality of feedback deteriorating even further when directed towards women and Black individuals.
For instance, Black women are nine times more likely to receive unactionable feedback compared to white men under 40. This kind of feedback often lacks clear guidance and actionable steps, making it hard for recipients to improve.
What does biased feedback look like in practice? White employees are more frequently described as easy to work with, while Asian employees might be labeled as aggressive.
Women, in general, receive 22% more feedback about their personalities compared to men. Additionally, white men are five times more likely to be described as brilliant or genius than Black women.
So what's the impact? 
The individuals who consistently receive the most problematic feedback also tend to have the lowest pay. Moreover, those receiving low-quality feedback are 63% more likely to leave their organizations than others. 

Tools and strategies for inclusive leadership

Paradigm defines inclusion as “the result of an active effort to create the best environment for everyone,” and they've developed a  a comprehensive framework focusing on four key pillars:
  • Data-driven decisions: Using data to make fair and equitable decisions.
  • Fostering belonging: Creating an environment where everyone feels they belong.
  • Amplifying voice: Ensuring all team members feel heard and valued.
  • Prioritizing growth: Supporting ongoing development and career progression.
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Practical implementation of the four pillars

  • Data-Driven Decisions:
    • Use analytics to identify and mitigate biases in hiring and promotions.
    • Regularly review data to assess the impact of DEI initiatives.
  • Fostering Belonging:
    • Encourage team-building activities that celebrate diversity.
    • Provide training on cultural competency and inclusive behaviors.
  • Amplifying Voice:
    • Create safe spaces for open dialogue and feedback.
    • Actively solicit input from underrepresented groups.
  • Prioritizing Growth:
    • Offer mentorship and sponsorship opportunities.
    • Invest in professional development programs tailored to diverse needs.

Practical steps for managers

Clarity in performance criteria
Clear performance criteria are essential for objective evaluations. Managers should define measurable goals and communicate them effectively to their teams. This ensures that everyone understands what is expected and how success is measured. 
Ongoing feedback
Managers should provide regular, ongoing feedback to their team. This allows for more opportunities to discuss performance and progress, rather than waiting until the annual review. It also creates a space for open communication and encourages a growth mindset.
Tools to mitigate bias
Technology can help managers identify and address potential biases in their feedback. Textio Lift identifies problematic language in performance reviews, highlighting areas for improvement.
Inclusive management is not just a buzzword; it's an essential component of creating thriving teams that drive organizational success. 
By fostering a sense of belonging and inclusion, leaders can ensure that every team member feels valued and heard. 
Providing clear communication, equitable opportunities for growth, and recognizing diverse contributions are key aspects of this approach. Inclusive management not only boosts morale but also enhances collaboration, creativity, and overall productivity, ultimately leading to sustained success.
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