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  • 14 June 2024
  • 1 month

Inclusive Leadership: The Key to Success in 2024

Emily Fournier

Marketing and Communications Manager

“No one wants to work anymore,” is a grievance that’s often aired. But the reality is there’s no one to work anymore. With a declining birth rate, rising disability, and a rapidly growing elderly population, there is simply a smaller talent pool to pick from. At least that’s some employers’ perspective, anyway.

From a more forward-thinking perspective, however, it’s not so much that there’s no one to work anymore, but that there’s a lack of work for employees who are older, disabled, or who don’t fit the conventional image of a worker to take on. Put another way, the challenge facing many of today’s organizations isn’t so much how they can satisfy their demand for talent, but how they can create a work environment built to withstand such shortages, and attract and retain not necessarily the talent employers think they want, but the talent they truly need.

Because the bottom line here is this: There is no shortage of people who can and want to work. There is no shortage of people who want to be a part of something bigger than themselves; who want to contribute to society in some way; who want to work alongside others toward a common goal, and take pride in their accomplishments. There is, however, a shortage of employers who are willing to give people that opportunity.

And it’s not just the common groups that one thinks of—the elderly, the disabled—who are being robbed of these aspirations: it’s the average young woman, who just happens to need a hybrid work model to balance her role as ‘mom’ and ‘employee,’ who is having the door shut in her face. It’s the recent graduate, who just doesn’t happen to have the strongest resume, who’s not being given the chance to learn, to try, and to develop into the credentialed professional that he can be.

The issue, here, is two-fold: On the one hand, employers seem to have a limited, highly exclusive, and prejudiced understanding of what an ‘employee’ is or can be. On the other, leaders, under a tightly hierarchical structure, aren’t taking chances on these employees—either current or prospective—to really see what they can achieve, creating dissent, disengagement, and thus leading to the issue at hand: talent ‘shortages.’

With all that has happened over the last four years, employers are—or at least should be—acutely aware by now of the vital impact that the welfare of their staff has on the overall performance, success, and longevity of their organization. Employers can’t stand to lose their employees—not to resignation, ‘quiet quitting,’ burnout, presenteeism, or, worse yet, demoralization. They can’t stand to lose their drivers of productivity, innovation, creativity; of brand awareness, customer loyalty, and public trust and regard.

And yet, they are. And they know it. And they know something needs to change. What they don’t know yet is that it’s them that needs to change—until now.

Unlocking the Transformative Power of Inclusive Leadership: A Must for 2024

“People don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses,” is another saying that’s often tossed around to diagnose the source of talent challenges within an organization. While not untrue, the use or interpretation of this phrase often fails to grasp the true misalignment between people and their “bosses”—a.k.a. their leaders at large.

People don’t quit a bad boss. They quit a bad culture, a bad communication or management style, a bad overall support system—all of which derive from bad leaders and poor leadership styles. They quit—either quietly or definitively—after feeling undervalued by leadership; after being excluded from any meaningful decision-making and action within the organization. They quit after not being granted the PTO they need and deserve; after not being offered the benefits they need to thrive both in the workplace and beyond.

They quit after realizing that only certain voices matter, while others don’t. They quit after realizing they’re invisible in the eyes of their leaders—dispensable, too.

Therefore, to not only retain talent, but to support and empower them to unlock their full potential, organizations need leaders who will prioritize their wellbeing and their inclusion within all operations and decisions. They need leaders with an adept understanding of workforce demographics; who can identify and speak to the needs of their distinct employees. They need leaders who will ask themselves, “How can or how am I serving my people? How am I contributing to their employee experience? How am I contributing to their learning and development? To their performance, productivity, and continual improvement? To their overall health and wellbeing?”

Specifically, they need leaders who will say, “I know my working moms are struggling to strike a balance. I know they’re working hard—I know they’re giving it their all—but I know they’re dissatisfied with where that work is getting them, both in the office and at home. How can I help so that they can be the best employees—and the best moms—that they can be? How can I help to transform their hard work into tangible, sustainable success—both for the organization and for their own personal and professional development?”

