For many employers, inclusivity is about hiring individuals from diverse countries, sexual orientations and religions. Inclusion has become a synonym for diversity within the workplace, and though both diversity and inclusion are both vital components in creating a positive workplace, it isn’t exactly correct to use these two concepts interchangeably.
While hiring individuals from diverse backgrounds is a great starting point, an inclusive business should have a workplace that acknowledges, embraces and celebrates these unique perspectives and people. By cultivating an inclusive company culture, employers will avoid marginalising their employees and create an equal range of opportunities to suit their workforce. Prioritising inclusion can no longer be an afterthought for employers; it’s crucial that employees feel safe and comfortable within the environment where they spend the majority of their time.
Also, creating an inclusive workplace doesn’t just make social sense, it makes business sense. Deloitte found that businesses with inclusive cultures are two times more likely to meet or exceed financial targets and 8 times more likely to achieve better business outcomes.
How to create an inclusive workplace
Listen to your employees
To improve upon your company’s culture of inclusivity, you will first need to understand the current state of the culture. Spend some time listening to your employees to figure out what is currently working for them and what needs improved. This can be done by organising both small and large-scale meetings, creating surveys or anonymous feedback boxes. It’s important to listen to employees from all departments and levels of the company, as the company’s culture will surely feel different to employees in executive roles compared to entry level roles.
Create a two-way communication channel
Opening a two-way line of communication between management and all employees will make employees feel comfortable with voicing their ideas and concerns. This will also show employees that employers encourage engagement and are trustworthy by being available and open for discussion. Depending on the size and structure of your business, different styles of communication may work for you. It’s common for larger organisations to dedicate a separate team to deal with feedback, but smaller organisations may simply have an ‘open door policy’ for employees.
Create safe spaces
Many companies have created various types of safe spaces within their workplace to ensure that employees feel comfortable within the workplace. Consider creating gender-neutral bathrooms to promote non-binary inclusion, prayer spaces, lactation rooms for new mothers or quiet workspaces for employees with sensory issues. Safe online spaces can be created by encouraging employees to add their pronouns to their email signatures and online profiles if they wish to do so.
Integrate inclusivity into your core values
If your core values or mission statement doesn’t have a statement on inclusive culture, revisit it to reflect your commitment to inclusion. If you already have a statement on inclusivity but feel that it may be lacking, ask for suggestions for feedback from employees. These additional perspectives will help to create a well-rounded and balanced statement. Having an effective mission statement shows that you’re committed to inclusion to current employees, and as new employees come on-board they will become aware of your values also.
Consider drafting policies around discrimination if your company doesn’t have these already. Zero tolerance policies towards discrimination are used to communicate to employees that your company will not tolerate discrimination or harassment. These policies can reassure employees that your company is a true champion of diversity and that you are committed to creating a safe environment to work in.
Make your meetings accessible
Consider re-evaluating your meeting strategy to ensure that all employees feel like they can speak up and contribute during meetings. This can be as simple as creating a meeting plan beforehand and circulating it throughout the workplace to give everyone more time to think about ideas and suggestions. Here are some tips to get you started.
Throughout the year there are many cultural festivals, observances and awareness months in addition to Christian and secular holidays like Christmas and Bank Holidays. Encourage employees to mark the dates that are meaningful to them and acknowledge these holidays on the company-wide calendar to raise awareness and increase the sense of belonging within the workplace. Even go a step further and include major religious holidays such as Diwali, Ramadan or Rosh Hashanah in your company’s holiday calendar.
For more information on how to navigate diversity and inclusivity within the workplace in Northern Ireland visit Diversity Mark.