How to Foster a More Inclusive Workplace Culture
Inclusivity is important to all kinds of employees: A Deloitte survey found that 80 percent of the workers they surveyed wanted to work at an inclusive company, and the Harvard Business Review found that firms that practice diversity are 45% likelier to report growth in market, and are 70% more likely to capture a new market.
But what do inclusivity practices really mean? How can HR implement them in a workplace? Let’s take a closer look at the ins and outs of inclusivity, how to foster it, and how to deal with challenges that may arise on the way.
What is Inclusivity?
Inclusivity refers to a group setting – in this case, a workplace – where individuals with varying experiences, backgrounds, and identities are all equally welcomed. Team members feel welcomed in the group, and valued for their contributions. Other members of the group trust team members regardless of backgrounds or identities. Employees feel empowered and recognized.
Inclusivity is often found as part of a DEI, or Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion strategy. Inclusivity is an important step here because pushing for diversity doesn’t just mean hiring people with different backgrounds; it also means fostering a workplace where they understand each other and can easily work together.
This can take different kinds of preparation, changes to how teams work, and new training in communication, among other steps.
The Benefits of Inclusivity
Employees are attracted to an inclusive workplace. Practicing inclusivity makes it easier to meet diversity goals because applicants recognize that they’ll be valued and treated with respect. This can make recruiting talent much easier for businesses that are looking to expand.
As we mentioned above, studies have found that businesses that focus on inclusivity are also much more likely to report moving into new markets. A workplace that values inclusion from the top to the bottom is more likely to learn about new opportunities and understand how they can benefit the organization. They may also find it easier to adapt, launch new strategies, and enter markets thanks to the greater combined experience and input of employees.
An inclusive workplace is a healthy workplace – literally. Employees in diverse, inclusive workplaces face less stress, take fewer sick days, and have better physical and mental health. They’re generally happier at their jobs, too. This is especially true of millennials and younger workers, who place a lot of value on inclusivity and may let it influence their productivity.
Inclusive workplaces foster trust between employees and leadership. Since inclusivity encourages input and recognition of value, it can lead to employees understanding leadership more easily and feeling more appreciated by their leaders. Trust in leadership is a rare currency in today’s organizations, and inclusivity is an excellent practice to encourage it.
Inclusivity leads to healthier reward structures. When all employees feel valued and recognized regardless of their identity, it becomes easier to identify and foster talent. Rewards are less likely to be linked to favoritism, nepotism, or inaccurate decisions. This also makes it easier for employees to acquire new training, grow their talent, and move up to new responsibilities.
Inclusive teams receive more useful input on products and services, and are better equipped to use that input to make good decisions. That leads to better customer service, better product upgrades, and better choices when it comes to developing new products. In fact, inclusive groups make better decisions overall, and adding inclusivity to a group – especially gender diversity – significantly improves decisions made.
Inclusive organizations are better at marketing. They’re able to market to a broader variety of people with confidence, and are less likely to make embarrassing cultural gaffes when creating marketing materials. They may also have more insight into what kinds of marketing are most effective for specific groups.
Inclusivity improves profits. Not only does productivity get a boost from happy employees, but the combination of better decisions and more input from employees leads to direct earnings increases. A McKinsey report estimates, for example, that every 10-percent increase in diversity on senior executive teams leads to a 0.8% increase in total earnings. Inclusive businesses have also been found to be more profitable in times of crisis compared to other companies.
Tips for Fostering an Inclusive Work Environment
Find your organization’s inclusivity status. You need a starting place to work on inclusivity, and any DEI effort should include analysis of an organization’s current status and what they need to work on. This also allows HR to create specific inclusivity goals that the company can meet. Some organizations may decide to set very quantifiable goals related to diversifying the workplace, while others may choose more open-ended goals.
Have difficult conversations. Encourage feedback, and have practices in place to offer direct feedback about how employees are communicating with each other.
One-on-one meetings are important to help encourage honesty for employees as well. This can be an awkward step, since employees may feel worried or defensive, but it’s necessary so HR can understand inclusivity issues in the workplace and talk through problems.
Work on unconscious bias. Unconscious bias is at the root of many inclusivity issues, but there are employee training exercises to help recognize it and take steps to get rid of it. It’s important that bias training like this moves beyond awareness and includes a full course on why unconscious bias is dangerous, and specific steps that employees can take to tackle bias in the workplace.
Basic training that stops with recognizing bias can often leave employees feeling frustrated, confused, and targeted by the company, so it’s important to follow through.
Rethink how meetings work. Do meetings have clear agendas where everyone is asked for input? Is everyone provided with all information in the meeting? Are some meetings harder to get to for certain employees in remote work situations or different time zones? Do meetings make room for disagreement, alternate opinions, and debate?
These are all key questions to ask about how your organization handles meetings and gives a voice to all employees, not just those who speak up or agree.
Recruit from diverse talent. Encourage recruitment practices that consider diverse types of talents and work situations, and watch for any bias when creating job descriptions and narrowing down applicant pools. A full recruitment audit may be necessary.
Offer a reporting system. HR needs to know if there’s a problem – but diversity and inclusivity issues can be hard to talk about. Anonymous reporting is easier these days than ever thanks to digital tools, so it’s vital to have a secure reporting system in place where employees can share what’s concerning them.
Address accountability issues. Inclusivity doesn’t improve if employees aren’t held accountable – all the way from the entry level workers to the C-suite executives.
That’s one of the most challenging steps of any DEI initiative, but accountability must be implemented for the other steps to work. No one should be allowed to ignore inclusivity goals, or be excused from inclusivity practices for any reason.
How to Promote Inclusion in the Workplace
Looking for a few specific methods to promote inclusion as you start working on your initiative? Here are practices that may help:
Mention diversity and inclusion in your job descriptions. Diverse talent watches for signs that a workplace is welcoming.
Have awareness days. It may seem a little cheesy, but advertising awareness days for underrepresented groups can be a great way to stimulate workplace inclusion and help people confront biases.
Change teams around. Arrange for different employees to sit with different teams to provide new input, and help teams get used to seeing new faces. When done in a constructive way, this kind of team mixup can benefit all sides.
Acknowledge more holidays. Like awareness days and volunteer events, acknowledging more holidays can be a great way to get a workplace more acquainted with other cultures, religions, and practices.
Create a “council” to set inclusivity goals. Ideally, this would allow you to assemble a particularly diverse group to learn more about concerns and ideas before you start planning the initiatives.
Use an employee survey. Underrepresented groups don’t often feel like they should speak up about issues. Sending out a survey is a direct request to get their opinion and learn more.
Create round-robin meetings. These are meetings where time is specifically set aside to let each person at the meeting talk in turn and voice any opinions they may have. It can help workplaces become acquainted with inclusivity if they don’t have much experience.
If you’re preparing to improve inclusivity policies at the workplace, having a complete plan is important, and showing benefits like those we’ve mentioned in this guide is a great way to win support for changes.
Part of promoting a DEI strategy is great communication, as well. Consider enrolling in KnowledgeCity’s convenient, effective course on Promoting a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Policy to learn about the most important steps to take to foster inclusivity. KnowledgeCity is here to help you achieve your professional goals and find the specific solutions that will work best for your organization.
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