10 Steps For Building an Inclusive Workplace
An Inclusive workplace is more than just a feel-good buzz phrase. Inclusive workplaces are the future of sustainable business, and they can make a workplace exponentially better for everyone walking your door.
Let’s start with a clear definition of an inclusive workplace. Inclusivity is a broad term uniting a few key components: people, ideas, and/or groups of communities. Such workspace builds an environment where an addition to the crew is always an available option. The thoughtful mix between talent and decision-making practices negates the chance anyone newly hired would feel out of place.
Inclusion is important because it leads to better internal team communication. Instead of everyone living on their own island, they better unite their best qualities under the same roof.
Let’s look at 10 steps you can take to make your workplace more inclusive for everyone.
1. Change the work culture
You can cultivate an inclusive work culture by making sure the workplace — whether in person or remote — is welcoming to everyone. It can be hard to change the culture, but the result is better relationships among your employees and customers.
You can start by encouraging everyone to give input on decisions that affect them. Giving a voice to all levels of employees creates an environment where everyone feels like they have something to contribute and are valued members of the team. Celebrate differences by recognizing individual contributions and giving credit where it is due.
Make time for dialogue and discussion among different groups of people at work. This encourages the shy or the introverted to feel more comfortable and speak up during meetings.
Encourage managers at all levels to give feedback on decisions that affect their teams, especially when it comes time for promotion opportunities.
You want your company’s culture to foster open communication with no fear of reprisal. Help your employees feel safe and welcome within the workplace community while promoting diversity among decision-makers at every level of management.
2. Provide diversity training
Information sessions can promote inclusivity in the workplace and introduce employees to new thought processes. Training can help coworkers become allies — and learn what it means to be and have an ally.
Allies support their coworkers’ ideas even if they do not completely agree with them. Such unconditional dedication and commitment help build trust between different social groups within an organization. As an ally, you can speak up against unfairness without being disrespectful of other viewpoints among colleagues.
Allies should understand how systemic and institutional oppression works, know how to identify it, and have empathy for the marginalized. As an ally, you can help bridge gaps between groups of people who might not otherwise be able to fully connect. A break in the communication chain on any level is a serious cause for concern.
3. Create a safe environment
Create a work culture of open communication so people feel comfortable expressing themselves and their ideas without fear of retribution. Encourage open communication by providing tools such as online discussions via cloud calling and online platforms like forums where people can experience the comfort they need to share their best ideas or have meaningful conversations with colleagues.
Integrate open-door policies in your workplace and promote inclusion. Allow your employees free and convenient access to executives any time they want.
An open forum allows employees from different levels of the corporate structure to contribute their ideas up and down the ladder and across departments. Every team member should always be in a position to address the company with their honest perspective and opinion.
Different viewpoints are detrimental to sound decision-making. Even great minds relate to external input, be that to improve upon their good-but-not-great ideas or promote great ideas when they see one. It all starts from letting your employees have a strong voice within the company.
Before implementing changes to a project, get a round of feedback from all departments, including non-directly involved. Pre-emptive moves like this negate any possible impact on the organization’s workflow.
If some suggestions seem like too much work to implement internally, then consider outsourcing instead.
4. Encourage employees to report incidents
Provide a way for your people to report incidents of discrimination or harassment at work without fear of retaliation so these types of issues don’t stay hidden or escalate.
Whistleblowing systems establish a clear channel for employees to address problems in the workplace and resolve them. The system runs in a safe environment where they can report issues without worrying about reprisals.
Include training sessions that explain how they can approach their managers if they feel discriminated against or harassed.
Create a suggestion box with anonymous contributions. You would be surprised how many unvoiced issues never see the light of day because people are shy, introverted, disengaged, the list goes on. It is best to put a physical box in a prominent place in the office. The pandemic turned the box into a convenient app – see what best matches your employee’s needs, in the context of your company culture.
Remote teams are notorious beacons for various instances of discrimination or harassment. Although giving a voice to your remote team is quite different than its in-house counterpart, it is possible to accomplish.
