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What makes a workplace inclusive?

By 28/05/2021June 22nd, 2021Diversity and Inclusion
workplace inclusion

For companies looking to attract and retain top talent, a diverse and inclusive workplace is vital. In fact, HR industry analyst, Josh Bersin states that “companies that embrace diversity and inclusion in all aspects of their business statistically outperform their peers.”

Clearly, diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives are not just a feel-good, box-checking exercise for HR departments; but they have a marked impact on financial and business success.

Despite D&I soaring up the priority list in recent years for HR leaders, research has found that 75% of employees believe that more can be done.

What is the difference between diversity and inclusion?

Diversity constitutes the physical makeup of your workplace where as inclusion defines how your company creates an environment and culture that supports (and enables) all employees to contribute and thrive at work.

So, what makes a workplace inclusive?

A bottom-up approach to D&I

For any workplace to be truly inclusive, your employees, at all levels have to live and breathe it. Whether managers, team leaders, employees or your most tenured colleagues; inclusion as a concept is given life by your people.

The interactions, conversations and day-to-day engagement between employees are where your inclusion initiatives come to life. Helping people to feel welcomed, immersing them in your workplace and giving them a voice that is not only heard, but respected and valued will help each and every employee to bring their whole, unique selves to work.

Give your employees a voice and provide every channel necessary to encourage everyone an opportunity to share their views can help them to feel part of an organisation that knows and values them.

Leaders that champion inclusivity

But your managers and department heads must be leading from the front, inspiring your people to take positive steps towards inclusivity while spearheading strategic initiatives that promote diversity and inclusion. As the bridge between your employees and senior management team, managers are critical in promoting inclusivity.

Managers must be conscious of existing bias and anything that might narrow your people’s field of vision, promoting diversity of thought, as well as diversity in terms of backgrounds and ethnicities. Encouraging employees to understand their own unconscious bias can help them to be more aware of the diversity within your workforce and drive respect, community and self-reflection.

Clearly, managers need to be educated and trained to understand and support all employees and cultivate an inclusive culture.

Inclusive HR policies

Although there is no legal requirement to have a documented D&I policy, it is good practice to produce one that demonstrates your business’ commitment to being a diverse and inclusive employer. As employers look to become more inclusive, existing HR and workplace policies may need to be reworked – or abolished entirely.

From obvious changes such as respecting different cultural holidays or periods of celebration to updating your recruitment policy to attract candidates from more diverse talent pools; ensure that each of the policies and processes that impact your people reflect them, too.

Be accountable

Creating inclusive workplace policies is a great foundation for becoming truly inclusive but employers must regularly audit, review and evaluate their progress towards inclusivity. Use a range of data sources (qualitative and quantitative), elicit frequent feedback from employees and understand exactly where any improvements could be made. Where do barriers exist? What could you do better?

Remember to monitor the impact of your initiatives, policy changes and use employee feedback to proactively make changes where they are needed.

Make time for connecting

Similarly, true inclusivity relies on the social connections we make at work. Our peer groups, friends and colleagues can help us to feel properly included – especially for newer members of the team.

Giving your team time to socialise, arranging get-togethers or hosting team-building exercises can not only help them to bond socially but helps them to get to know their colleagues away from workplace chatter and tasks.

Research shows that this type of structured socialising leads to higher levels of trust and fosters a sense of belonging, especially for people who are underrepresented in a business.

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