Today, most entrepreneurs will agree that an inclusive work environment is the key to success in the corporate world. As companies become more employee-centric, employers must make substantial efforts to make employees feel valued. They should acknowledge the different traits they bring to the organization. No wonder the concept of diversity and inclusivity is fast-penetrating the industry, with many companies creating a dedicated wing for leadership roles in Diversity and Inclusion (D&I). According to the Wall Street Journal, nearly 60% of Fortune 500 companies have a Chief Diversity Officer or similar posts.
However, maintaining an inclusive workplace is easier said than done. A recent survey by Glassdoor among 5,200+ employees across four countries exhibited that over one-third had directly experienced or witnessed ageism. 24% of the surveyees reported facing LGBTQ discrimination, 30% reported facing or seeing racism, and 33% reported facing gender discrimination.
So, what’s the need of the hour?
Employers must study the above mnetioned surveys and introspect on radical ways to create a safe and inclusive environment at work.
This article aims to help employers understand the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, along with practical strategies and tips.
The Concept of an Inclusive Workplace
An inclusive workplace is a work environment where employees from demographics, including race, ethnicity, age, gender, socioeconomic background, etc., are included in the core team and valued for their contributions without any bias. Essentially, an inclusive workplace welcomes, appreciates, and values professionals from all folds of society without any prejudice.
Industry leaders consider diversity a vital fabric of the organization in any inclusive work environment. Diverse and inclusive work culture attracts potential employees to an organization while keeping the existing employees satisfied and happy. Companies practicing this concept celebrate their workforce’s differences – it is from these differences, and unique perspectives companies can create innovative solutions for modern business challenges.
Why Should Companies Build Inclusive Workspaces?
An inclusive workplace is vital to bolstering employee mental well-being and productivity, apart from obvious ethical and moral business choices.
Here are a few reasons why maintaining an inclusive environment at work is essential for both employers and employees –
Avoid legal issues
Maintaining an inclusive culture in a diverse workplace environment enables organizations to avoid legal troubles. By creating an unbiased work culture that does not discriminate against employees from different walks of life, employers can foster a safe and inclusive environment at work.
Increase employee retention
An inclusive workplace culture makes employees feel satisfied and valued. Consequently, it boosts employee retention and encourages employees to push their limits.
Boost employee engagement
Inclusivity helps generate ideas and increase employee engagement. In an inclusive workplace, employees feel comfortable engaging in team-building activities, participating in brainstorming sessions, and contributing to team meetings.
Reduce hiring expenses
Inclusive work culture invokes loyalty among your employees – they feel secure about their place in their organization. Since employees stay for the long term, this helps cut hiring costs with decreased employee turnover. Research carried out by Limeade Institute and Artemis Connection shows that employees who feel more included are 43% more committed to their workplaces.
Understanding the Core Components of an Inclusive Workplace
An inclusive workplace focuses on being open, unbiased, cooperative, accountable, curious, collaborative, and fair. Creating such an inclusive work environment requires in-depth business understanding, management, and hard work.
These fundamental components can help employers build an inclusive workplace:
Access to resources
Employees must receive adequate support from their employers through tools, company resources, training programs, etc. Such helpful measures allow employees to collaborate seamlessly in the workplace and upskill to gain industry-relevant skills.
Having a voice
Employers should create a safe space for employees to voice their opinions and acknowledge their perspectives and ideas. It is crucial to keep the doors of the upper management open to all employees so they can talk about their challenges, grievances, and needs to function at optimal productivity.
Being accepted and valued for their identity
Employees must feel connected to the company’s goal and vision. When they align their ideas and approaches to the employer’s objectives, they can create value for the organization. Their unique skills and strategies must be appreciated and awarded during periodic evaluations.
Learning and development
Learning and upskilling are two critical components of an inclusive workplace. As an employer, you should create ample learning opportunities for employees to help them grow and advance their career prospects within the organization. As they grow professionally, they’ll develop pioneering ideas and solutions.
To maintain an inclusive workforce, employers must create a collaborative environment where team members and multiple teams can collaborate on shared ideas and projects. Increased collaboration betters the quality of your deliverables and speeds up the backend processes.
Deliberately concentrating on inclusive practices
Promote focusing on diverse opinions and perspectives to increase inclusiveness within the workspace. Concentrate on weaving inclusivity within your organization’s culture, values, policies, and mission so that it becomes a natural practice for your employees.
Developing a sense of belonging
Try to make meaningful company policies and day-to-day activities to increase employee engagement, ultimately leading to an inclusive work environment. This will encourage employees to connect and stay with their organization for longer while fulfilling their duties dedicatedly.
The Benefits of an Inclusive Workplace
A culturally diverse and inclusive workplace affirms a sense of belonging among all workers beyond multiple demographics and geographic locations.
Research from different organizations shows that inclusivity and a sense of belonging are critical components for all businesses to prosper and grow. Employees show more loyalty towards their organizations, working harder and engaging more, thus, producing a higher quality of work.