5. Provide skills training and mentorship
Get your team the training they want. Your company benefits from using talent coming from a variety of disciplines. Letting your employees choose their development path increases their morale, their motivation, and their authority when tackling tough decisions.
Some seemingly off-work skills can be incredibly useful as a company asset. For example, finances are integral to the functioning and success of a company, so giving employees access to online courses about finances can give them a more rounded view of their personal contribution to the company and how valuable they are.
Even if someone is not holding a financial role, they can benefit from understanding the business interactions of finances. This type of arbitrary training helps facilitate equity among employees of all backgrounds and levels of experience.
Allow new hires to learn from more experienced colleagues and vice versa. That way everyone is given the same opportunity for growth, regardless of their current position or skill level.
Consider implementing a mentorship program that pairs senior and junior employees. The mentor shares important insights about the company’s values.
6. Update everyone on company policies
Create a sense of inclusion for all employees by making them aware of your workplace policies and their entitlements.
An employee handbook can be handy when you communicate your policies and procedures to your team. The handbook should be kept up-to-date with policy changes, such as benefits packages or updates about hiring guidelines.
If such policies and procedures become the company’s common knowledge, they can help reduce turnover rates. When everyone understands what is expected from them, they are more likely to stay motivated and excel at their position.
7. Set clear expectations
If your team does not have expectations for success, they will not have the motivation to succeed! Setting transparent expectations makes the team see the next move, without any unnecessary confusion.
Role assigning is one of the best practices for strong teams. Make sure your team has a crystal clear idea about responsibilities and task distribution. Each part of the process should be distributed so that everyone feels they are being treated fairly.
Set realistic goals, based on the team’s specific skills and experience levels. It will show unhindered commitment from all parties involved. It feels good when everyone locks on opportunities to succeed.
Give feedback on performance issues early and regularly so any issues can be resolved before they become bigger problems. Regular feedback between managers and their teams should be a channel frequently used.
8. Advocate for your employees
A work culture starts with the employees who are working there every day. If one of your team members is being undermined or harassed at work, make sure to advocate for them by addressing the issue head-on. Make it clear that such behavior will not be tolerated by anyone in your workplace.
Identify the root causes for any lack of inclusion and handle them to prevent re-occurrences.
Running a list of unresolved problems may lead to employees feeling unsupported or undervalued. Escalations go beyond them quitting their job – in worse cases, lawsuits are possible.
Any form of discrimination or harassment that remains unaddressed can hurt the morale across the entire office.
9. Promote diversity at all levels of management
Be more inclusive towards diverse voices at meetings and when hiring new team members. Different skillsets contribute to making unique solutions and help you avoid biased hires.
Create practices and policies that support diversity in the hiring process. For example, try removing any assumptions from the applicant’s identity. Inclusion is not just something we strive for in our culture, it should also reflect how we do business.
Giving preferential treatment to any group for whatever reason will result in a break in the equilibrium of mutual effort.
10. Be mindful of how you communicate
Be respectful in all your communication channels, emails, meetings, or conference calls. Consider how the receiving party perceives the message. Avoid language and gestures with offensive or disrespectful connotations.
These can be any phrase or word that comes with an underlying meaning, even if unintentional. And these underlying meanings can vary among employees of diverse backgrounds. Demonstrate genuine concern for others through the way you communicate with them during all interactions, verbal or written.
Keep in mind that writing is not binary. It is an art form with nuances and subtleties that can have unintentional consequences if disregarded.
Keep your audience in mind when communicating so they feel empowered rather than undermined. By doing this, you bet on collaboration and empathy and avoid confrontation.
If your workplace can be compared to a garden, all plants in it should be thriving. The benefits that come from an inclusive workplace are almost self-explanatory in justifying them. Every member of your team has a unique profile, but they should share similar values, and be appreciative of each other’s efforts.
Once the inclusive policy is in place, your workplace will turn into a workshop full of like-minded professionals. Inclusive working environments are the key to better access available resources. They give employees a sense of authority and belonging and organically promote learning and development.