Achieving A Culture Of Wellbeing In A Diverse And Inclusive Workplace

d&i strategies inclusive leadership work life harmony Jul 31, 2018

I know what you’re thinking. A culture of wellbeing in a diverse and inclusive workplace is surely no more than a dream! Well, it’s not easy to achieve, we will say that. But it’s entirely possible.

Imagine if every person, regardless of their disability, race, ethnicity, gender, age economic status, or sexual orientation, had an equal opportunity to reach their full potential in your workplace and was treated by everyone with compassion, respect and dignity, free from stigma and prejudice.

What if mental and physical wellbeing was prioritised so that everyone felt empowered and supported to look after themselves without feeling judged or inferior?

Think of what that would do for your workplace culture and therefore employee satisfaction, productivity, innovation, creativity… the list goes on! 

The Right Reasons

Sadly not everyone embarking on diversity, inclusion, and wellbeing programs does so for the right reasons. It’s important to think carefully about what you are trying to achieve, making sure your ultimate goal is for the benefit of everyone and that it’s rolled out across the board. Carve out a mission that will allow you to penetrate your organisation from the roots to the tips!

Tony Cooke, Senior Director, Human Resources, Adidas Group is responsible for the organisation’s award winning CSR strategy and is the driving force behind the accolade of becoming ‘Britain’s Healthiest Company’ 4 years in succession.

He said in an interview with HRD Connect: “We didn’t wake up one morning and say, ‘Right, everybody it would be great if we won the wellness award. Instead, we regard wellbeing as an integral part of our day-to-day activities – it’s woven into the fabric of the way we operate, and it’s a central part of our culture.”

Mariner Kemper, Chairman, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, UMB Financial Corporation, is signed up to CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion™ - a CEO driven business commitment to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace. She undertook a project for greater inclusion of individuals with disabilities in UMB’s wellness program activities. For Mariner Kemper, it’s all about innovation.

In the case study, Wellness Culture in an Inclusive Workplace, she said: “At UMB we don’t just see diversity and inclusion as the right thing to do, we see it as a way to energize our culture and ignite innovation, all factors which led to our decision to join the pledge. Our D&I strategies are intentional, designed to help us attract, develop and retaining the most talented workforce to spark innovation. Diversity brings unique ways of thinking and problem solving — approaching things from different perspectives always results in better solutions. And better solutions is what we strive for every day for our customers. Diversity and Inclusion differentiates UMB, and we’re very proud about that.”

Wellbeing Is Not Just Physical

The World Health Organization (2005) recommends a mental health policy for any business or organization wishing to improve mental wellness. According to, more days of work are lost by mental illness than by other chronic health conditions including arthritis, asthma, back pain, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

That’s why it’s so important to take emotional, psychological, and social well-being into consideration. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.

As you can imagine, a lot of decision-making, handling stress, and interacting with others takes place at work.’s mental health and work policy addresses the vision for improving mental health in the workforce and creates a model for action (click here to view it).

According to Cooke, “Spot the Signs” is a programme written by adidas Group to help people understand mental health, and how they can notice warning signs, and more importantly how they can put action in place to prevent it rather than to have to start coming up with cures further on down the line.

It is also possible to make wellbeing initiatives work for groups of employees who are not physically able alongside those who are. Kemper explained that UMB partnered with the internal communications team to re-write wellness materials so ALL associates realized they could participate and meet wellness requirements using various abilities and resources.

It's All About The People

Almost everyone will have heard of and maybe even tried diversity and inclusion programmes and initiatives. Even adidas Group had to go through a series of training programmes around inclusion and diversity and unconscious bias to achieve the wellness culture and inclusive environment they enjoy today.

However as important as training is, it’s the people who make the difference to its longevity. Make sure you have people in senior roles walking the talk and acting as positive role models to ensure the training is taken seriously and implemented successfully in the long term. It must be embedded into every corner of your workplace and become part of your culture. To do that, you need your champions.  

Cooke says: “We focus on being inclusive and diverse in the way we recruit, train, develop and promote people; but you’ll notice that in our business there are no purposeful projects around inclusion or diversity. Instead, we created a unit of people who were very passionate about inclusion and diversity.

“This group of people we have called the dive-in team. Taking its lead ‘dive’ from diversity and ‘in’ from inclusion. They make sure that we are being inclusive and diverse. Any examples where that wasn’t the case, it was dealt with internally by this group of people with help from HR and senior managers.”

Education And Collaboration

The biggest challenge according to Cooke is that most people believe that they are inclusive and diverse naturally, and that they don’t have unconscious biases. At adidas Group, this prompted a big education process explaining that no matter how good we think we are, everybody will have a degree of unconscious bias.

Adidas Group went through a programme, using case studies and bringing speakers in to run sessions. As part of that, they did a lot on women in the organisation,and they did a lot on LGBT. Cooke says “We are not resting on our laurels: if we don’t feel we know enough about an issue, we bring external people in to help, educate and collaborate with us.”

In addressing the challenges of making wellness program activities more inclusive, UMB sought help and knowledge from other expert sources. They gained new perspectives from their Abilities Business Resource Group such as associates unable to stand or walk might wave or raise their hand instead. They collaborated with The Whole Person, a local non-profit community partner, for best practices. They also brought in expert consultation from a certified onsite wellness coach to ensure requested accommodations would be applied.

These small but critical adjustments in approach to wellness activities for all associates made a big impact. Associate feedback indicated that because UMB recognized they are differently-abled, and then quickly found ways to adjust program requirements for inclusion and participation in wellness activities, their sense of belonging and value were impacted, as was their ongoing loyalty to the organization.

If you would like to explore the inclusivity of your own culture and how well it upholds wellbeing at work,  please email us at Thriving Talent to start a conversation : [email protected].

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