Diversity and Inclusion

9 Inspiring examples of inclusive workplace cultures

9 concrete examples of companies cultivating inclusive cultures all year round— not just in June.

Ryan Carruthers

June 21, 2022

Pride month is coming to an end. But this doesn’t mean your efforts to build workplaces that value diversity and inclusion and put them into practice have to as well. 

We all want inclusive cultures. Let’s look at nine companies that are cultivating inclusive workplaces. Their strategies will inspire your own.

9 inclusion strategies of leading companies to inspire your own

From startups to international corporations, each inclusion strategy has a common theme: building empathy and understanding. And they do it in concrete ways with meaningful outcomes.

American Express

Amex, the banking company every American is familiar with, believes an inclusive workplace starts at the top. That’s why they have mandatory inclusion training for leaders at the VP level and above

Leaders unpack what inclusion is and how a workplace that values it looks. Then, in small groups, they discuss and brainstorm ways to foster inclusion in the company

HR teams measure the impact by surveying employees and convening focus groups. This helps them tap into employee sentiment and understand how ideas made up top unfold on the front lines.

Takeaways

Leaders need to know what inclusion is and its value. If they don’t, how can they buy into it? Likewise, the job’s not done once the decision is made. Seek feedback from the employees that those decisions affect.

Autodesk

This multinational software company is the backbone of design in the engineering, architecture, media, and manufacturing industries. They need diverse perspectives and world views, saying it “allows us to create and innovate leading-edge products… and collaborate effectively.” 

Collaboration. It starts in the meeting room. That’s why Autodesk actively practices and reinforces inclusive meeting tactics. Some tactics include:

  • ​Distributing meeting materials in advance and sharing questions to be discussed.
  • Making sure remote workers feel included in meetings. If one person is calling in, everyone else will.
  • Rotating meeting times if for remote workers in different time zones.
  • When someone is recognized for an idea that someone else put forward earlier in the meeting, point out who shared the idea originally.
  • Calling out and avoiding “mansplaining.”
  • If one colleague interrupts another, call attention to it to underscore the importance of letting everyone be heard.

Takeaways

Sweat the details. Inclusive environments are built through person-to-person interactions that happen every day.

Avison Young

Avison Young has always been a people-first organization. Their people set them apart as a commercial real estate firm in a competitive market.  They launched a mentoring program using Together’s platform to support their Emerging Leaders program and Employee Resource Groups for Black professionals, their Women’s Network and LGBTQ+ employees. 

Their mentoring program connected each employee with a relevant mentor based on their goals, experiences, and preferences. Each pair would meet monthly with tailored resources to help them build a meaningful relationship.

Takeaways

Mentoring programs are an effective way to support employees from underrepresented backgrounds and prepare them for leadership roles. They also build community and show workers there’s someone in their corner.

Bak USA

Bak USA, a manufacturer of mobile computers in Buffalo, N.Y., holds potluck parties to celebrate the 14 nationalities represented among its 100 employees. 

They also created a prayer room for Muslim employees. The need became apparent after an executive cleared their office for 15 minutes daily. Eva Bak, VP of People, said the result was that “people felt they could bring their full selves to work.”

Takeaways

Don’t build a workplace where people must check themselves at the door. Make room for cross-cultural activities that provide visibility to diverse and possibly underrepresented employees.

Capital One

Capital One makes career advancement equitable with their sponsorship program, Advancing Black Leaders. Its champions look at the challenges that commonly stand in the way of advancement for Black leaders in the corporate world. 

One of the primary things was mentorship and face-to-face time with executives. This program connects them with a senior-level sponsor who will advocate for them and help them advance in their careers. 

Takeaways

A sponsorship program is an incredible way to bring more diversity to who’s advancing in the company.

Chevron

Chevron, the energy company, has a long history of supporting inclusion efforts. They were one of few companies that supported AIDS education in the workplace in 1986. They founded their first Employee Resource Group in 1991, the PRIDE (Promote Respect, Inclusion, & Dignity for Everyone) network. 

Most recently, they’ve continued to be ahead of the curve in supporting LGBTQ+ employees with a 10-page guidebook called Transgender @ Chevron, designed to “foster dialogue and understanding of transgender issues in the workplace.”

Takeaways

Education is at the heart of many inclusion efforts. If employees don’t have access to resources on the what, how, and why, how can they help reinforce an inclusive workplace.

Lever

Lever is a recruitment tech company. You’ve likely seen a job posting using their platform or made one yourself. They turned inwards and looked at their own recruitment process to make it more inclusive. 

They generated a long list of opportunities, but these are the most revealing:

  1. They put in place project interviews that allow candidates to demonstrate soft skills and how they would work on a team.
  2. In every job posting, the company made sure to explicitly mention that it was looking to build an inclusive and diverse workforce.
  3. They removed “Culture Fit” as a reason to disqualify a candidate in favour of more descriptive terms.
  4. They designed job postings with gender-neutral language.
  5. Their interview panels include diverse stakeholders. Not just race or gender, but different backgrounds, neurodiversity, and more.

