Diversity in the workplace can refer to a number of things. It can mean racial, ethnic, gender, or sexual orientation diversity, but is so much more than that. Diverse workplaces also need employees from a different religious and political beliefs, socioeconomic backgrounds, and even geographic locations.
When it comes to inclusion, the Society for Human resource Management (SHRM) defines inclusion as “the achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization’s success.”
Simply put, an inclusive workplace is one that considers individual differences of employees and strives to make all feel welcome and accepted. If you carefully hire for diversity but then don’t provide an inclusive workplace, you’ll have incredibly high turnover.
Diversity and inclusion are more than just buzzwords. The Digitalist Magazine explains how inclusion can spark innovation: employees who feel valued and welcomed may be inspired to bring about fresh perspectives that lead to new and exciting ideas, and they bring ideas and opinions that may be underrepresented. This echoes a similar sentiment previously made here at Give and Take about the importance of fostering collaboration among diverse populations in any workplace. Having a mix of insights from a team of people with various backgrounds can also help a business engage better with a diverse range of customers.
On paper, diversity and inclusion seem like no-brainers for an organization working to achieve business success. But the reality is that even major enterprises still need lots of improvement where inclusion and diversity is concerned. For instance, Google’s 2018 annual diversity report revealed that their US workforce consists of 53.1% white employees and 36.3% Asians, but only 2.5% black, 3.6% Hispanic and Latino, and 4.2% multiracial professionals. The dominance of one or two races can have a subtle, yet profound effect on employees’ feelings and wellbeing. Similarly, women hold only 25% of the jobs in computing. While these statistics is more focused on diversity, it’s impossible to have a diverse workforce without inclusion, otherwise people won’t stay and there will be high employee turnover.
There are plenty of reasons organizations find it difficult to achieve true inclusion and diversity. It could be because of the challenge of tackling social norms or because people aren’t even aware of their own biases to begin with. It could also stem from decades or even hundreds of years of stereotypes.
Regardless of the underlying reasons, it’s vital for a company to start breaking cultural barriers and welcome employees from different walks of life. And advocacy entails so much more than just coming up with a good recruitment program. So here are some tips on how to establish an inclusive workplace.
1. Lead by example. Inclusion starts with the management. In order for employees to feel comfortable in the workplace, the leaders should feel comfortable connecting with each employee on a personal level. Maryville University emphasizes how today’s organizational leaders need skills in communication and conflict resolution more than ever, as they are the key in affecting change in any business, no matter their managerial level. This, of course, includes the matter of inclusion. Good communication skills can improve the relationship between staff and their leaders or employers.
2. Encourage collaboration.Employees in large enterprises often work within silos, which limits interaction between different departments. Companies can encourage a more open workplace by setting up brainstorming sessions with representatives from various departments or even redesigning the office layout into something with more open space for getting together, and implementing fewer cubicles.
3. Celebrate different backgrounds. One of the ways to show employees that a company values their differences is to invite them to share their cultures through office gatherings. For instance, an employee hailing from a certain country can be in charge of bringing food from home, to introduce others to their cuisine. Another method is to assign dedicated prayer rooms for people with specific religions and practices.
The bottom line is that employees should feel valued by their employer so that they can be inspired to strive for success. A different background or culture should not hinder an employee from being themselves and showing their full potential at work.
About the Author
Guest blogger Heather Denise is an HR consultant with a degree in business management and a passion for workplace inclusivity and diversity. Currently based in Chicago, she also enjoys swimming and volunteering at the local shelter.