Inclusive Leaders Are Critical To Building Employee Satisfaction

Employee retention is a key focus for corporations globally, and new research from Edith Cowan University (ECU) has found that leadership style could have a noticeable impact on an employee’s working experience.

The study by ECU researchers Dr Azadeh Shafaei and Dr Mehran Nejati found that inclusive leaders are crucial in organisations to create conditions for employees to experience meaningful work.

“Inclusive leadership is not just about embracing diversity. It is the art of weaving an extraordinarily rich tapestry of talents, ideals, and perspectives into the very fabric of organisational success. Inclusive leaders focus on employees need for belongingness and uniqueness and provide a psychologically safe environment that fosters creativity,” Dr Shafaei said.

“This is unique because as humans, we have the need for feeling that we belong to our work group, our organisation and at the same time, we really want to be recognised and valued for what we can bring to the table.

“Inclusive leaders shape an organisational culture and help employees to learn the expected behaviours relevant to the culture and its underlying values. Inclusive leaders also cultivate high-quality relationships in the workplace based on trust that can foster collaboration and cooperation among employees,” Dr Shafaei explained.

“This leadership style enhances employees’ autonomy, signals that they are valued individuals who can make unbiased decisions, provides them with emotional support and increased trustworthiness, and gives them the opportunity to voice their opinions which are essential in creating meaning-making capabilities, and can lead to experiencing meaningfulness at work by employees.”

Dr Mehran Nejati Ajibisheh and Dr Azadeh Shafaei Darastani.

Research revealed that work meaningfulness is positively related to a wide range of employee and organisational outcomes such as work and life satisfaction, engagement, psychological well-being, work motivation, career development, creativity, positive work behaviour, in-role and extra-role performance, and organisational commitment.

Work meaningfulness can bring about several positive outcomes including job satisfaction, better performance, and greater motivation.

“Inclusive leadership refers to a leadership style that invites and appreciates contributions from followers by demonstrating openness, flexibility, and availability, which can create a psychologically safe environment. Such a psychologically safe environment helps employees share their unique perspectives, discuss differences, and practice problem solving. Also, inclusive leaders promote employees’ uniqueness and sense of belongingness to the organisation, the two crucial factors in creating a psychologically safe environment where employees can be themselves.

“Moreover, inclusive leaders welcome contributions from diverse team members and ensure that employees have access to organisational resources. Through demonstrating availability, flexibility, and openness, inclusive leaders provide help and support to employees to solve problems, and make them believe that mistakes are not criticized, rather are opportunities to learn from,” said Dr Shafaei.

She noted that when leaders treat staff with respect and dignity, and value their contributions, they can create positive job attributes which makes employees perceive that their workplace promotes experimentation, open discussion, and learning from errors. Working in such a supportive environment created by inclusive leaders could foster greater meaningful work for employees.

Dr Shafaei noted that inclusive leadership from upper management was crucial to create a trickle-down effect to line managers.

“By demonstrating all the inclusive behaviours or creating that trusting relationship at the top end of leadership, and communicating that to other levels of employees, leaders will set an example for others on how to behave.

“If a leader can help an employee to shape a meaningful work experience for us, employees will be more committed to coming to work, and it will have a more positive effect in enhancing the intrinsic motivation within employees. This will definitely have an impact on keeping employees happy and reducing the number of turnovers in an organisation.”

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Ben Ready founded MBA News in 2014 and is the Managing Editor. He is a former business and finance journalist with Australian Associated Press (AAP) and Dow Jones Newswires in London. Ben completed his MBA in 2012 and was awarded the QUT GMAA Entrepreneurship Prize. He is also the founder and Managing Director of RGC Media & Mktng (rgcmm.com.au).