Diversity and inclusivity should go hand in hand in a workplace.
There has been a lot of focus on hiring diverse employees, but it’s essential also to create an inclusive culture within the company to make sure everyone feels valued and supported, no matter their background, gender, or health.
By creating a truly inclusive workplace culture, your employees will be more engaged and productive and stay for longer.
What is an inclusive workplace culture?
An inclusive workplace culture is a work environment that welcomes and values employees of diverse backgrounds.
According to a Mckinsey report, most diverse companies are now more likely than ever to outperform less diverse peers on profitability.
In addition to increased profitability, other benefits of an inclusive workplace include:
Enhanced employee engagement
Studies have shown that organizations with diverse employees are more creative due to various ideas, perspectives, skills, and work experiences.
People are more engaged because they know all suggestions are welcomed. Thus, they can think outside the box and won’t fear judgment or ridicule. Employees are more engaged because work becomes more meaningful and satisfying.
Improved employee retention
Inclusion means building a culture where everyone is comfortable and welcomed. It makes employees feel valued and cared for, improving employee retention.
When employees feel connected to the companies they’re working for, they’re less likely to quit their jobs. Not only do they help their employers reach business goals, they reward them by staying with them and ignoring job offers from other companies.
Here are two companies and their strategies for creating an inclusive workplace:
Sodexo is committed to delivering the best possible work-life experiences for all its employees.
They have positioned DEI as the cornerstone of their company culture by recruiting people with disabilities, prioritizing gender balance and equality, and promoting an inclusive environment for their LGBT staff.
Mastercard’s (DEI) work is dedicated to empowering its staff. They have nine distinct business resource groups (BRGs) created to promote a more inclusive culture.
They also ensure that there is a diverse representation of people at all levels of the company. The company also addresses pay equity by establishing a framework for examining pay practices annually.
What are the characteristics of inclusive workplace culture?
Now that you have an idea of the benefits of an inclusive workplace, how do you actually know when you see one?
To get a deeper understanding of an inclusive workplace, here are characteristics to look out for:
Feel a sense of belonging
Employees feel a sense of belonging when they feel secure and supported. Their managers and peers accept them. They feel included and able to identify with certain members of a group within the workplace.
Belongingness is when a person can be their ‘authentic self’ at work.
When employees feel a deep sense of belongingness with their employers, they are engaged and motivated to do more.
Have a voice
Employees think they ‘have a voice’ with their companies when they’re allowed to express their concerns without judgment or fear of negative consequences.
When employees feel they can say what’s on their minds, it positively impact their work.
Their recommendations could mean a new way of doing things, fresh ideas that could improve the company’s business and work processes, or even resolve issues within the company.
People need to be recognized for the contributions they bring to the company.
More than productivity, companies with a diverse workforce need to recognize the unique value every individual brings. The distinctive set of skills and perspectives leads to higher levels of creativity and innovation necessary to propel the organization forward.
The unique strengths and talents of each person should be celebrated and affirmed through regular feedback sessions between managers and direct reports and among peers.
Have access to learning and development opportunities
One way employers show they care about their staff is by providing learning and development opportunities.
Training is aimed at providing professional development and isn’t just about catering to the needs of the company. There are also learning activities that support employees’ interest in gaining new skills or acquiring new hobbies or passions.
L&D programs should be accessible to all employees, again regardless of age, sex, position, expertise, or experience. It should meet the individual needs of each employee.
A collaborative work environment is necessary to maximize each person’s unique skills and abilities. Moreover, it breaks down barriers and encourages inclusion on a company-wide level.
Open-mindedness and respect are keys to making collaboration work among team members. Make sure everyone is given the opportunity to be heard, and every person should be given credit for their contributions and ideas.
Having access to resources
Give employees the support they need to be inclusive.
It could be the moral support from supervisors, employee resource groups (ERGS), or diversity or affinity groups in your organization to demonstrate the company’s commitment to their staff’s growth and well-being.
Resources could also mean technology that enables everyone to do their work.
How do you create an inclusive culture in the workplace?
Creating an inclusive culture isn’t that complicated. To get you started, here are some strategies to promote inclusiveness of culture:
1. Use inclusive language
Using inclusive language is the most fundamental thing you can do to create an inclusive workplace.
If you’re uncertain, ask your coworker about their preferred language and respect it. Don’t assume what they like based on stereotypes and what limited information you have. If unsure, use ‘they/them’ instead of ‘he’ or ‘she’.
Be aware of how your words and phrases will be interpreted. Avoid discriminatory and offensive terms and expressions, and use terms such as person with disability, fluent in English instead of Native English speaker and parental leave instead of maternity/paternity leave.
If you accidentally use offensive language, apologize for your mistake and make sure it won’t happen again
And if you hear someone use inappropriate language, call out the person (in private) and correct the behavior and language used.
