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Using recognition to build a culture of inclusion

Written by: Amy Stern, Managing Director, Research and Strategy, BI WORLDWIDE
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There are many factors that go into changing your culture to be more inclusive, but perhaps the most powerful way is through recognition.

How often are your diversity and inclusion leaders talking to your recognition and rewards team? Probably not enough.

When it comes to building an inclusive culture, it needs to be part of the way employees experience working for your company on a daily basis. They need to feel like they belong and can be themselves.

There are many factors that go into changing your culture to be more inclusive: leadership alignment, communications, learning, events, career-pathing and even the physical space employees work in. But perhaps the most powerful way to influence culture change is through recognition. Here are three ways recognition builds a culture of inclusion:

1.png People feel valued when they are recognised. In our 2020 New Rules of Engagement® study, we found that 80% of employees who were told they make a difference at work in the past month felt like they belonged versus just 58% of those who were not given any praise. To make recognition even more meaningful, offer it in written form. In the same study, we found twice as many people felt included when they were given a note, email or another form of written recognition within the past month.
2.png Recognising inclusivity prompts more inclusive behaviour. Inclusion is not built from a single point of contact – employees need to engage in inclusive behaviours on a daily basis. We know from our research there are several key behaviours that lead to an inclusive culture. We also know that what gets recognised will be repeated. As a company, it's best to create a consistent set of behaviours that align with an inclusive culture and your organisational values. Then, recognise those behaviours whenever they are seen. Use the behaviours below as an initial guide of what to look for but make sure to customise them to fit your unique organisation.

Recognition draws people together. It's well known that gratitude improves social relationships and strategic recognition creates gratitude for both the giver and recipient. The recipient is grateful to have been noticed and recognised by a colleague. The giver is often showing thanks and appreciation for something the recipient has done. Recognition can enable connections between people on the same team as well as people who otherwise do not interact often, who may not have met or who may be at different levels of the organisational hierarchy.

Although recognition is just one tool for creating a culture of inclusion, it is a powerful one that shouldn't be overlooked. Its power stems from impacting inclusion in three ways: helping employees feel valued, reinforcing inclusive behaviours and building connections across the organisation.

Behaviours to recognise to build an inclusive culture:

tick.png Outstanding contribution, for showing someone how their job makes a difference
tick.png Collaboration, for making connections with those around you
tick.png Expanded horizons, for learning something new, personal growth or helping another grow
tick.png On the rise, for career growth or advocating for another’s career growth
tick.png Boldly transparent, for leaders who share important information
tick.png Do the right thing, for those who are honest and ethical, even when it may seem easier not to be
tick.png Got your back, for those who support and help one another recover from a mistake
tick.png It's not all about us, for those who put another's interest before their own
tick.png Think outside the box, for those who suggest crazy ideas
tick.png Keep an open mind, for those who enter value perspectives and take crazy ideas seriously


Ready to get started? Let's work together to build a culture of inclusion and show your employees what it feels like to love where they work. Contact our team to learn more.


Amy Stern

Managing Director, Research and Strategy

Amy Stern is the Managing Director of Research and Strategy at BI WORLDWIDE. Her research has resulted in peer-reviewed publications, invited lectures, research awards, and faculty positions at two universities. Amy’s deep understanding of employee experimental psychology allows her to combine critical thinking and creativity to create custom research that uniquely solves clients' business questions. She advises companies on how to create a happy workforce by identifying what is important to employees, even if the employee cannot quite put a finger on it.

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