Breaking barriers and overcoming unconscious bias creates an environment where workers feel appreciated and respected. Companies that create a culture of inclusivity also benefit from improved financial performance and efficiency according to a study from McKinsey.
Inclusivity is much more than a single factor. It’s not just gender or ethnicity, inclusivity is a mindset that allows equal access to opportunities and resources for all, regardless of differences or disabilities.
Catalysts in recent years have led corporate leaders to reckon with their organization’s diversity and evolve the way they approach inclusion. Many companies have made notable changes in their plans to foster inclusivity, but there’s still significant room for growth.
For those in pursuit of an environment of appreciation and inclusion, here are some suggestions to keep improving:
1. Unbiased Hiring for Diversity
Diversity recruiting is the practice of hiring candidates with a process that is free, in full, of biases for or against any candidates. While the primary hiring focus is still merit, hiring for diversity assures an equal opportunity and will ultimately diversify a company’s team.
A company can take numerous initiatives to conjure a more diverse candidate pool, such as:
- Diversifying candidate searches. Searching in the same places for candidates is likely going to yield the same results. Finding alternative avenues to get candidates in the door can increase the number of candidates and their overall diversity.
- Showcasing your employer-brand and diversity. This is a great way to show the public that a company cares about diversity and strives to be an employer-brand.
- Using AI in the resume-screening process. This can immediately remove any first-look biases that could curb diversity.
- Creating policies that are inclusive and appeal to diverse candidates. Including more inclusive holidays, time off, and other policies positions a company well to recruit diverse candidates.
2. Inclusivity Training is the Foundation
It’s incredibly difficult to cultivate inclusivity if team members aren’t equipped with the right tools and training. Even those who have a deep or inherent understanding of inclusivity can continue to grow and educate themselves.
The most effective way to get all team members, regardless of role, in congruence with the organization’s expectations of inclusivity is to provide training to all. During training, employees internalize the importance of inclusion and learn about inclusive mannerisms and behaviors. These sessions also provide a wonderful opportunity for questions, feedback, or suggestions within your organization on how to improve.
There are numerous diversity and inclusion programs available to companies, including Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace by Skillpath and Inclusion Training by Limeade. These are far from the only vetted resources, though. There are numerous training programs and alternative avenues available to companies to get started on pouring the foundation of their future. This could include opportunities to bring outside experts in, time for the team to be vulnerable and ask questions, along with traditional inclusivity training.
3. Routine use of Pronouns
Pronouns are words we use to refer to people instead of their names, like he, she, and they. In English, most pronouns are gendered, and we make assumptions based on appearance which to use. When pronouns are used incorrectly, they can negatively impact your team’s sense of inclusion or belonging. Asking for and using someone’s correct pronouns is a way to affirm and respect their gender identity, and build huge equity toward an inclusive workplace.
You can include pronouns in your recruitment process by adding a place for a pronoun to be selected in the application process. When including pronouns on an application, your organization is showcasing that your company not only is inclusive – but that they respect the incoming individuals enough to understand their identity.
This should be coupled with an effort to ask current employees their pronouns, and to have the information known and well-respected internally. This could be in your employee management system, in email signatures, or during meetings. This is the avenue for team members to get familiar with one another’s pronouns, and to use them correctly in communication.
4. Expand your Holiday Calendar
No detail is too small or unimportant when it comes to being inclusive. In fact, it’s frequently the details that make all the difference in workers feeling well-respected and welcome. A good way to bring focus to details is taking a look at your company’s current holiday calendar.
Including major holidays from other cultures such as Yom Kippur and Ramadan makes a huge difference for employees of different cultures, and can lead to further respect and understanding of other cultures internally. It’s one of the reasons why numerous companies are continuing to add holidays like Juneteenth to their company calendar.
5. Create Inclusive Spaces
In efforts to be more inclusive, many companies have implemented intentionally inclusive spaces, such as gender-neutral bathrooms. This can be a huge opportunity to make trans and non-binary people feel comfortable in company spaces.
However, creating inclusive spaces not exclusive to gender-neutral bathrooms. Other spaces can include lactation rooms for new parents, quiet rooms for focus, and areas for meditation or prayer. These spaces can also make their way into the remote-work world through the inclusion of pronouns in work material, flex time for things like prayer, and meditation, and the use of closed captions during video meetings.
6. Take Team Building to the Next Level
Team building activities help employees work better together to resolve problems and gain more trust. Team building can be taken to the next level by encouraging workers to participate in inclusivity-based activities that will create the kind of workplace culture that appreciates what each employee has to offer.
The goal is to help individuals develop stronger connections with one another, regardless of their age, personal beliefs, or where they come from, to create a safer and more enjoyable environment for everyone.
Inclusive team-building events include:
- Happy hour with cocktails and mocktails.
- Book club.
- Cooking classes or meals with the team.
- Inclusivity guest-speakers.
- Community volunteer initiatives.
- Celebrating numerous holidays together.
- Compare generational and cultural perspectives.
7. Prioritize Your Employees
One of the most important components to building an inclusive workplace is doubling-down on employees. Prioritizing employees and their needs shows them the respect they deserve. You can prioritize your employees by:
- Listening to any concerns they have, addressing issues, and providing practical solutions that lead to real change
- Engaging in conversations with employees and express genuine interest in what they’re discussing with you
- Host meetings with all employees to create an open space for collaboration, discussions, and concerns
- Asking employees for opinions on how to create and foster an inclusive environment that makes them feel more at ease
- Applying the feedback you receive to daily operations to continue making everyone feel welcomed and included
Putting your employees first lets them know you care about them, appreciate their effort, and respect their thoughts.
Overcoming unconscious bias and creating an inclusive workplace is something that can totally change the way team members work and feel. It leads to wildly positive, proven effects, and creates a level of care and respect between all team members.