What makes an inclusive team? Here are 5 D&I competencies to track inclusive behaviour

Ruby Dark

Jan 14, 2022

To foster and sustain an inclusive work environment, you should have a clear approach to which behaviours are celebrated in the workplace. There’s no better way to spell it out than by assessing employees against inclusive competencies.

D&I competencies: Where to start?

Inclusion is all about making people feel like valued and respected members of the team. There are plenty of behaviours that contribute to this feeling, and not all of them are visible. However, there are certain things that we can look for as signs of an inclusive environment. And these are great input for D&I competencies.

💡How to think about setting D&I competencies


When setting your D&I competencies, focus on everyday, observable actions. ‘Nurturing teamwork and interdependence‘ is obviously a behaviour to celebrate, but can mean many different things and is hard to pin down.


Look for tangible actions instead. For example, assess whether employees ‘listen actively‘ and ‘seek out different opinions‘ to understand how well they contribute to a shared sense of teamwork.

We’ve reviewed the latest research on inclusive behaviours in the workplace and put together a list of D&I competencies. Feel free to be inspired or use them as they are!

D&I competencies: What the research tells us

We don’t recommend separating D&I competencies by level of seniority — inclusion is everyone’s responsibility, from IC to C-suite.

But leaders are in a unique position. They set the tone for inclusive behaviours and act as role models for the whole team to follow. In other words, leaders have the most power to shape your workplace culture.

So, what additional competencies should you assess leaders and managers against? There are tonnes of behaviours that make a good leader, but we’ve narrowed it down to the two most impactful competencies that foster team belonging and creativity.

  1. Inviting different perspectives
  2. Valuing those different perspectives, and communicating so to the team.

A study spanning 93 teams across multiple organisations demonstrated that leaders with these two abilities were better able to cultivate inclusion on their team. And this enabled leaders to tap into the diverse skillsets and creativity that their teammates had to offer.

We’ve gathered a list of behaviours to look for when assessing these and other competencies.

Competency: invites different perspectives

Behaviours for everyone

  • Seeks out the opinions of others

  • Listens actively to different voices

Behaviours for managers & leaders

  • Encourages everyone to voice their opinions

  • Makes space for perspectives that differ from the majority point of view

Competency: values different perspectives

Behaviours for everyone

  • Builds on the contributions of others

Behaviours for managers & leaders

  • Encourages the team to listen to different perspectives

  • Highlights others’ areas of expertise and leverages their strengths

  • Explains how alternative viewpoints help fill in our blind spots and see the bigger picture

  • Intervenes in behaviours that exclude others

Competency: communicates respectfully and transparently

Behaviours for everyone

  • Openly shares information and updates with teammates

  • Uses respectful language in online and offline communication

Behaviours for managers & leaders

  • Engages with resistance and works towards resolutions that satisfy all parties

  • Follows up and reports back when someone’s suggestions are used

  • Helps to solve disagreements and move forward as a team

Competency: celebrates together

Behaviours for everyone

  • Shares recognition for successes with team members

Behaviours for managers & leaders

  • Highlights team successes – makes individuals feel they’re all in it together

Competency: is curious and self-aware

Behaviours for everyone

  • Engages in inclusive learning opportunities (such as mentorship programmes, active bystander training, other L&D opportunities focused on building empathy)

Behaviours for managers & leaders

  • Engages in inclusive learning opportunities

  • Champions diversity and inclusion initiatives

How do you encourage these behaviours?

Building an inclusive organisation doesn’t happen overnight. Shifting culture requires everyone to be motivated towards change. And the best way to motivate behavioural change is to set incentives and goals.

Assessing employees against inclusive competencies encourages everyone to live up to these values. It paints a clear picture of what behaviour you expect to see in employees. Make sure these competencies live alongside the goals and objectives for your other business outcomes. For example, you can use them as input for your career progression framework or performance evaluation.

By setting clear expectations, you’ll see inclusive behaviours ripple throughout your organisation.

Backing it up

Ferdman, B. (2014) ‘The practice of inclusion in diverse organisations: towards a systemic and inclusive framework.’ In Ferdman, B. & Deane, B. (2014) Diversity at Work: The practice of inclusion. Jossey-Bass

Leroy, H. et al. (2021) ‘Fostering Team Creativity Through Team-Focused Inclusion: The Role of Leader Harvesting the Benefits of Diversity and Cultivating Value-In-Diversity Beliefs’ Group of Organization Management 0(0) pp.1-42

Tanicien, V. et al. (2020) ‘The Manager’s Guide to Inclusive Leadership — Small Habits That Make a Big ImpactFirst Round Review