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Can Resilience Exist without Inclusion?

Updated: Aug 31, 2020

In different conversations recently we have found ourselves discussing how “relevant” the issues of resilience and inclusion are given the current political, social, and economic climate. And we continually disagree. In our mind these are not “flavour of the month” concepts that are only brought to a leader’s attention by articles, news items or even civil disorder. They are crucial foundations of organisational culture.

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Do you want to attract, retain, and maximise the potential of an increasingly diverse pool of talented individuals?

Do you want to unify those talented individuals in teams that have a collective ability to recover from setbacks and tackle challenges proactively?

I’m going to assume the answer is YES! To both. In which case both inclusion and resilience are important to you as a modern leader. However, this discourse also caused us, a company involved with delivering leadership and organisational development across the areas of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and Resilience, to reflect on the relationship between the two.


The case for moving beyond numbers and compliance

Inclusion and Resilience share common hurdles in becoming embedded as key facets in organisational culture. They are often obscured by, and mistaken for, the elements of low-level outputs that a company may point to in showing progress. For example, the diversity figures of workforce ethnicity or gender pay gap reports may be cited as moves towards an inclusive workplace, whilst staff wellbeing initiatives, Employee Assistance Programme take up rates and reduced absenteeism may similarly be quoted in creating resilient teams. The reality is that such data sets tell you little of the culture that is being created.

Both suffer with an affiliation to that most foreboding of words in the managers handbook – compliance. The scary part of compliance for even the most experienced leader is the implicit consequence of not doing something. Fear abounds within organisations when an equality issue raises its head, and the alarm in the HR department now sounds just as loud when staff wellbeing is not supported or ignored. The consequences of leadership failures in these areas are very real – reputational damage, legal challenges, and high financial penalties.

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These dual drivers create a common misconception that inclusion and resilience are concepts that are required, not desired. And how many of us, from the time of being children, want to do things we are made to do? You cannot “tick the box” and hope to create a culture of equality and inclusion anymore than you can with a culture of resilience. And, more to the point, why would you want to? It is in answering this question that we need to flip leadership attitudes on their head.

Do you want to recruit a diverse workforce because you will generate new ideas, new challenges and better reflect the customers you serve? Or because you want to display data that shows you are a diverse employer? Do you want to grant flexible working patterns because they improve work life balance and natural resilience in staff or because subsection 12B of the HR policy says you must? The practical result may be the same, but the motivation is entirely different depending on your answer, and this is the difference between lip service and culture change.

Of course prevention of discrimination (equality) and appreciation of difference (diversity) are incredibly important. But they can be, and sometimes are, addressed within a vacuum without creating that true culture of inclusion.


Inclusion as a Foundation for Resilience

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So, on their own trajectories, Inclusion and Resilience are both key cultural components for the modern organisation and leader to strive for. But what is the interplay between the two? Is it a chicken and egg situation - whichever element is successfully embedded first will breathe life into the other? As we took a step back and considered this, we concluded that a linear dependence exists and that Inclusion is one of the key foundations needed to build Resilience in individuals, teams and organisation.

Anyone who has engaged with our previous resilience material (and if you haven’t why not?!) will be familiar with the R@W7 model we use defining seven pillars of resilience. Examining a handful of these through the lens of inclusion highlights how crucial it is to achieving resilience, and how current practice and experience may not be enabling this.


Perhaps a notable stand out element in the resilience model is the need for "Living Authentically"; knowing, living and deploying your core values and strengths on a daily basis. This is a far cry from many findings relating to inclusivity in the workplace – Stonewall report that 35% of LGBT staff have hidden their sexuality from their employers for fear it will impact their career[1] , whilst 16% of responding NHS staff in 2016 did not disclose their disability due to a similar career concern [2]. If one does not feel they can be their core self within an organisation, then they can never achieve that authenticity in the workplace.

In our last webinar we looked at “career resilience” and how "Building Networks" was crucial to career progression and supporting personal and professional development. However, when we look at statistics showing that only 5% of FTSE 250 Company Directors are from BAME backgrounds[3] we see the impact of non-inclusive culture, where perhaps the same support networks and opportunities that promote advancement are not provided to individuals based on their characteristics.

The model for resilience puts great weight on mastering stress and staying healthy as key components, the concept that healthy body and healthy mind will undoubtedly assist someone to bounce back and reframe negativity into opportunity. To what extent then does non-inclusive practice hinder this? In terms of health the LGBT community is statistically more likely to experience mental health issues and self-harm [4] and according to the ONS far more likely to smoke[5]. We need only look at the debate currently unfolding over the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on BAME communities to see the challenges that exist in creating a level playing field in this area. When we consider stress at work and the potential for stress to become "toxic" and reach a level where an individual cannot function at their best, we surely acknowledge that the feeling of being excluded, or feeling the need to mask who you are must only heighten workplace stress and anxiety?


Even as a company providing learning solutions to others we are on our own learning journey. When we deliver our work with organisations and leaders around creating resilient environments we have perhaps made the assumption that all of the building blocks, both in terms of attitude and infrastructure are already in place, and that we are providing the toolkit and framework to maximise and harness what already exists. However as we consider the scale of non-inclusive practice still observed in the modern workplace we are forced to acknowledge that the failure to create a culture of inclusion not only prevents an organisation from meeting equality and diversity requirements but also from unlocking the potential of their people in so many other ways.

Join our L&D Business Partner, Miranda Jenkins, for a free Webinar looking in more depth at Resilience and Inclusion at 10am on 16th July. To register visit


[1] Stonewall, LGBT Britain: In Work [2] Disability Rights UK, “Different Voices, Different Choices” (2016) [3] The Parker Review Committee, “Ethnic Diversity Enriching Business Leadership” (2020) [4] Stonewall, LGBT Britain: Health [5] ONS, “Adult Smoking Habits in the UK” (2018)

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