11 April 2024 | Dr Jo Kandola

Using motivation to drive inclusion

Understanding what motivates individuals to be inclusive is key to getting your people to engage with diversity, equity and inclusion and ensuring that you get the best return on your training investment.

Engaging people with diversity and inclusion can be tough. At Pearn Kandola, we have been at the forefront of research into the critical role that motivation plays in driving behaviour change, and these unique insights underpin our successful approach to inclusion training. The first thing that we need to understand is that there’s no ‘one-size-fits all’ way to get people to be inclusive – and that’s because everyone is motivated to be inclusive by different things.

The benefits of motivation for diversity and inclusion

Motivation is the force required to start the process of becoming more inclusive – in a nutshell, can your people be bothered to put the effort in to make a difference?

If the answer to this is yes, then you’re in luck and behaviour change is much more likely to follow. Motivated people want to learn about themselves and understand the role they play in creating and promoting inclusion. They will also proactively take actions to value difference and create an inclusive environment. They may go out of their way to speak to people who are less like them or seek out ideas from everyone in the group, and their efforts and behaviour will then have a positive impact. People around them will feel safe to speak up and share their ideas, and in turn, this will lead to improved performance, better problem-solving, greater employee engagement and innovation. These positive impacts then fuel motivation to do more, speeding up the pace of change and accelerating access to the many benefits that diversity and inclusion bring.

Without motivation, however, nothing happens. People don’t put the effort in, they don’t take any action, there’s no change, no benefits are realised and this reinforces a lack of drive to do anything differently. If we want to create inclusion, people first need to be motivated to do the things that make others around them feel included.


Inclusion in the workplace - what motivates us?

We often have an unhelpful tendency to think of people as being ‘more’ or ‘less’ motivated than one other, but what’s more helpful is to think of us as being ‘differently’ motivated.

For instance, a person who is intrinsically motivated will act on something because it brings a sense of personal satisfaction, whereas a person who is extrinsically motivated acts as a result of external pressures, incentives and controls. One person might feel that inclusion is important because the data shows it enhances organisational productivity. Another may be persuaded that inclusion is important because their employer has mandatory diversity and inclusion training and clear DEI policies. Someone else might behave in an inclusive way simply because they feel it’s ‘the right thing to do’ – in fact, our research has shown that this is the driver for 59% of DEI professionals, but for non-DEI professionals, this figure falls to just 33%.

Many organisations have tended to take a one-size-fits-all approach to workplace diversity and inclusion, with the same messaging, interventions, training and guidance issued to all employees and the expectation that everyone will respond in the same way. However, this approach is fundamentally flawed, as it overlooks differences in motivational needs – and as a result, it’s only ever likely to engage a fraction of the target audience.

Knowing what our own inclusion driver is – and being able to identify the drivers of those around us – puts us in a much better place to plan how to influence and engage other people around diversity and inclusion and sets us up for greater success.

Our 7 inclusion drivers

A diagram of the 7 inclusion drivers; recognition, direction, harmony, empathy, morality, information and authenticity

Our research at Pearn Kandola has identified 7 inclusion drivers that influence the extent to which people are motivated to be inclusive. It’s important to bear in mind that there are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ drivers, and that no one driver is ‘better’ than another – but they differ significantly from each other and as a consequence, will require different approaches and strategies for engagement with DEI.

  • Recognition

People with a high need for recognition are motivated to be inclusive by getting positive feedback and public recognition for their inclusive behaviours.

  • Direction

People with a high need for direction are driven to be inclusive by having rules and guidelines to follow and clear expectations around inclusive behaviour.

  • Harmony

People with a high need for harmony are motivated to be inclusive by a desire to form and maintain positive interpersonal relationships and a dislike of conflict.

  • Empathy

People with a high need for empathy are motivated to be inclusive by a desire to support others and create emotional connections with those around them.

  • Morality

People with a high need for morality are driven to be inclusive by an internal sense of justice and fairness and a desire to ‘do the right thing’.

  • Information

People with a high need for information are motivated to be inclusive by hard facts and clear evidence that shows the benefits of inclusion.

  • Authenticity

People with a high need for authenticity are motivated to be inclusive by the desire to be able to show their true selves and enable others to do the same.

Motivating individuals to be inclusive

Individuals may have several inclusion drivers, but there will usually be one that’s the strongest – and identifying this will help you to formulate an effective strategy for influencing that individual employee to be more inclusive.

Imagine for example that you have a stakeholder who you want to influence around DEI whose inclusion driver is information.

They’re unlikely to be persuaded by the moral arguments for inclusion, or a desire to be authentic – but they’ll be receptive to well-structured arguments supported by hard data that shows that diversity and inclusion make for higher-performing teams, say, or a better ability to spot risk, so make sure that your messaging is high-quality and backed up by solid evidence.

Tips for motivating a diverse workforce, groups and teams

Identifying the predominant inclusion driver in a team can help us to motivate people at a group level.

Imagine you have a team that’s motivated largely by a desire for harmony. This will mean that they value good relationships with their co-workers and dislike arguments and tension.

A good way to tap into this driver would be to highlight the benefits of inclusion in fostering a work environment that encourages open communication and collaboration. You could highlight how empowering diverse teams to contribute will enable people to build more fulfilling and better-quality work relationships, where they are more likely to engage with their work and where trust and collaboration between team members will be higher.

You’ll need to make sure your approach is collaborative and friendly – a team like this won’t like any kind of confrontation and will likely back away from DEI discussions if they are made to feel uncomfortable.

K+DRIVE: A tool for understanding inclusion drivers

If you’re struggling to engage people with diversity and inclusion issues, K+DRIVE is a digital tool that can help you identify both your own driver and those of others, helping you to communicate more effectively and devise more impactful interventions.

K+DRIVE takes just 10 minutes to complete and takes users through a series of questions designed to identify what drives them to be inclusive. Based on the responses, K+DRIVE then identifies the person’s main driver and explains what this means in terms of action and engagement around inclusion.

Interested to find out what motivates you to be inclusive? Contact us to try out K+DRIVE today and find out how to unlock your influence.