Takeaways

Look at your candidate experience. How are panels chosen? What questions are asked? Dig into the details, and like Lever, you’ll likely find opportunities to improve.

LinkedIn

One of the best ways to help build a more inclusive workplace is to reward those doing just that. LinkedIn started paying Employee Resource Group leaders for their efforts. 

When asked about what led to the decision, Teuila Hanson, LinkedIn’s chief people officer, said that “despite the tremendous visibility and impact to the organization, this work is rarely rewarded financially. LinkedIn is changing that.”

Takeaway

If you can, compensate the champions of Diversity and Inclusion at your company. If not financially, then through some form of public recognition. 

Merck & Co. Inc.

This large pharmaceutical company takes a page out of American Express’ book by enrolling leaders at all levels in unconscious bias training. The training helps make leaders aware that they can judge people based on their gender, race, or other factors without realizing it. Doing so drives home the importance of modelling inclusive behaviour.

In addition to training, Merck hosts an annual Global Diversity & Inclusion Experience month that celebrates the differences among its 69,000 employees in more than 140 countries.

Takeaway

Don’t shy away from formal training. Making space to reinforce the importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion can make strides in engraining its values in the company culture. 

A quote we’re thinking about

We hear diversity and inclusion so much we often use them interchangeably. But they’re different. This is summed up perfectly by Janet Stovall, Global Head of DEI at NeuroLeadership Institute, in her Ted Talk.

“Diversity is a numbers game. Inclusion is about impact. Companies can mandate diversity, but they have to cultivate inclusion.”

 Janet Stovall, How to get serious about diversity and inclusion in the workplace

5 meaningful ways to support LGBTQ+ employees all year round

We asked leaders how they're building inclusive cultures post-pride and here's what they had to share.

Opt for Gender Neutrality

"A major facet of supporting the LGBTQ+ community is a move away from viewing gender as a binary. Choosing gender-neutral language over gendered ensures that everyone feels represented and included, not just those who identify as men and women. The way we communicate with each other is hugely important to inclusivity, so adopting a more gender-neutral frame of mind can be the difference between affirming someone's existence or not.

From a business perspective, reviewing written policies like benefits packages and dress codes to ensure they aren't strictly gendered, being respectful of people's pronouns, and making some simple language swaps, such as "folks" instead of "guys" or "ladies and gentlemen" are all ways to shift mindsets towards gender neutrality and support the LGBTQ+ community every day, not just during Pride Month."

- Stephen Light, Nolah Mattress

Make Sure that Your Hiring Practices Are LGBTQ-friendly

Companies can ensure all year round that their hiring practices are inclusive and adequately support people in the LGBTQ+ community. Doing this can take many forms, from using gender-neutral language in recruiting materials, to making sure interviewers undergo LGBTQ+ competency training. You can also be proactive in reaching out to qualified folks in community, such as posting job opportunities in LGBTQ+ centers.

- Adam Shlomi, SoFlo Tutors

Diversity Training to Include LGBTQ+ Employees

While celebrating Pride Month is a great start, LGBTQ+ employees need support the rest of the year, too. The best way to do that is to implement diversity and inclusion training to educate yourself and other employees about the experiences of and problems that face different groups of people, including LGBTQ+ people. Not only can education help everyone to learn how they can become better allies, it will also help to reduce microaggressions and other problems that may be borne out of ignorance.

Training can show employees that inclusion and diversity are a core part of the company culture, which can make all employees feel more comfortable and engaged. The same training and culture can apply to any group of people all year, not just during the months that celebrate those groups.

- Dave Rietsema, Matchr

Volunteer in LGBTQ+ Communities

Pride month is only a symbolic/celebration for LGBTQ+ communities. Supporting them only in pride month by waving the LGBTQ+ flag is nothing helpful for them.

One concrete and meaningful way to support LGBTQ+ people is to learn about their issues and how you can be an ally. You should stand up against discrimination and violence against LGBTQ+ people by volunteering at local communities and joining rallies or by simply reaching out to LGBTQ+ friends and family members to let them know that you love and support them.

- Andre Oentoro, Breadnbeyond

Place Ads in LGBTQ+ Media

If any company is genuinely interested in supporting the LGBTQ+ community beyond Pride Month, deeper, more long-lasting connections have to be made and maintained. One way to show your support is to invest in advertising space at LGBTQ+ events and in digital and print media. By doing this, you have forged a connection with the community and shown that regardless of gender identity, you are open for trade with all groups. Take it a stage further by customizing your advertisements specifically for that group of people. By showing same-sex couples in your advertisements you are helping to normalize these minorities and helping to remove discrimination against them.

- Colin Palfrey, JollySEO

A bit about us at Together

At Together, we believe that relationships drive performance and inclusion. For that reason, we exist to ensure every employee has mentors and peers they connect with and learn from regularly. We do this with our award-winning mentorship platform that makes it easy to connect employees with relevant mentors and peers.

close button

Want incredible results from your mentorship program? Then download our comprehensive list of best practices.

We draw these best practices from the first-hand experience of program managers like you and our own expertise. This white paper is a comprehensive guide that will be your roadmap to building a world-class mentoring program.