Developing inclusivity in the workplace

It probably starts in Kindergarten – that uncomfortable feeling of not being invited to the Barbie tea party. Nobody likes to be left out. Case in point: poor Rudolph was one sad reindeer when he was not allowed to join in any reindeer games.

So, for grownups, how important is feeling included?

Turns out, pretty important. According to a 2017 Deloitte study 80 per cent of respondents said that inclusivity in the workplace was important when choosing an employer. And nearly 40 per cent said they would actually leave their current organization for one that was more inclusive.

If attracting and keeping good people is crucial to your business, having an inclusive workplace should be important to you too.

What is inclusivity?

It used to be that an inclusive workplace was defined as one that welcomes people of different genders, races and ethnicities. While that’s still true today, the Deloitte study found that today’s workers (aka millennials) tend to see inclusivity as being a diversity of what everyone can feel comfortable bringing to the table, not just race and gender, and that all ideas and experiences are respected.

Aside from attracting and retaining good people – which is a pretty good reason – there are other reasons to embrace inclusivity in your business. Research shows that employees in inclusive organizations are more productive, more innovative, and more adaptable. As a result, the organizations that employ them are more profitable. If it’s not enough to be inclusive because it’s the right thing to do on a “people” level, do it because inclusion is good for an organization’s bottom line. Simply put, it’s good for business.

Here are five ways you can make your workplace more inclusive.

1. Acknowledge biases. Everyone has them. And the only way to recognize and change them is to bring them into the light – in a safe way. Encourage open yet respectful conversation. Look into hosting an ”Unconscious Bias ” training workshop for your staff. Better yet, model it yourself. Acknowledge cultural and gender biases and be willing to discuss them with your staff.

2.Give employees a voice: People feel more accountable if they have a say in decisions that impact their work. Keep the lines of two-way communication wide open – both informally, like around the water cooler, and in more formal ways, such as focus groups or through regular surveys that both inform employees and encourages feedback.

3. Create a sense of belonging. If employees feel they don’t fit in with other people in workplace, they will likely feel like they don’t belong with your organization, period. Plan events that welcome everyone and gives them common ground. Make it fun; invite guest speakers, or arrange extracurricular dinners, drinks or other activities where employees can get to know each other as people.

4. Establish a collaborative environment: When people feel part of a team – and especially a recognized and useful part of that team – they feel valued by their co-workers and an important part of something bigger. Just as good – they build stronger connections to each other and to the organization. Encourage teamwork that allows individuals to use their strengths for the greater good.

5. Educate Your Leaders. In the end, it’s the leader who’s on the front line with your employees. Your inclusivity efforts will be sabotaged if your managers don’t believe it – and live it. Send your managers to formal diversity and inclusion training, if necessary, and make sure your hiring strategies include bringing in management who understand how important an inclusive workplace is to your workplace.


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