Corporations aiming for an inclusive work environment by adopting D&I practices tend to yield higher profits and show better decision-making skills. The significant benefits of an inclusive workplace are:
- Higher job satisfaction and productivity
- Higher employee engagement and morale
- Lower turnover and higher employee retention
- Enriched innovation and creativity levels
- Better problem solving with inspired solutions
- Increased organizational flexibility with inputs from everyone
- Lower chances of facing legal troubles from employees on discriminatory charges
Tips to Design a Diverse and Inclusive Workplace
Modern businesses thrive on cultural diversity within their workforce. With online recruitment and work from home, corporations are hiring talent from every corner of the world. Hence, an inclusive workplace is pivotal to managing a global team. An inclusive environment helps employees feel welcome, valued, safe, and operate according to their highest potential.
Through inclusive practices, employers can instill unity among their employees, pushing them to collaborate for the bigger picture.
Here are some strategies for creating an inclusive workplace –
Begin from the top
In the words of former CEO of ScribbleChat and co-founder of Tentrr, Eloise Bune, “If diversity is not a company goal … it just won’t happen.” As with any facet of corporate culture, inclusivity must commence with the top brass. Company founders, directors, and other administrators must wrap their heads around the concept of building an inclusive workplace and take the necessary steps to implement it.
You can begin with recruiting employees from diverse demographics, investing in a competent D&I team, modifying HR policies, and incorporating the idea of inclusivity across the company vision and mission.
Incorporate inclusive recruitment strategies
When the top-tier executives set the tone of an inclusive workplace, it rapidly gains ground through all parallels of the organization. Aim to foster an inclusive culture within all teams and incorporate diversity within your recruitment strategy.
Ensure your hiring process is in sync with your aim of promoting inclusion and diversity within the workplace. Welcoming employees from various backgrounds and assessing them solely on their skills without prejudice can make you a pioneer of inclusivity.
Provide safe space for your employees
Employers must go that extra mile for the comfort and safety of their workforce, especially for those hailing from the marginalized community. This is instrumental in building an inclusive environment at work.
One good example might be installing unisex bathrooms for gender non-conforming and transgender employees instead of gendered ones. It is a relatively easy but impactful way of creating an inclusive workplace.
However, on a broader level, consider hosting team lunches or creating in-office support groups for diverse employee groups to connect and share their experiences. This will offer everyone a chance to interact and be comfortable around each other.
Connect with employees
Reaching out and connecting with your employees personally is probably one of the lesser practiced but critical components of creating a safe and inclusive work environment. Ask them about how they spend their leisure time, would they be interested in fun activities with colleagues/family, etc. Such communication help cement the employer-employee bond.
However, remember that you must be sensitive and mindful of personal boundaries. Never get too personal and avoid asking inappropriate questions. For example, try to use non-gendered terms like ‘partner’ or ‘spouse’ instead of simply assuming someone’s sexual orientation or the relationship they share.
Multiple feedback system
While giving voice to your employees is excellent, implementing a system for constructive feedback is also essential. In an inclusive workplace, feedback and criticism go hand-in-hand to help employees and employers become better.
Try to provide multiple feedback systems, like all-hands discussions, surveys, and suggestion boxes for anonymity to encourage employees to come forward and make themselves heard. You can also implement an effective HR policy to create an open dialogue that can lead to positive outcomes and a genuinely inclusive environment at work.
Expand your company holiday calendar
Little things mean a lot when you aim to create an inclusive work environment. Try to acknowledge your employees’ cultural and religious aspects by incorporating holidays that represent their religion’s holy or special days. For example, we usually find Christmas and New Year in the holiday list of company calendars. However, you can be inclusive by including Jewish holy days like Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, Hindu festivals like Diwali and Durga Puja, and Muslim festivals like Eid al-Fitr and Muharram. Even if it is not possible to give company-wide holidays, try to give off to specific employee groups on their respective holidays and include them in the company calendar to raise awareness.
Make sure the office space is disability-friendly
An inclusive workplace embraces differences. Thus, employers must also be mindful of the needs of differently-abled people. They can make office spaces disability-friendly or create dedicated zones to help them work productively. For instance, making provisions for wheelchair ramps, creating adequate cabin spaces, etc., allows differently-abled employees to easily move around the office and access office resources. You can also support your remote-working employees by inspiring them to run ergonomics and accessibility checks on their home offices.
The Connotations of an Inclusive Workplace for Differently-abled People
As more companies are looking to create an inclusive workplace, employees with physical disabilities are often under-supported. Most corporations often overlook such disabled persons or show sheer negligence towards them. This is a serious concern, with a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report stating that 1 in 4 individuals are living with emotional, cognitive, or physical disabilities. The immediate challenge for most organizations is to design their workplaces to be disable-friendly and provide provisions for disabled persons.
An ethical work culture should be inclusive of everyone. However, it can be a challenging task to make your workplace disability-friendly. Here’s how you can make an inclusive workplace disability-friendly:
- Educate the employees and C-suite executives on the basic etiquette towards differently-abled individuals.
