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Over half of UK employees have felt excluded at work

According to research, over half (56%) of UK employees have felt personally excluded in their current workplace, representing a dangerous drain on productivity and a moral issue for HR.

The study, conducted by Povaddo for cigarette and vape company Philip Morris International (PMI), showed that a further one in six (17%) employees feel unsafe speaking up about inclusion issues at their workplace.

This number rises to more than a quarter (26%) of non-management employees.

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To solve the problem experts have said HR must create an atmosphere of psychological safety, in which people are unafraid to express themselves.

“Psychological safety is a bit of a buzzword these days,” said Silke Muenster, chief diversity officer at PMI.

She told HR magazine: “But the research we've done shows that psychological safety is the lynchpin between the more individual aspects of inclusion, like authenticity and uniqueness, and the organisational aspects like fairness and participation.”

The survey ran alongside the PMI-funded 'Inclusive Future' study by IMD Business School (released 4 March) on how to accurately identify and grade inclusion within organisations.

She added: “What gets measured, gets done. So if we want to make progress, we need to be able to measure the progress, not only with regards to diversity, but also with regards to inclusion.”

Nishi Mayor, business director at D&I non-profit Business in the Community, told HR magazine: “No one deserves to feel excluded, especially at work. 

“Employees should feel they will be listened to when they want to raise an issue about exclusion at work. While these figures present a disturbing picture, this is where allies can step in.

“More businesses need to appoint an executive sponsor for race, and make diversity and inclusion not just a priority, but a responsibility of all leaders.”

Muenster added, however, that inclusion cannot come merely as a directive from senior leadership.

Instead, senior teams need to make it clear to their managers that they expect inclusion and psychological safety to run throughout the organisation. 

Part of this expectation, she said, means following failure with negative consequences. She said: “If line managers are not able to create a culture of psychological safety, that [should have] an impact on their performance rating. 

“It’s something we take super seriously.”

The survey by Povaddo examined companies with 10 or more employees in six countries: Argentina, France, Germany, Japan, the UK, and the United States, with no fewer than 850 respondents per country. The survey was carried out in February 2022.