Creating a workplace culture that is inclusive of all employees is an essential step in promoting diversity and belonging in the workplace. While many organisations are progressing towards building more diverse and inclusive workforces, there is still a long way to go. In this article, we will explore some straightforward steps that business leaders, managers, and HR professionals can take to create an inclusive workplace culture.
Start with Leadership
As with any aspect of company culture, creating and promoting a sense of belonging in the workplace begins with leadership. The company’s founders and executive team must have a genuine desire to build a diverse culture and be open to working with people of different nationalities, skin colours, genders, disabilities, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic backgrounds. It is crucial to make diversity a company goal and ensure that it is implemented. People tend to hire those who are similar to them, so it is important to create a welcoming culture that is demonstrated by leaders.
Focus on Inclusive Recruitment Strategies
Once the company’s leadership sets the tone, it is essential to extend that attitude throughout the organisation. Creating a culture of belonging can be fostered peer-to-peer, bottom-up, and top-down. It is necessary to take a closer look at the company’s recruitment tactics to ensure that hiring is approached with the goal of facilitating diversity and inclusion. Inclusive recruitment should be an integral part of the company’s DNA, which will help to amplify its future, cultivate its workforce, and invest in the community as a whole.
Provide Safe Spaces for Employees
Inclusive workplaces go the extra mile to consider the safety and comfort of all employees, especially those in marginalised groups. For instance, gendered bathrooms can make transgender and gender-nonconforming employees feel uncomfortable. One simple way to signal a progressive and inclusive workplace is to offer unisex bathrooms in the office. On a broader level, inclusive spaces can be created by hosting team lunches and other informal events where employees can connect with each other.
Connect with Employees (but be Sensitive)
One of the best ways to signal to employees that it is okay to be themselves is to connect with them on a personal level. Being transparent with them about your own life can help build trust and rapport. Simple gestures like asking about “spouses” or “partners,” rather than assuming someone’s sexual orientation and using gendered terms, can encourage LGBTQIA+ employees to open up about their personal lives and feel included in non-work discussions. However, it is crucial not to be insensitive about their identities. It is essential to treat LGBTQIA+ employees like everyone else in the office and avoid asking inappropriate questions like “How did you come out?” unless you have a close relationship with the person.
Give Employees Multiple Ways to Provide Feedback
Providing employees with an outlet for connecting with others and sharing their stories is crucial. Whether it is an employee survey, company all-hands discussions, or campaigns, giving employees multiple ways to share their feedback, perspective, and stories will create an open dialogue that can lead to more positive outcomes. An inclusive culture is a work in progress, and policies and programs should be revisited regularly to create a more tolerant and diverse environment. Make it the company’s priority to take action to close any gaps so that all employees feel like they belong and are supported to thrive.
The Importance of Cultural Inclusion at Work
Cultural inclusion has become a top priority for many employers’ HR agendas, and for good reasons. Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace is not only the right thing to do, but it can also benefit businesses in many ways. It fosters a healthy work environment where all employees can feel connected with equal opportunity, creating a healthier, more successful future together with their employers. When people are comfortable and can express themselves in an authentic way, they are more likely to perform better, which increases engagement and contributes to the organisation as a whole. Similarly, diversity and inclusion promote better talent management, employee satisfaction, collaboration, and corporate reputation.
Real-Life Examples of Successful Diversity Programs
LinkedIn has a global employee resource group called “out@in,” which offers executive sponsors and a strong ally community for LGBTQIA+ employees. The company’s #ProudAtWork campaign encouraged employees, executives, and LinkedIn influencers to share their stories about belonging in the workplace. SAP offers a companywide virtual training program called Focus on Insight that educates employees about diversity and inclusion. The company also encourages participation in employee-driven events like SAP’s “We Are One” initiatives, focused on sharing diverse life experiences. It sponsors and participates in annual Pride parades across the globe as well. Unified aims to foster “great people from all walks of life with impactful, inclusive cultural programs, including mentorship, executive town halls, and peer awards.” For Pride Month, the company has put together a few celebratory initiatives, including an employee viewing of the HBO documentary The Trans List, an informational session hosted by the Ali Forney Center (a community center supporting LGBTQIA+ homeless youth). Unified also offers the Leadership Empowerment and Development (LEAD) Program to support and educate strong female leaders in the workplace.
In conclusion, creating an inclusive workplace culture is a crucial step in promoting diversity and belonging in the workplace. Business leaders, managers, and HR professionals can take simple steps to create an inclusive workplace culture, including starting with the leadership, focusing on inclusive recruitment strategies, providing safe spaces for employees, connecting with employees, and giving employees multiple ways to provide feedback. Cultural inclusion is essential for creating a healthy work environment, increasing employee engagement and productivity, and promoting creativity and innovation. Real-life examples of successful diversity programs can help businesses get ideas for bringing diversity, equity, and inclusion to their company.