Fostering Collaboration: How Leaders Can Build an Inclusive Workplace Culture 

strategiess for creating an inclusive culture in the workplace

Building an inclusive culture isn’t a nice-to-have – it’s a strategic imperative. With research showing that diverse teams outperform homogeneous ones and job candidates increasingly prioritizing organizational culture, leaders must focus on fostering collaborative environments where all voices are heard.

However, achieving true inclusion requires more than token gestures or checked boxes. As experienced DEI consultants, we’ve helped numerous clients embrace their role as culture architects and change agents. 

With intention and commitment from leadership, any organization can become a place where employees of all backgrounds are valued, respected, and set up to do their best work.

Why You Need an Inclusive Workplace Culture

As mentioned above, research has consistently shown that diverse teams often outperform homogeneous ones. That’s because collaboration among employees with a broad range of perspectives, experiences, and approaches to problem-solving fuels creative thinking and innovation. An inclusive culture where everyone feels comfortable sharing ideas is key to unlocking this advantage.

Relatedly, no matter how impressive your products or services are, they only come to life through skilled execution by great employees – and talent doesn’t discriminate. To build a workplace full of talented, high-performing teams, you need to attract applicants from all backgrounds and identities. 

Today’s candidates pay close attention to your workplace reputation regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion. And, once hired, they need to feel welcomed and able to grow. Employees who say their workplace is inclusive and welcoming report significantly higher job satisfaction

They feel excited to come to work, recognized for their unique contributions, and engaged with their coworkers and responsibilities. This can also lead to reduced turnover.

Finally, America grows more racially, ethnically, culturally, and socially diverse every single year. Creating an inclusive workplace better allows you to relate to, understand, and serve this evolving consumer landscape. 

Now that we’ve explored why building an inclusive workplace matters, let’s walk through some proven, research-backed strategies to get there.

5 Strategies for Creating an Inclusive Workplace Culture

Organizations that want to succeed must prioritize building truly inclusive cultures where all employees are welcomed, valued, and empowered. Real change doesn’t happen overnight, but with intentional, consistent effort, you can build an organization where every employee thrives. 

Here are five tactics we recommend based on our diversity, equity, and inclusion expertise:

1. Listen to Your Employees

To create effective inclusion initiatives, you first need an accurate understanding of where your workplace culture stands today. Anonymous employee surveys, listening sessions, and advisory councils are excellent ways to collect candid feedback.

Ask thoughtful questions like:

  • Do you feel valued at work?
  • Have you experienced or witnessed any discrimination at work?
  • Do you have any suggestions for making our workplace more inclusive?

Carefully review the feedback to guide your diversity, equity, and inclusion plans. Then repeat regularly to benchmark progress over time.

2. Foster Inclusion Through Leadership

Inclusion must be a clear priority and point of accountability from the C-suite down. Senior leaders set the tone and culture for the entire company.

  • Make diversity and inclusion standing agenda items at executive meetings. Set specific, measurable goals tied to metrics like employee satisfaction surveys.
  • Tie executive and management compensation and bonuses to hitting inclusion goals. This motivates leadership to take tangible action.
  • Ensure leaders model inclusive language, mindsets, and behaviors in their daily work. Nothing undermines inclusion faster than executives who don’t walk the walk.
  • Practice holding space for employees and listening attentively and empathetically when they speak.

3. Implement Inclusive Policies and Procedures

Policies and procedures at every level should promote diversity, equity, and inclusion across the organization. To achieve this, start by: 

  • Reviewing policies, handbooks, and codes of conduct to remove biased or exclusionary language. Update them to explicitly outline inclusion expectations.
  • Instituting structured interviews, skills-based assessments, and collaborative hiring practices to minimize unilateral, gut-driven decisions vulnerable to unconscious bias.
  • Developing mentoring and leadership programs to support career growth opportunities for employees from underrepresented groups.

4. Support Employee Resource Groups

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are voluntary, employee-led groups that unite individuals based on shared identities, backgrounds, or experiences. They offer many benefits:

  • Providing safe spaces for affinity groups to build community, find mentors, and support one another personally and professionally.
  • Enabling networking, coaching, and growth opportunities for groups traditionally underrepresented in leadership roles.
  • Hosting events and creating other opportunities to build cultural awareness company-wide.

Effective practices to support ERGs include appointing executive sponsors, providing an allotted budget, and empowering ERGs to evolve based on member needs.

5. Prioritize Ongoing Diversity and Inclusion Training

One-time diversity training has a limited impact. While an hour-long presentation can increase awareness, dedicated and consistent learning opportunities make behaviors and mindsets stick.

  • Require all employees to complete training frequently, not just once at onboarding. Consider annual refreshers or more frequent sessions.
  • Continually revise and update which topics you include as your workforce and the social landscape at large evolve.
  • Develop interactive formats, which are often the most effective learning tools.
  • Reinforce learning through related book clubs, speaker series, community service days, and cultural events.

Partner With The Norfus Firm to Build an Inclusive Workplace

At The Norfus Firm, we recognize that creating a truly inclusive workplace is not a one-and-done project. It’s an evolving, continuous process that requires self-awareness, ongoing commitment, and a willingness to listen and learn.

Every organization’s culture and needs are unique. We can provide tailored guidance based on the latest research and our decades of experience in partnering with companies to:

  • Analyze compensation, performance ratings, and promotion data to gauge inequities.
  • Roll out diversity training, mentorship programs, DEI councils, and more to meet your goals.
  • Develop customized strategic plans to build inclusion from the ground up.
  • Regularly survey employees to benchmark progress and continuously improve.

Don’t go it alone. Contact us today to learn how we can help you analyze your current culture and implement inclusion initiatives tailored to your organization and employees.

Author Bio


Natalie E. Norfus is the Founder and Managing Owner of The Norfus Firm. With nearly 20 years of experience as a labor and employment attorney and HR/DEI practitioner, Natalie is known for her creative problem-solving skills. She specializes in partnering with employers to develop effective DEI and HR strategies, conducting thorough internal investigations, and providing coaching and training to senior leaders and Boards of Directors.

Throughout her career, Natalie has held various significant roles in HR and DEI. She has served as the Chief Diversity Officer for multi-billion-dollar brands, where she was responsible for shaping the vision of each brand’s DEI initiatives. She has also worked as outside counsel in large law firms and in-house before establishing her own firm.

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