Building an inclusive workplace is about fostering diversity, equality, and a sense of belonging among employees – and when it’s done right, the benefits it gives back to your business are unrivalled.
It’s taken a while to evolve, but compared to 10 years ago, we’ve come on in leaps and bounds when it comes to diversity and inclusion in the workplace – and that’s amazing. But there’s still work to be done to make this an active ambition, rather than a passive one that just happens of its own accord; especially because it can be a source of fresh inspiration, and new heights of success for your organisation.
In this blog, we’ll break down what it really means to build an inclusive workplace, the benefits it can bring, and the specific steps you can take to establish and nurture your own culture of inclusion and diversity – and reap the rewards.
What exactly are you trying to achieve?
The best place to start when assessing your own levels of diversity and inclusion is to understand what the two terms really mean. They’re different, but go hand-in-hand. Diversity relates to the solid facts about your organisation: who you’ve got in terms of gender, ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation, for example. Inclusion is the culture, the spirit in which you work, and how your organisation makes people feel. The staff in organisations with a great culture of inclusion feel able to be themselves, talk about what’s important to them, and offer their opinions and suggestions confidently.
Why does it matter?
Inclusion is vital because it unleashes the power of all that diversity you have. You can have the most diverse workforce there is, but if people aren’t comfortable to speak up and use their background and lived experience, it’s all going to waste. You won’t be tapping into that wealth of knowledge, and the wide range of different perspectives that could give you a brand new approach, or a breakthrough idea.
Plus, it’s important for society more generally: it helps move us closer towards a genuinely fair and unbiased world, where everyone has the same empowerment and opportunity to thrive and succeed at work – and ultimately, be happy and fulfilled.
All the benefits…
When staff feel seen, included and confident in contributing, the benefits for your organisation are boundless. Here are the big ones:
1 – Your people will feel happier, and have higher job satisfaction. This almost always translates into higher productivity and company loyalty, because your team feel motivated and know their work is appreciated.
2 – Creativity and innovation – fresh ideas come from people who are allowed to think in different ways from the company tradition, and when they’ve got the confidence to put them forward.
3 – Greater ownership and problem solving – when your team is empowered to manage and solve issues, there’s less for you to address on your to-do list.
4 – Lower turnover and reduced recruitment costs. That satisfaction and loyalty will mean they don’t want to leave, so the business retains their knowledge and experience. Plus, you’re saved the time and trouble of recruiting, replacing and training up new staff.
Everyone is happier – better team, better business, better you. Everyone’s a winner.
How to foster your own inclusion culture
There are many things you can do – some small steps, some bigger ones – to shift your culture towards a more inclusive one. Here are some ideas:
- Show that you value and appreciate diverse perspectives and contributions: encourage collaboration, teamwork, and active participation from all employees, and recognise individuals when they go above and beyond. Most important of all, have zero tolerance for discrimination, harassment or bullying.
- Celebrate the cultural events and religious holidays that are marked by your team members, and important diversity-related milestones like International Women’s Day, to boost the sense of belonging, being valued, and awareness of the issues or discrimination that individuals may face.
- Have a clear diversity and inclusion policy that reflects your commitment to an inclusive culture, and make sure everyone knows it exists.
- Analyse what you do as a business through the lens of biases – unconscious or otherwise –with a review of your organisation’s policies, practices, and procedures to see how they could be perceived from a range of perspectives. Try new approaches like blind recruitment (removing the names from application forms before they are assessed), diverse interview panels, inclusive performance evaluation criteria, and remove any gendered or biased language.
- Encourage open communication, with clear channels for employees to express their concerns, provide feedback, and share their experiences. Establish anonymous reporting mechanisms to address issues of bias, discrimination, or harassment promptly.
- Implement flexible working arrangements where you can.
- Assess and improve regularly: ask your team how you’re doing. Employee surveys, focus groups, and other feedback will help you to gauge how effective your diversity and inclusion initiatives are – and you can use that info to identify areas for improvement and adjust your strategies accordingly.
Leading by example is the key to fostering and keeping an inclusive workplace. It takes ongoing effort, learning and adaptation but the rewards are great: you’ll have a workplace that prizes diversity and all it can offer, and a team that’s creative, communicative and committed to your business’s success.
Some of this can seem quite daunting, when there’s so much ‘day job’ to get done as well. That’s where Haus of HR can help. We specialise in the people and practices in your business, and we’d love to help yours to thrive and shine. Just give us a call and arrange a free consultation.
We’ve also developed a handy download on this very topic, which includes five steps for measuring your own inclusivity, and more ideas for creating your own diverse and welcoming workplace – get your copy here: https://hausofhr.com/inclusive-workplace