Finally, they need leaders who are adaptable and who will not shy away from making necessary changes to create a more inclusive environment for all staff; who will embrace the hybrid work model, and continually seek new and more efficient ways of collaborating with employees of all backgrounds and from all locations. Especially in Portugal, where the percentage of workers who desire a hybrid work model greatly exceeds the global average—as elderly, disabled, and immunocompromised individuals; parents and caregivers; and students and burgeoning professionals comprise the majority of the national labor force—touting leaders who are not only capable but committed to meeting employees where they are; to really reaching across the aisle to make sure they feel seen, heard, valued, and included; and to demonstrating just how integral each and every one of them is to the organization’s success is now more important than ever.

This is a growing need that WPO has long been attuned to. As part of its unwavering commitment to supporting organizations’ most important asset—their people—WPO has led the way in shifting to an all-inclusive approach that seeks to not only facilitate employees’ transformation into a well-adjusted, thriving, and resilient workforce, but also leaders’ transformation into compassionate and diplomatic commanders, welcoming and engaging guides and mentors, and effective and dedicated facilitators of employee wellbeing.

That’s why, in addition to its comprehensive range of services—including compliance support, demographic analysis, psychosocial risk prevention, leadership and wellbeing strategy development, and more—WPO, through its subsidiary company, The Diversity Movement (TDM), has newly released its own leadership guidebook designed to help leaders at all levels of the organization grow into the people-oriented, people-centric, and people-driven visionaries they now have to be to succeed in today’s culture-minded world.

The Inclusive Leadership Handbook: Balancing People and Performance for Sustainable Growth, written by Donald Thompson and Kurt Merriweather, provides leaders with actionable, practical advice derived from firsthand experience on how they can create innovative, efficient, and collaborative work environments by mastering the tenets of true diversity, equity, and most importantly, inclusion.

Within The Inclusive Leadership Handbook, leaders will find:

  • Strategies for building employee engagement centered on leadership competencies that contribute to psychological safety.
  • Practical steps to unlock the full potential of every team member.
  • Insights and case studies from global thought leaders on fostering workplace creativity, innovation, and excellence.
  • Guidance on creating cultures that strengthen belonging and well-being.

As Alan King, WPO President and CEO, opines in the book’s foreword: “Behind every thriving organization lies a simple truth—success is built with employees who feel engaged.” Not those that are treated like cogs in a machine—not those that are undervalued, overlooked, and ignored—but those who are seen “as the heart and soul of the organization’s success.” And it’s at the heart of inclusive leadership that lies this profound understanding of the interconnection between individual contribution and organizational accomplishment.

“The magic of inclusive leadership,” King explains, “is its intentional ability to transform workplace dynamics into creativity and innovation. By valuing every voice, regardless of background or position, inclusive leaders unlock a treasure trove of ideas that lead to solutions far more meaningful than any that could be conceived in isolation.

In today’s rapidly evolving world in which workforce needs and demographics have become increasingly diverse, the concept of inclusive leadership emerges not just as a desirable trait, but as an organizational imperative. The lament of ‘no one wants to work anymore’ stems not from a lack of individuals willing to contribute, but from a failure of employers to recognize and embrace the breadth of talent available. By creating environments where all employees, regardless of age, ability, or circumstance, feel valued, respected, and empowered to contribute their unique perspectives and skills, organizations can set themselves up to withstand future challenges or evolutions that are sure to come their way, propelling their organizations—and their people—toward lasting growth and prosperity—together.

Workplace Options helps employees balance their work, family, and personal needs to become healthier, happier, and more productive, both personally and professionally. The company’s world-class employee support, effectiveness, and wellbeing services provide information, resources, referrals, and consultation on a variety of issues ranging from dependent care and stress management to clinical services and wellness programs. Contact us to learn more. 

This content is intended for general information only. It does not provide specific direction, advice, or recommendations. You may wish to contact an appropriate professional for questions concerning your particular situation.

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