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The ROI of respect: A blueprint for an inclusive workplace

Stephen Paskoff
Stephen Paskoff
The founder of ELI® and the company’s hallmark Civil Treatment® learning solutions, Stephen Paskoff is a former trial attorney for the EEOC and partner in a nationally known labor and employment law firm. He left private practice to help organizations increase workplace trust, address uncivil behaviors and help clients comply with workplace requirements. A member of the Pennsylvania and Georgia bars, he is a founder and former co-chair of the ABA’s Compliance Training and Communication Subcommittee, which explores training and strategic best practices for maintaining corporate compliance.

Building a respectful and inclusive workplace is a constant journey, but the new year offers HR a vital chance to recalibrate with mission, vision and values. And in a potentially hostile election year, this reset is more crucial than ever.

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Recent findings from the Society for Human Resource Management’s The State of Global Workplace Culture in 2023 report reflect the grim reality of organizational culture: Globally, only about half of workers feel their employers have cracked the code on fostering respectful interactions. The study, based on responses from over 11,000 employees across 15 countries, reveals that employees who rate their workplace culture highly are more satisfied and committed to their organizations.

Notably, those who perceive their organization’s culture as “good” or “excellent” are significantly more likely to be satisfied at work and less likely to actively seek new employment.

In an era where talent is becoming the ultimate currency, this statistic raises eyebrows and demands our attention.

Foundation for an inclusive workplace

Twenty-eight percent—more than a quarter of employees surveyed—left their organizations due to a lack of feeling treated fairly. The cost of losing valuable talent to unfair treatment is a substantial wake-up call for businesses to reassess their priorities.

For many organizations, improving their bottom-line performance goes beyond the traditional elements of their financial statement. Workers at all levels are essential to success, and the 2023 SHRM report reminds us that building a respectful workplace culture that encourages people not only to stay but also to perform the best work isn’t just an ethical responsibility—it’s a strategic imperative.

Organizations that prioritize and enforce fair, inclusive and respectful standards of behavior are not only creating a positive environment—they’re investing in their own success. In a talent-hungry market, respect trumps mere compensation. According to Culture Partners, 68% of today’s workforce sees corporate culture as more important than salary when considering a new role, reinforcing the need to ensure a fair, respectful working environment.

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Learn how leading organizations are building inclusive workplaces through a people-centric culture at HRE’s upcoming EPIC Conference, April 24-26 in Las Vegas. Click here to register.

Along with attracting new talent, retaining valuable employees is an increasing business imperative. Organizations that establish a culture of respect ensure employees don’t just stay but flourish by getting the best results when they work individually and in teams.

When individuals feel valued and trust their leadership and peers, they are more likely to invest their time, talents and loyalty to keep their organization successful. Collaboration is the heartbeat of any thriving business. A respectful workplace culture breaks down silos, encourages open dialogue and sparks creativity.

The result? A workforce that collaborates seamlessly across all levels, driving innovation and ensuring optimal business outcomes. As tangible proof, Forbes reports that companies with positive organizational cultures have 72% higher employee engagement ratings than organizations with weak cultures.

Paving the path toward a workplace culture that prioritizes respect cannot happen in a vacuum; the organization’s leadership commitment must set the tone. It’s not just about workplace or legal policies, as stated in breakroom posters and mission statements; leaders must embody their organization’s shared values. When leaders clearly communicate and enforce standards of behavior, employees feel safe expressing their ideas, concerns and aspirations. These efforts support improved morale, increased collaboration and productivity, and a healthier bottom line.

Respectful workplace interactions are as important as the other dimensions of building a positive culture—equitable leadership practices, career fulfillment, good manager communications and work/life integration. Despite the divisive nature of the current political climate, it is possible to prevent escalating tensions that can negatively affect the productivity and culture of a workplace. As we head further into 2024, leaders who establish and enforce the values they expect from their teams will foster the positive culture needed to fuel operational and financial success.