We know and understand that diversity is a critical part of company culture in the modern workplace. As such, we seek to create more diverse teams coming from all races, genders, ages, sexual orientations, and religions.
But it’s not enough to create a team composed of diverse staff members. You must establish an inclusive workplace culture that makes every member of that diverse team feel welcome and appreciated.
Diversity is only half of the puzzle. You need both diversity and inclusion working side by side to create a truly efficient modern workforce.
But how does one build an inclusive workplace culture? What steps can you take to ensure that your staff feels at ease, comfortable, and happy at work?
In this article, we’re going to cover eight tips that will help you strengthen your inclusivity.
Why do you want an inclusive workplace?
Having a diverse and inclusive workplace is unquestionably the right thing to do from a moral standpoint. But as more and more research on the topic comes out, the data highlights the effectiveness of an inclusive environment.
For starters, diversity and inclusion efforts will help you attract more millennial candidates. Research has shown that 47% of millennials seek diverse workplaces with inclusion initiatives when searching for work. Additionally, 74% of millennials believe that a culture of inclusion in the workplace makes a company more innovative.
Because of this, millennials are 83% more likely to feel engaged when employed by an inclusive organization.
This goes beyond just millennials. Two out of every three job candidates are looking for companies with diverse workforces. HR professionals understand this. That’s why 35% of HR leadership professionals say that they are prioritizing inclusion, diversity, and equity for recruitment in 2022.
Inclusion is also an investment in the future of the American workplace. By 2050, immigrants and children of immigrants will make up a whopping 83% of the US workforce, with people of colour making up most of the working class by the year 2032.
There are also financial benefits to inclusion efforts. In 2019, diverse companies were shown to bring in 36% more money than companies that don’t focus on diversity and inclusion. This statistic was an upward trend from 33% in 2017.
8 tips for creating an inclusive workplace culture
You now understand why it’s important to create inclusivity in the workplace. But how do you actually go about doing it? We’ve included several tips below to help you establish a more inclusive environment for your business and make your diverse team feel more comfortable.
1. Create an inclusion committee
Your inclusion efforts shouldn’t be overseen by one person alone. When that happens, you’re only getting a singular viewpoint that might overlook certain aspects of inclusivity.
You need to create a committee of eight to 12 individuals from diverse backgrounds who can share their opinions and experiences to help develop a well-rounded view of what an inclusive workplace actually looks like.
The committee would then set goals around new hires and employee retention. They could also discuss engagement issues seen throughout the organization while building plans that can combat these dangerous hurdles. The committee reports its findings to the very top of the ladder, presenting its opinions and goals to the CEO for approval.
When looking for members of your committee, ensure that they’re diverse and represent various social demographics, races, ages, genders, and sexual identities. They should have a true passion for inclusivity and seek to better the organization for all. If your company has multiple locations, the inclusion committee should include individuals from each office.
2. Remove silos between departments
Your company undoubtedly has several different departments, all with unique functions that work together to contribute to the whole. However, you want to prevent silos from forming, as this keeps the staff from interacting with one another and contributing to a diverse and inclusive company culture.
You ideally want to foster positive cross-departmental collaboration throughout your company when trying to promote a more inclusive workplace culture.
How can you do this? One simple way is by holding regular mixers with the staff. This could be a catered lunch, a group happy hour, or a coffee break designed to get everyone talking and cooperating. You could even bring various team members from different departments together for company retreats and team-building activities designed to celebrate the diversity and differences between them. This will, in turn, create more compassion and understanding throughout the entire company.
This will help break the ice, and then you can start cross-functional projects like improving customer onboarding from there to further deepen the bonds and collaboration.
3. Educate the leadership team
Inclusivity starts from the top, and you need to ensure that your executives, managers, and other leaders understand what you’re trying to accomplish and are prepared to help you implement these initiatives company-wide.
That leadership team should ideally already be highly diverse, but you should have them go through mandatory training about the nature of inclusion and why it’s important. One major topic that should be covered is unconscious bias, wherein someone makes snap judgments about others based on race, gender, orientation, or even social status (like which college an employee went to) or other factors without even realizing it.
They should also be taught how to actively listen during performance reviews, take in differing points of view, and determine what kinds of language they should use when addressing members of the staff. This includes using preferred pronouns, as well as gender-neutral terms like “spouse” and “partner” instead of “husband” or “wife.”
The leadership team also needs to learn how to apologize correctly (don’t make it a habit to wait for lawyers to apologize for you) when a mistake is made.
