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Inclusive Workplaces Linked to Increased Organizational Performance

According to Catalyst’s new global report, employees who feel included at work are more likely to be innovative and better team players.

NEW YORK (May 7, 2014)—Want to build high-performing teams? Make employees feel more included at work, says Catalyst’s new global report, Inclusive Leadership: The View From Six Countries, which surveyed over 1,500 employees from Australia, China (Shanghai), Germany, India, Mexico and the United States.

It showed that employees—both women and men—who felt included were more likely to report going above and beyond the call of duty and suggest new product ideas and ways of getting work done. The report also identified four leadership behaviors that predicted whether or not employees felt included.

  • In all six countries studied, the more included employees felt, the more likely they were to propose new ideas and be more supportive of one another (something researchers call team citizenship). 

    • In China, employee perceptions of inclusion accounted for 78% of innovation and 71% of team citizenship.

    • In Mexico, they accounted for 51% of innovation and 60% of team citizenship.

    • In India, they accounted for 62% of innovation and 43% of team citizenship.

    • In Australia, Germany and the United States, they accounted for 19% to 22% of innovation, and 29% to 41% of team citizenship.

  • Belongingness and uniqueness are key ingredients for inclusion in most countries. Employees felt included when they perceived they were both similar to and distinct from their coworkers—meaning that people want to stand out from the crowd and be recognized for what’s unique about them, but they don’t want to stand out too much because this makes them feel like they aren’t part of the group. India was the exception: employees there don’t differentiate between belongingness and uniqueness, but see them as two sides of the same coin.

  • The trick for managers is to cultivate belongingness and uniqueness simultaneously, focusing on diverse talents and experiences without stereotyping or alienating employees, or making them reluctant to share ideas that set them apart and lead to groupthink. 

  • Inclusive leaders are humble. Humility was one of four altruistic leadership skills that helped employees feel more included in the workplace, in all six countries studied. Inclusive leaders believe their primary obligation is to support and assist direct reports through:

    • Empowerment—Enabling direct reports to develop and excel.

    • Humility—Admitting mistakes, learning from criticism and different points of view, and seeking contributions of others to overcome limitations.

    • Courage—Putting personal interests aside to achieve what needs to be done and acting on convictions and principles even when it requires personal risk-taking.

    • Accountability—Demonstrating confidence in direct reports by holding them responsible for performance they can control.

“Characteristics like humility and courage are absolutely essential for creating more inclusive, dynamic workplaces around the world, where women and men can advance and thrive,” says Deborah Gillis, President and CEO, Catalyst. “This report shows that small moments can have a big impact on innovation, performance and productivity. Leaders must be mindful of what makes employees feel included, and excluded, and develop skills that can help their companies attain inclusion for the long term.”

Read more.

View the infographic.

Take our “Are You An Inclusive Leader?” Quiz

Watch our Inclusive Leadership video.

Related studies:

Media Contacts

US and other regions not noted:

Ellen Parlapiano

+1 646 388 7778

[email protected]

Susan Nierenberg

+1 646 388 7744

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Francine Beck

+1 416 725 3710

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Frances Knox

+44 7850 470123

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Shilpa Mathapati

Gutenberg Communications

+91 22 3057 9113

[email protected]

Founded in 1962, Catalyst is the leading nonprofit organization expanding opportunities for women and business. With offices in the United States, Canada, Europe, India, and Australia, and more than 700 members, Catalyst is the trusted resource for research, information, and advice about women at work. Catalyst annually honors exemplary organizational initiatives that promote women's advancement with the Catalyst Award.