The move towards a diverse and inclusive workforce is one of the most important steps any business can take. Hiring people of different ages, race, ethnicities, sexual orientation, gender, religion, physical ability, and worldviews is truly a step in the right direction. However, hiring a diverse workforce is only half the battle. After all, it is called Diversity and Inclusion (D&I). It takes more effort and commitment to create an inclusive work environment.
What is an Inclusive Work Environment?
An inclusive workplace is one where all employees feel respected, heard, and welcome; they feel that they are free to share their ideas and opinions without the risk of being alienated or victimized. Leaders in an inclusive workplace are empathic and supportive, treating everyone with the same respect, courtesy, and integrity.
How To Create an Inclusive Workplace ?
1. Train your Leaders on D&I
Start from the top. On the floor, the executives and managers are the frontliners of every D&I initiative you have. No matter how well-crafted your programs are, if the experience that the leaders create negates them, efforts become futile.
Mandatory training is a great starting point. Bosses at every level must undergo training on what inclusion is, why it is important, and what strategies to take to foster it on a regular basis. Every leader in the organization must also have the opportunity to look into their personal biases and craft ways to model inclusive behavior.
Train them, and make sure that they are held accountable for their actions. It must be instilled in them that diversity and inclusion is core competency.
2. Embrace and Celebrate Employee Diversity
A great way to promote and foster inclusion in the workplace is to regularly create avenues to share and celebrate their backgrounds and traditions. One example of this is organizing events that promote employee engagement and inclusiveness, such as potlucks wherein everyone can showcase delicacies from their home countries. Promoting inclusiveness can also be as simple as allocating a room where your Muslim employees can find a quiet place to pray.
Embracing diversity also means taking the necessary steps to make sure that everyone in the company feels safe. For example, offering unisex bathrooms can ease the worries of transgender and gender non-conforming employees, considering the various bathroom bills legislated in different states that do impact transgender rights.
3. Make Inclusiveness a Matter of Policy
Regularly assess employee policies to make sure that there are no barriers to inclusion. Policies must be carefully drafted and well-communicated to all members of the organization. It must be clearly stated in the policies what constitutes harassment and discrimination, as well as the repercussions and consequences of such behaviors.
Your policy for holidays must also include and honor various religions and practices. Employees must also feel that their company leave policies properly represent them and cater to their unique needs.
4. Form an Inclusion Committee
A good way to solidify your company’s D&I initiatives is to create a council of influential leaders that will spearhead and guard the inclusion efforts in the organization. They must be involved in the process of setting goals when it comes to hiring, retaining, recruiting, and onboarding a diverse workforce.
The committee itself must also be diverse — not only in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, and religion, among others — but also in their business functions and locations.
5. Provide Avenues for Employee Feedback
An open dialogue is a great environment for inclusiveness. Give employees multiple avenues to voice their opinions and share their ideas. Employee surveys, focus groups, and all-hands meetings, among others, can foster open communication and healthy communication.
When employees feel that they are listened to and that they are in a safe place to speak up, it becomes easier for them to communicate what makes them feel included. This contributes to the synergy that your D&I initiatives want to accomplish.
6. Set Goals and Measure Progress
Just like in any organizational goal and strategy, set specific, measurable, and time-bound goals when it comes to inclusion. Take a close look at your processes — recruitment, hiring, developing, advancement, and retention — and identify shortcomings and weak points. For example, when it comes to career advancement in the company, does everybody, regardless of background, get the same opportunities? In recruitment, how do you describe an “ideal” candidate? A full audit of the processes is necessary to come up with inclusion goals and the ways in which to quantify them.
Creating an inclusive work environment and cultivating an inclusive culture amongst all members of the organization takes planning, commitment, and a hard look at current ways, as well as at personal and unconscious biases. The HR department, being in the front line of diversity and inclusion initiatives, has the privilege and responsibility to move an organization into a more inclusive, forward-thinking, and compassionate future.