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How to retain an inclusive workforce

by Anj Popat


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​This was originally published in The MJ.

Inclusive recruitment has been one of the biggest buzzwords in the recruitment industry over the last 12 months. But what happens once you have run your carefully designed inclusive recruitment process, brought in the perfect people and they finally start?

According to a report by the job site Adzuna, 25% of the UK workforce is considering changing careers in 2021 and CIPD’s 2020 Resourcing and Planning Survey states that voluntary employee turnover has risen from 5.5% in 2014 to 10.1% in 2019. This begs the question, why are organisations losing talent and how do you retain this talent?

A quick scan over reviews on the Glassdoor website will quickly show that most employees leave due to the lack of an inclusive culture. McKinsey’s 2020 Diversity Wins report found that: ‘The overall sentiment on inclusion sits at only 29% positive and 61% negative – which encapsulates the challenge that even the more diverse companies still face in tackling inclusion.’

The Oxford English Dictionary defines inclusion as: ‘The practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those who have physical or mental disabilities and members of other minority groups.’

For me, in the world of work, that quite simply translates to being accepted as your authentic self without feeling at a disadvantage, excluded or marginalised.

The question that naturally flows from this is how do you create an inclusive culture within your organisation so that you are retaining the diverse and wonderful talent that you have managed to attract?

I’ve been considering a few ideas on the subject.

1. Addressing unconscious bias

This should not be a one-off exercise where you take your employees through a training session. What is actually important is what you do with the outcomes, and how you ensure you’re addressing unconscious bias regularly.

Make sessions fun and informative – for example, a monthly ‘lunch and learn’ where an individual/group of people take ownership of one of the protected characteristics and bring them to life, and where open debate is encouraged.

2. Inclusive leadership training

This needs to go beyond the HR function. Inclusive culture should be built into the fabric of your organisation and anyone in a leadership role is representing that culture.

Giving your managers the tools to help them engage in what can sometimes be quite difficult conversations, will allow them to be advocates for the culture that you are building and in turn increase retention.

3. Creating an environment where employees feel safe and supported

This could be through facilitated sessions where people are able to share their experiences or even through creating communities within the organisation such as faith or race-based groups.

It’s also worth looking at creating defined policies around such topics as mental health, miscarriage, or menopause.

4. Mentoring/sponsorship programmes

Several reports, including those published by The Runneymede Trust and The Fawcett Society, suggest that a lack of role models who share a person’s specific protected characteristic impacts progression for those from any minority. Having a clear career progression pathway that is linked to mentoring, or sponsorship programmes that connect your employees to people they can relate to, very clearly shows your commitment to having a diverse and inclusive workforce.

5. Adopting flexible working policies

During the pandemic, Deloitte conducted their 2020 Millennial Survey which found that 62% of those in leadership positions, 59% of parents and 67% of millennials felt that remote working allows for a better work/life balance. Not only does this attract a more diverse workforce by tapping into a market of potential employees that have previously not been engaged in the workforce, but it also encourages employees to stay.

While having an inclusive recruitment process will help attract a more diverse workforce, what it will not do is guarantee that you will retain this talent. Inclusive recruitment goes hand in hand with having an inclusive culture that people want to work and remain in.

To create a truly inclusive culture you need to be committed to your vision, courageous enough to be different and hold yourself accountable to delivering with appropriate sanctions.

To paraphrase Janet Stovall from her Ted Talk on how to get serious about diversity and inclusion in the workplace; if a sales person wasn’t meeting targets after being given all the help and support to achieve them you would consider managing them out of the business. Why is it less serious to fail to achieve ethnic diversity and inclusion targets?

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