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How To Promote An Inclusive Work Environment

How To Promote An Inclusive Work Environment

People are a fundamental aspect of any organization. They give life to the culture and make the organization what it is, which is why inclusivity matters. An inclusive culture makes people feel appreciated and as if they are working towards creating a common good for everyone. It inspires people to be more productive and to achieve levels they never thought were possible before working with an inclusive company. This kind of culture is attractive to the workforce and makes their employees more satisfied with their job, which ultimately improves the overall productivity of these businesses.

But what does creating an inclusive culture look like, and how do you get started? First, let’s cover why inclusivity matters and some of its benefits.

Why Inclusivity Matters

When you think about company culture, words that pop into your head may include engagement, productivity, and innovation. But what about inclusivity? An inclusive culture is part of a healthy organizational environment that respects the value of everyone. It’s also a buzzword for many companies that want to attract diverse talent. But it's not just about diversity. It's about achieving an inclusive environment where all employees feel included regardless of gender, race, religion, and age.

There's a big difference between actively fighting for diversity and inclusivity and pretending they don't require attention. It's time we stop thinking of these issues as topics that exist in an imaginary, faraway land. That's because 78% of job seekers say they want to work for diverse companies. Diversity, equality, and inclusion are business initiatives that connect with employees on a fundamental level — which is why we can't afford to ignore them. Perks of creating an inclusive workforce include:

  • Higher job satisfaction 
  • 5.4 time higher employee retention
  • Higher employee morale
  • Increased ability to recruit a diverse talent pool
  • Higher revenue growth

It's no secret that employees want to feel included and valued in their workplace, however the hard truth is that many companies lack diversity despite saying they value certain qualities. The good news is many businesses are trying to achieve more inclusive workforces, but not all are doing so effectively. Whether you're a manager or team member, it's essential to understand the elements that contribute to hiring and retaining diverse employees and what barriers might prevent your company from creating a more inclusive environment.

How To Build An Inclusive Culture

Building an inclusive culture within your organization doesn't happen by accident, it’s the result of going through specific steps and challenges. Below, we'll look at ways you can help create a climate for everyone in your organization to be heard and accepted.

Make inclusion a core value

An inclusive culture isn't just talk; it's a core value. This means inclusion is ingrained in every part of your organization, from your employee handbook to management to everyday work life. That's why it’s crucial to get everyone on board with what inclusive values imply and what it looks like when you have an inclusive culture.

Hire inclusively

It's crucial to talk the talk and walk the walk. One of the most important things you can do is to create an inclusive hiring culture. According to a Deloitte survey, 80% of people say inclusion efforts are an important factor when choosing a company. Hiring inclusively not only shows you advocate for inclusion, but it also gives you access to a larger talent pool. Ultimately, it proves that you value and care about diversity versus only saying you do.

Practice active listening

Active listening plays a crucial part in communicating effectively. Listening may seem obvious, but active listening can easily take a back seat if we're not mindful when communicating. It takes practice and discipline, especially in a work setting where everyone has big ideas and wants a voice. Ways to practice active listening are to:

  • Pay attention: Give the speaker your undivided attention and acknowledge what they're saying. Make sure you are providing eye contact, not looking at your devices, and not getting distracted by incoming notifications or emails.
  • Show that you are listening: Mention specific parts of the conversation, ask questions, and repeat what they're saying for clarity. This shows you heard what they said and are willing to learn more. Small verbal comments such as "yes" and gestures such as nodding can convey that you are actively listening.
  • Provide feedback: Feedback shows that you care about someone's success and that you heard what was said. One tool to use is paraphrasing, such as "what I'm hearing is" or "it sounds like you're saying," to reflect on the speaker's words.
  • Defer judgment: Making assumptions and interrupting only wastes time, plus it's frustrating to the speaker. Allowing the speaker to finish their words saves them from feeling unheard and disappointed. This may make them feel undermined and not like they can speak up in the future.
  • Respond appropriately: Being candid, open, and honest, but also respectful, is vital when responding to the speaker. It's best to treat individuals how you want to be treated.

Celebrate differences

Differences don't have to be a barrier; they can be a learning opportunity and allow us to celebrate others. This often looks like giving your employees a platform and championing their cultures. Instead of ignoring differences, we can uplift them in the workplace and provide solutions. Ways to do this are by doing the following:

  • Encouraging educational opportunities 
  • Learning at lunch talks
  • Hosting diversity days
  • Developing a multicultural calendar
  • Paying attention to cultural nuances 
  • Addressing communication barriers
  • Supporting employee advancement

Proactively address harassment and bullying

Facilitating an inclusive culture means there is zero room for harassment and bullying. Being proactive in your approach to addressing these matters is vital. This means creating a system for these situations and a plan for handling them while informing your employees of the severity of these issues, so they know they're not taken lightly. Having a means for harassed employees to express what they have experienced is also essential. For some organizations, that may be a formal email, for others, that may be a one on one with a manager to inform them of mistreatment. Regardless of how you decide to formalize your process, be sure to be considerate of your employees and be human. Hear out their concerns and provide sympathy, support, and understanding.

Share inclusion metrics with employees

When creating a plan that applies to your overall culture, it's only natural to keep your employees in the loop. Be prepared to receive employee feedback and be open to growing in areas needing work. Don't be afraid to share inclusion metrics and how you've developed your organization to be more diverse and focused on inclusion.

Regularly educate your employees about diversity and inclusion

Creating a culture that celebrates diversity is no easy feat. Some ways to continually educate your staff about diversity are to bring in experts, regularly conduct training, and provide resources for learning more. Diversity training can help prevent workplace bullying, discrimination, and harassment by promoting respect for all employees regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, age, and religion. When employees are motivated and feel their efforts are respected, they are happier with their job and more productive.

Revisit the conversation regularly and track your progress

Create tangible goals and stick to them. Finding opportunities for growth within your organization regarding inclusion is the key to success and adaptation. Empower your employees to speak on these topics and regularly conduct conversations where they can voice their concerns. One way you could do so is through anonymous polls and surveys.

It will never be enough to say that your company has an inclusive culture. You must work at it over the course of time to get there. It takes effort, but it's ultimately worth it for everyone involved. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, you will fail if you don't get buy-in from everyone: every department, every employee, and every stakeholder.

The key to building an inclusive culture is to focus on making people feel welcome and comfortable. It's easy for companies to overlook this because they think of diversity mainly as an HR issue. But it's more than that. Diversity has a lot to do with empathy, starting with you, the manager. Are you making it clear that your team is open to different points of view?

GMS Is Here To Help 

There are many things to consider when hiring and building an inclusive work environment. It's easy to gloss over the minor details, but those little things ultimately add up to make a good workplace culture—inspiring employees to feel comfortable in their jobs, be productive, and stay for the long haul. These aspects of culture, both big and small, make our workplaces feel accommodating. At GMS, we can help you create a plan for bettering your culture and hiring diversely. Let's talk!

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