Diverse workforces offer a mixture of skill sets, experiences and ways of thinking that benefit individuals and the organisations they work for. Diversity can increase creativity, innovation, productivity and wellbeing, helping to create a working environment where everyone can reach their full potential.
However, these benefits don’t just come from hiring a diverse range of people and hoping for the best. Workplaces need to foster a culture of respect and inclusion for all types of people, where everyone feels appreciated, valued and empowered. But workplaces are still not as inclusive as they could be. A survey sent out by the CIPD UK Working Lives found that 22% of employees felt they would be judged by their colleagues for being different.
Organisations need to do more than simply create a policy on diversity and inclusion for there to be positive change. Employers must take proactive steps to overcome barriers and make a long-term financial and moral commitment towards building an inclusive work environment for all of their employees.
We’ve compiled 5 things employers can do to create a culture of respect and inclusion in the workplace.
1) Set inclusion goals
Assess the current situation in your organisation. Are there people in the workplace that might not be as included as others? Or are there certain processes that could be more inclusive, for example in recruitment, training or promotion opportunities? After identifying these shortcomings, create inclusion goals for how you want your organisation to improve. Think about what you want the workplace to look like and what specific practices or behaviours are necessary to make that happen. How does your organisation expect employees to behave towards one another and how do you hope to communicate and measure these new changes?
2) Train your employees
Providing training to staff is a good way to communicate your organisation’s inclusion goals and also create an awareness about the many ways in which we are different. Becoming more familiar with each other’s differences can help break down stigmas, prejudices and unconscious biases people might have and help people learn how to appreciate and respect one another.
There are a range of topics that can help build awareness about diversity, such as mental health, gender and sexuality, cultural awareness. Regular online training enrollments on these topics is an easy, streamlined way to train your staff and refresh their knowledge helping your organisation work towards a culture of respect and inclusivity.
Here at EssentialSlillz, we offer 2 courses, The Equality Act Course and The Diversity & Inclusion Course. The aim of these courses is to provide employees with essential information on equality legislation and how everyone can improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
3) Celebrate each other’s differences
A great way to promote respect and inclusion is to recognise and celebrate people. Tell people when they have worked hard, thank them when they’ve gone out of their way to help others, and celebrate their successes. For example, if your colleague gets a promotion, organise a congratulations greeting card or a dinner for everyone to celebrate.
Consider the diverse makeup of your organisation and how you can acknowledge and respect people’s different backgrounds, cultures and traditions. It could be as simple as displaying red, white and blue balloons for American Independence Day, or providing jelly-filled pastries to celebrate Tłusty Czwartek or ‘Fat Thursday’ in Poland. Or organisations can do even more to promote inclusion, for example, by setting up prayer rooms, gender-neutral bathrooms and nursing rooms for mothers.
4) Have a safe space for people to voice concerns
Encourage employees to speak up if they have concerns about respect and inclusion at work. And if or when staff raise concerns, make sure that all concerns are taken seriously, and that people know they are being heard. Employees that feel there is a safe space for them to address issues are more likely to feel protected and happy in their place of work.
5) Be transparent and praise efforts
After rolling out your inclusion initiative, assess how things are going. Are the inclusion goals being achieved? Have there been any positive outcomes since the goals were implemented? Communicate to people about what is going well and how that is benefiting the organisation. As well, highlight what things still need improvement. Being transparent about both positive and negative outcomes can help boost motivation and buy-in towards any inclusion efforts.
Above all, show gratitude for people implementing inclusion goals and demonstrating respect and inclusion. Praise and recognition can be extremely powerful in building and maintaining an inclusive workplace culture.
Organisations cannot benefit from diversity without respect and inclusion. And it requires more than just an inclusion policy to change workplace culture. Employers must be focused and ready to make a long-term investment to overcoming barriers and promoting inclusivity throughout the entire organisation. This requires a number of things from creating inclusion goals and rolling out training to celebrating diversity, encouraging employees to speak up, and being transparent about the impact of people’s efforts.
Together, we can slowly start to change how people view an
d interact with one another, and work towards cultivating an environment where everyone feels respected, valued and included.
SHRM – 6 Steps for Building an Inclusive Workplace
CIPD – Building Inclusive Workplaces
CIPD – Diversity and Inclusion at Work
Forbes – How To Create A More Inclusive Workplace Culture
McKinsey – Diversity Wins; How inclusion matters