4. Ask employees
Your team likely has plenty of ideas they’re dying to share about inclusivity in the workplace. That’s why you should have an open-door policy regarding inclusivity initiatives and ideas for improving the company’s overall direction.
More than 34% of employees believe that the companies they work for don’t want to listen to their ideas for improvement. That’s more than a third of employees who hold back their ideas because they think no one is listening.
When it comes to issues like inclusion, sometimes it’s hard to see things from the perspective of someone who comes from a different background. That’s why it’s so important to listen to your employees and learn from them how to create a more inclusive environment that appeals to all groups of people.
You may find that certain inclusion initiatives you’re rolling out aren’t working and are making some employees feel uncomfortable. This is valuable insight that you’ll need if you’re going to make improvements. On the other hand, if your employees love your inclusivity efforts, you also need to know that. It’s important to feed strong initiatives and know what’s landing with your team.
For this to work, your employees need to know that it’s safe to come to your leadership team with their thoughts and feelings. Let it be known in onboarding that there’s an open-door policy, and make it a point to periodically ask for feedback from the entire team. When conducting one-on-one meetings with your team members, after giving them your feedback, ask for theirs.
5. Examine employee benefits
You might believe that the special benefits you’re offering your team are beneficial and show the kindness and compassion of your organization.
When creating a culture of inclusion throughout your organization, you have to consider whether the benefits you’re offering are considering the diverse needs of your team. Let’s take relocation packages as a prime example of this phenomenon at play.
The moving cost for a single employee will be substantially lower than that of an employee with children. That means if you’re basing your relocation offerings on single employees, you’re excluding those with different circumstances.
The policies for your employee perks should aim to provide equal benefits based on the different needs of a diverse staff.
6. Create safe spaces
Safe spaces are an important part of inclusion. While critics of inclusionary measures have co-opted the term and mocked it, this is still an important element of company culture.
An example of a safe space could be a gender-neutral restroom for genderqueer or non-binary individuals. This gesture of inclusion can make members of your team feel more comfortable. Privacy is an important element of a comfortable and safe workplace for many people. For instance, a prayer space for religious employees or a lactation room for new mothers can go a long way.
If you have neurodivergent employees who are easily overstimulated, a quiet place where they can get away from the bustle of the office would be beneficial to their mental state.
To determine what kind of safe spaces you could be creating, confer with your employees regarding their special needs. Ask them what features around the office would make them feel more comfortable. This goes along with our earlier point about allowing employees to come to you with ideas.
7. Rollout inclusive events and initiative
Your team should be keeping track of possible events to acknowledge that will make your team members feel seen and heard. There are many opportunities to do so throughout the year.
For example, Pride Month is an excellent opportunity to honor and celebrate your LGBT team members. You can share educational information and success stories with team members and decorate the office with the rainbow flag.
Then there are opportunities for additional events during Black History Month, Women’s History Month, AAPI Heritage Month, and more.
Just make sure that this is part of a larger noticeable inclusion initiative, or only focusing on it during pride month or Black History Month can backfire spectacularly:
There’s a lot that you can do to show members of your team that you appreciate them for who they are. This creates an excellent opportunity to increase staff morale and improve team-building throughout your inclusive workplace.
8. Create inclusion goals
You need to determine your goals for inclusion throughout the company to ensure that you’re creating a more inclusive corporate environment. Every organization should develop time-bound and measurable goals surrounding these efforts.
As a company, audit all of the processes you have concerning the people you employ. This includes recruitment, onboarding, development, and retention. Doing this allows you to pinpoint any areas where you could improve.
From there, identify any goals you have for inclusion and detail your reasons for choosing them. Determine how your organization will quantify inclusion and how your quest for it will impact the company as a whole, including the organization’s bottom line, branding, and mission.
This will help you explain inclusion efforts to stakeholders and speak in terms of dollars and cents.
Understanding your goals will also help you determine whether you’ve met them or not. If you haven’t, you’ll know what you have to do to regroup and redouble your efforts.
Inclusion matters in the modern workplace, whether it’s in person or remote. Merely making diverse hires is no longer enough. You have to embrace the diversity of your team and make them feel valued and seen through inclusive behaviors.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to running a business anymore. You can’t treat every employee the same and assume that their social, economic, and personal needs all match up neatly and cleanly.
Understand these eight tips listed above, and you’ll be able to create a more inclusive workplace culture that will improve the efficiency of your staff and create a more profitable business as a result.
About the author:
Vikas Kalwani is a product-led growth marketer and B2B Marketing Specialist skilled in SEO, Content Marketing, and Social Media Marketing. He manages partnerships at uSERP and is a mentor at 500 Global and Techstars.