2. Create safe spaces for your employees
Part of having an inclusive workplace culture is making sure that the comfort and safety of all employees are addressed, especially from those underrepresented groups.
For instance, build unisex comfort rooms or toilets to cater to transgender employees.
People with disabilities should have access to a safe and comfortable working environment so they can perform their duties properly. Consider:
- Creating accessible toilets, bathrooms, and parking spots
- Building ramps, tactile indicators, or assistance for staircases
- Modifying work areas to include special equipment and wheelchair-accessible
- Enabling digital accessibility to cater to employees with auditory, visual, motor, or cognitive disabilities like website navigation and text size or hearing aids.
Inclusive work spaces can also be fostered by allowing employees to spend time with one another. Host team lunches, in-office support groups, or networking events to bond with others who share the same experiences.
These company events help promote a safe and open environment that allows conversations among employees and discuss issues important to the community.
Foster productive team environments where all employees can make creative inputs or suggest solutions to problems.
3. Be open to employees’ feedback
To start, you need to understand the current state of culture, what is working, what needs to change or improve, and what could be scrapped.
Transparency is crucial when it comes to building an inclusive workplace culture, which means listening to what employees have to say.
Conduct one-on-one meetings and interviews, anonymous employee surveys, and workshops to collect feedback. The goal is to have clear and honest conversations.
Be prepared to receive negative and positive feedback on what is working from the ground up to the middle and upper management.
Essential to effectively receiving feedback is the ability to give feedback, so that both parties are on the same page.
It's hard to know all the norms and expectations of a particular group. To avoid miscommunication, avoid implied statements. Use direct statements. Discuss about communication and collaboration preferences and working styles.
4. Expand the company holiday calendar (include holidays that represent different religious beliefs)
To advocate cultural diversity, be sure to include holidays that represent the religious and cultural beliefs of minority groups in your organization.
If you have Jewish employees, observe Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Celebrate Diwali and Navrati festivals with your Hindu coworkers. And for Muslim staff, honor Eid-al-Fitr, Eid-al-Adha, Ramadan, and Muharram holidays.
If you can’t make these events as company-wide holidays, the least you can do is to acknowledge them. Observing these events brings awareness and recognition that foster a sense of belongingness to some practitioners.
5. Provide diversity training for everyone
Diversity training aims to address prejudices and stereotypes within the organization. An effective training goes beyond training employees to understanding different cultures but also learning how to cooperate with others while embracing differences in backgrounds and perspectives.
On a basic level, training includes raising awareness on the different types of diversity, understanding and appreciating differences among employees, and providing information and tips to improve employees’ interpersonal skills to create a positive work environment.
A more deep dive approach would be teaching employees how to respectfully engage with coworkers from a different background or someone with a different perspective.
Or you could also design your training program to tackle various DEI issues like managing unconscious biases and cross-cultural communications.
6. Create a diversity training group to help maintain these changes
A successful diversity training isn't just a one-time event. To ensure the program’s ‘stickiness’ , HR should create a diversity training group to help design and maintain these changes.
They should also be made responsible for implementing activities, programs, and mentoring opportunities that reinforces DEI principles in the company.
Not all diversity training programs are the same. You have to customize it based on your organizational needs and ensure long-term application.
And for your diversity training to be effective, the training group should take a holistic approach. It should be open to everyone, across all levels, regardless of the employees’ status with the company.
7. Have a non-discrimination policy
A vital part of an inclusive culture strategy is having a formal policy against discrimination. It should be displayed prominently in your company’s workplace and website.
It covers recruitment where all candidates are welcome to apply without the fear of discrimination.
Another is having a non-discrimination policy that reflects your company’s commitment to treating everyone equally. It is also effective in preventing harassment and bullying at work, especially targeted at underrepresented groups.
8. Establish employee resource groups (ERGs)
ERGs are voluntary, employee-led groups that are usually based upon an aspect of identity (gender, race, sexual orientation, ability, veteran status) or role (IT, sales, marketing).
ERGs help an organization improve employee engagement. They also empower an organization to access a broad network of diverse talent, contractors, and suppliers who can help an organization’s workforce better reflect the communities and customers they serve.
9. Build mentorship programs to foster cross-cultural engagement
Assign mentors, sponsors, and proteges as part of a co-mentoring relationship between employees of different identities, backgrounds, or traditions.
Cross-cultural relationships allow individuals to grow by learning new perspectives and engaging with them effectively.
Creating an inclusive workplace culture takes time. You must carefully plan and strategize your DEI programs to make long-term changes. Diversity and inclusion are ever-evolving, so be prepared to make adjustments as needed.
Your diverse employees are the key to making your inclusive culture successful so getting their feedback and support is critical.
Last but not least, investing in company culture initiatives will not only make your organization a good place to work but also improve your company’s productivity and profits.