Over the last few years, there has been an uptick in the number and frequency of discussions on creating an inclusive workplace and diversifying your workforce. As employers, it is important to recognise that you need to have an inclusive atmosphere for people to join before you can seriously expect to begin to welcome different types of people to your company. Preparation and readiness, in terms of diversity, is every bit as important as in other areas of the business.
Many of the negative interactions and both active and passive discrimination that happens in the workplace is a result of unconscious biases. This means that you may not even realise that you and/or some of your staff members are vulnerable to discrimination. People are ultimately products of their environment and when people have grown up around negative stereotypes of others, it can be hard to break out from this kind of thinking.
At the heart of an inclusive workplace is the belief that everybody’s experience, ideas and voices matter equally; the easiest way to encourage this is by showing your staff how much you value them and their work. We have compiled this helpful guide for employers to learn some ways to create an inclusive atmosphere in the office.
1. Check Your Policies
While the way you treat your staff daily is extremely important, it’s only as important as the company’s policies that dictate your staff’s employment rights. If you genuinely aspire to be more inclusive, you can make a good start by removing any policies you think could discourage a particular person or group of people from wanting to come and join your business. Most commonly, these include policies around dress code, maternity leave and parental rights, and working hours. Don’t be afraid to ask others for their honest opinion and stress that they can speak freely without negative consequences.
2. Encourage People to Bring Their Whole Selves to Work
One of the most important parts of being an inclusive employer is showing your staff that you value and celebrate their differences, that there is no one, uniform way of being and that this is more than okay. A good way to do this is by ensuring that nobody has to hide part of themselves while at work; this might be their sexuality, religion or even family life.
Make discussions about identity and life outside of work a part of your office environment so that staff know it is something they can talk about. Don’t tolerate any bullying or name calling along these lines, even if the person doing the “teasing” thinks it is being done in good humour. If you, as the boss, laugh at a joke at the expense of someone’s sexuality or religion you are telling others that this is ok and acceptable also. You can also bring in exercises such as stating your gender pronouns in meetings to include all gender identities.
3. Listen to Your Employees
Even when you are trying hard to get it right, it’s normal to make mistakes. Try to create a culture where your staff feel able to share with you, and comment on the successes and shortcomings of the company. The more your staff feel listened to and appreciated, the more likely they are to raise something concerning them. Listening to different people’s experiences and opinions is a great way to learn and develop at work. Staff who are listened to will also feel more invested in the company and its success and you should see both productivity and staff retention rates rise because of this.
4. Offer Extra Support Where You Can
Part of having an inclusive workplace is having a supportive workplace. This includes providing extra non-work-related support where necessary. For example, many employers have successfully introduced mental health support for their staff through optional counselling or wellbeing sessions.
This is something that many employees find valuable, particularly in quite stressful work environments. Being shown that they are supported and appreciated can make a real difference to people struggling with poor mental health. Another support avenue could be providing mentors for staff who want to grow and develop throughout the business.
If you do offer mental health sessions, yoga or even therapeutic massages for staff, try to ensure that everybody has the opportunity to attend, no matter their workload. Some people may feel that they are struggling a little with the amount of work that they have and may not attend on that basis, when they are exactly the people who would benefit the most.
5. Encourage Collaboration and Sharing
One of the most important things you can do as an employer is to encourage collaboration and sharing between colleagues. Employees who work in their own little information silo are generally not as happy in their work and it has been widely proven that teams that work together and share ideas are more productive and much more satisfied and happy in their jobs. This can obviously only be good for the company.
Recent statistics show that roughly 75% of employers see teamwork as being very important and 81% of employees believe that a lack of teamwork and communication is responsible for workplace failures. That is a hugely telling number and it is obvious that teamwork is something that is valued by employers and employees alike, and yet somewhat counter-intuitively, only 18% of employees get rated on this in their performance reviews.
Teams that are exceptionally well connected see up to a 21% increase in profitability. This is a phenomenal increase and can make a real difference if replicated across the entire business, increasing the bottom line at the same time as making employees happier. That sounds like a win in anyone’s book.
To discover more ways to create an equal, diverse and inclusive workplace, head over to our diverse talent sites, Careers with Disabilities, Refreshing a Career and Aspiring to Include. You should also take the time to read up on the reasonable adjustments you can make for employees with disabilities or health conditions.