- Form a support group consisting of all differently-abled employees where they can discuss their experiences and other issues.
- Hire an experienced interior designer to transform your office into a disability-friendly space through necessary modifications.
- Acquire the relevant pieces of equipment necessary for making the office space disability-friendly, such as ramps and parking spaces.
- Revise your company policy to prevent workplace discrimination against inclusive differently-abled employees.
Factors to Consider While Implementing Inclusion Policies
All multinational organizations must strive to design inclusive workplaces to help employees realize their full potential. However, employers must recognize and understand the problem first before devising solutions. Otherwise, those solutions might be half-baked and inadequate to address the concerned issues.
The Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) has been researching the racial and gender dynamics of the workplace for 15 years. A 2015 report by the CTI states that 46% of the black women employees feel that their suggestions or ideas are not acknowledged in their offices. Another 2016 study reports how 63% of the Latina men and women workers do not feel welcomed at their workplaces.
Employees must address these concerns to successfully implement their vision of creating an inclusive environment at work. The primary considerations in this respect are:
Emphasize the need to create a diverse and inclusive team
In the post-pandemic world, corporates are open to hiring remote employees and freelancers across borders. Hence, it’s essential to adopt and practice diversity to reflect the changing marketplace. According to Harvard Business Review research, organizations with a diverse team mirroring their target customers are twice more likely to build innovative and effective solutions.
Recognize bias and workplace discrimination
An inclusive workplace does not have any scope for bias and discrimination. Educate employees on how to recognize bias and prejudices. Some significant discriminatory practices can be consciously excluding some specific employees from critical decision-making or making insensitive remarks towards an individual’s race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Addressing and acknowledging the problem can help companies take preventive measures to avert such issues.
Practice inclusive leadership and accountability
Inclusive leadership is where top-tier leaders are open to suggestions and feedback from grassroots-level employees. They must lead by example. When they show sensitivity and mindfulness towards employees, respond to employee recommendations and issues appropriately, etc., they inspire others to follow suit. This is an excellent way to foster workplace collaboration, constructive debates, and brainstorming.
If businesses are serious about creating an inclusive workplace, they can incorporate a tracking and reporting system to gauge each department’s progress in diversity and inclusion. If found inadequate, they can hold the departmental heads accountable and penalize them accordingly.
Industry Practices to Promote Workplace Inclusivity
Building an inclusive workplace has become essential for corporations looking to be future-ready.
A BuiltIn report shows how British companies with a 10% increase in gender diversity among their senior executives reported a rise of 3.5% and more in their earnings and profits. A McKinsey & Company study reports that companies that are gender-diverse are more than 15% likely to outperform their competitors, while companies with an ethnically-diverse workforce are more than 35% likely to do so.
Hence, companies must incorporate these diversity and inclusion tips to build safe and productive workplaces:
- Establish a sense of belonging among your employees
- Treat all your employees fairly
- Offer equal career growth and development opportunities to all employees
- Rewrite your company policies and recruitment advertisements to be more inclusive
- Educate C-suite executives and employees on diversity and inclusion
- Create and maintain good communication with all employees
- Have an elaborate feedback system in place
Helpful Tools for Build an Inclusive Workplace
All business organizations need to develop an innovative and inclusive workplace for all employees to collaborate in harmony. The most flourishing institutions supply workers with what they need to construct, estimate, and sustain advancement in diversity and inclusiveness.
The fundamental tools that all businesses require to have in their Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) toolbox are:
- Have a proper and definite definition of inclusive behavior that leaves no scope for ambiguity or loopholes.
- Identify and track the progress of inclusive behavior throughout all the departments and divisions of your organization.
- Design your HR policy to integrate penalties for workplace discrimination and insensitive behavior.
- Share transparent reports and data reflecting the status of inclusivity and diversity within your organization for employees to introspect and move forward.
Workplaces are changing, business structures are evolving, and companies must realign according to this change. It is now clear that corporations must incorporate these ideals due to ethical and moral grounds and become more people-centric and socially responsible.
As employers look to expand and run their businesses beyond borders, they might need professional help to create inclusive workplace policies. Multiplier is the best global employment platform to help employers in onboarding and managing international teams. Our in-house legal team can assist employers and HR departments in creating and executing inclusive policies.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. How do corporations benefit from creating an inclusive work environment?
An inclusive workplace fosters loyalty and unity among employees, promoting healthy collaboration. It will also boost mental well-being and help companies retain employees and attract new talent. Eventually, these practices help reduce hiring costs and employee turnover rates.
Q. What is the first step to creating an inclusive workplace?
The first step to take towards an inclusive workplace is to understand and mark discriminatory behavior faced by the employees. Without understanding bias and discrimination first, they cannot develop effective solutions for the problem. Hence, the top brass needs to educate themselves first before implementing inclusive policies.
Q. How can employers help their employees to speak up against discrimination?
Employers always need to keep communication channels open to encourage employees to step up and speak without fear. Put in suggestion boxes, anonymous tiplines, and comprehensive HR policies to tackle discrimination at work.