How to build a more diverse and inclusive workplace

  • 11 Mar 2022

By Katherine Barr, Director, Elevate

According to research by Harvard University, a diverse workforce can generate up to 19 per cent more revenue. Studies also suggest that a diverse team is likely to be happier, more efficient and better at problem-solving.

There are clear, tangible benefits to cultivating an inclusive workforce, and doing so creates an environment filled with employees who feel empowered to be the very best version of themselves. Such thoughts encourage us to consider a very important question: how can businesses instil a culture of equality and inclusion within the workplace? The following tips will help you get started:

Instil inclusivity into your identity

Diversity, equality and inclusion starts from the top so it is imperative that those running the business demonstrate inclusive behaviour while demanding it from employees.

Each business should have an inclusivity statement ingrained into its core values, and everything the company does should be in line with this. This can affect everything, from the business’s recruitment policy to the national holidays it chooses to celebrate. Regardless, implementing inclusivity into a business should not appear in the form of sporadic token gestures – it should be at the very heartbeat of every decision the organisation makes.

 

Create an inclusive workplace taskforce

Find people who are committed to bringing the organisation’s inclusive culture to life and provide them with a platform to make the business a better place for all employees.

It should be filled with people who are passionate about seeing diversity and inclusion across the business and will put in the time and effort to ensure that people’s voices are heard. There should be clear lines of responsibility, and the group should also elect a chair, deputy chair and co-ordinator to ensure that the taskforce is able to remain effective in its pursuit of change.

Learn the correct terminology

Modelling inclusive language is vital for the promotion of diversity and equality within an organisation – if businesses want to create a truly inclusive working environment, they need to have their finger on the pulse when it comes to the language being used by employees.

Of course, education is essential, and even then there will still be moments where people get things wrong, but the key is to expand the company’s vocabulary so that each employee feels represented. Remind employees not to use potentially harmful language and, if they do, ensure that such an incident doesn’t reoccur by educating them on why such language isn’t appropriate.

Make inclusion part of onboarding

Onboarding is an opportunity to really set the tone with new employees about how the office should run – keeping inclusivity at the forefront of this conversation will provide them with the belief that they’ll always have the support they need.

It is essential to ensure that each employee is aware that they work in an environment committed to fostering inclusivity, that they are required to contribute to this atmosphere of inclusivity, and that no discrimination of any kind will be at all tolerated.

Research thoroughly

One of the best ways to enhance inclusivity within an organisation is by engaging with those who may feel marginalised. Whether in the form of an anonymous survey, a one-to-one meeting or by simply reflecting on a conversation you had in the corridor, do not underestimate the value of listening to your employees.

 

A confidential survey gives employees the anonymity they may need to express how they really feel, while engaging with employees face-to-face will provide a deeper understanding of individual experience.

Regardless of which method you choose, there are clear benefits to listening intently to the thoughts and feelings of the organisation’s employees. Use the findings of this research to gain a better understanding of how inclusivity can be improved within the business, and create a step-by-step plan to rectify any recurring issues mentioned by staff.

When it comes to cultivating diversity and inclusion, it’s important to remember that we don’t have all the answers, but by following the five steps mentioned above, companies can give themselves a real headstart in their quest for a truly inclusive workplace. Doing so will not only improve an organisation’s performance, but will also create a safer, more accepting workplace for all.

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