How to Be Inclusive in the Workplace: A Guide to Diversity

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In the era of social media, culture, and technology, workplace diversity has become an integral part of human resources. Creating an inclusive workplace culture promotes equality and fosters a sense of belonging. The trickle-down effect is increased productivity and higher employee engagement.

Related: Crafting an Effective Equal Opportunities Policy: A Guide

Companies prioritizing diversity and inclusivity benefit from a wider range of unique perspectives, ideas, and talents. This ultimately leads to greater innovation and growth. Here's how to create an inclusive workplace from the ground up:

Step 1: Develop a Diversity and Inclusion Strategy

A diversity and inclusion strategy enables companies to establish clear policies and practices that promote a culture of equity. These policies are designed to:

  • Eliminate bias and discrimination
  • Promote equality and fairness
  • Create safe spaces for all employees

By defining clear policies and practices, everyone knows their role regarding diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Employees feel confident that they will be treated fairly and with respect on a personal level.

Related: Discrimination in the Workplace: Best Preventative Practices 

How to Develop a Diversity and Inclusion Strategy

  • Conduct a diversity and inclusion audit: Spending time conducting an audit helps you understand the current state of your company.

  • Setting diversity and inclusion goals: Develop strategies to fill gaps identified during the audit. These goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).

  • Developing an action plan: The action plan outlines the steps your company needs to take to achieve its inclusion goals. This plan should clearly define specific activities, timelines, and responsible parties.

  • Communicating the strategy: The organization must communicate its goals, policies, and practices to all employees and stakeholders. Transparency ensures everyone is on board and working towards the same goal.

Note: Diversity is dynamic. As new employees come and go, review and update your HR policies and initiatives to ensure everyone is given the chance to contribute and succeed. An equal opportunities workplace can be maintained over time by staying current on current inclusive practices.

Step 2: Recognize Unconscious Biases & Bias Motivated Behavior

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Research shows that we all have unconscious biases. These biases can be detrimental to inclusive actions because they can trigger discriminatory behaviours and practices.

Unconscious bias manifests in several ways, but are often seen when:

  • Hiring for positions
  • Making promotion decisions
  • Allocating resources and opportunities within an organization
  • Choosing how certain groups are treated

Several types of unconscious biases diminish inclusive workplaces. These include:

  • Affinity bias: The tendency to favor people who are similar to us in terms of race, gender, background, interests, or personality.

  • Implicit bias: Unconscious attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions.

  • Confirmation bias: Seeking out information that confirms our beliefs and disregards information that contradicts them.

  • Halo effect: Assuming that someone good at one thing is good at everything. It occurs when you attribute positive qualities to someone based on one characteristic, such as appearance or job title.

  • Horns effect: The opposite of the halo effect, where a person assumes that someone bad at one thing is bad at everything.

  • Stereotyping: The tendency to make assumptions about people based on their race, gender, or other defining characteristics.

  • Groupthink: The tendency to conform to group norms and avoid dissenting opinions.

Related: Unpacking Bias In The Workplace: Identifying and Overcoming 

Strategies for Identifying and Overcoming Unconscious Bias

There are several strategies that companies can use to identify and overcome unconscious bias in the workplace:

  • Self-awareness: Those in decision-making roles, like the chief diversity officer, should begin by acknowledging their own biases as the first step to overcoming them. By reflecting on your thoughts and behaviors, you can recognize and improve areas where you may be biased.

  • Education and training: Teaching employees about unconscious bias and providing training on how to recognize and overcome it helps reduce its impact in the workplace.

  • Blind hiring: Removing identifying information from resumes and job applications minimizes unconscious bias in the hiring process.

  • Diverse hiring panels: Including a diverse group of people on hiring panels gives an equal opportunity to all applicants. ERGs can help with recruiting efforts by showcasing the company's commitment to diversity and inclusion. They engage with potential candidates, encourage employee referrals, and improve retention rates for employees from different nationalities.

  • Performance evaluations: Providing objective performance evaluations that focus on specific job-related criteria lowers the impact of unconscious bias on performance evaluations.

  • Encouraging feedback: Encouraging employees to provide feedback on decisions and processes that present opportunities for creating an inclusive culture at work.

Step 3: Attract and Retain Diverse Talent

Creating an inclusive workplace starts by ensuring you have the right talent management strategies to attract and retain the most ideal employee. Begin by making sure that job postings and candidate search criteria don't have any implicit or explicit biases. Hence, you get a good mix of culture and experiences.

During interviews, record each candidate's experience and skill set. Ask standardized questions that compare apples-to-apples rather than apples-to-bananas when evaluating candidates. And consider how your communication style may impact the interview and onboarding process of applicants from different cultures or backgrounds as people express ideas differently.

Related: 4 Types of Communication Styles in the Workplace

Once you find the right candidate to join your inclusive workplace, there are still steps you must take to ensure they stay onboard:

  • Offer a competitive compensation package: The pay structure should be equitable and not biased by gender, ethnicity, disability, or affinity groups.

  • Foster relationships among employees by encouraging team-building activities or sponsoring happy hours.

  • Create flexible learning and career growth.

  • Host events celebrating diversity: Business leaders should organize events where they invite guest speakers and employees of different nationalities to share their unique perspectives on culture with others. Take advantage of global holidays like International Women's Day and Diversity Awareness Month to show the importance of an inclusive workplace.

  • Provide mentorship programs: These programs ensure that talented employees from diverse backgrounds have access to mentors to support them in their career journey.

  • Listen and respond to feedback: Be receptive to feedback, especially from employee resource groups, underrepresented, or minority groups in the workplace. Employees feel valued by the company.

Step 4: Educate and Train Employees

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Building an inclusive workplace isn't just about rolling out policies and procedures. You must ensure that everyone in the workplace is educated on inclusive company values.

By providing employees with the tools they need to understand and address issues related to inclusion, companies create a more supportive, productive, collaborative environment, and safe space for all.

Types of Diversity & Inclusion Training

Diversity and inclusion training is categorized into two broad categories:

Awareness-based Training

Awareness-based training focuses on developing an understanding of equity and inclusion issues. This type of training is often used by most leaders as a starting point to help employees recognize the impact of unconscious bias and other barriers to inclusion. They include:

  • Cultural competency training: Aims to raise awareness of different cultures and backgrounds, as well as the impact of cultural differences on communication and workplace interactions. It helps employees recognize and address their biases and assumptions and build skills for working effectively with people from diverse backgrounds.

  • Gender diversity training: Focus on matters related to gender. This training helps your workforce to understand the impact of gender bias and discrimination in the workplace. They are better placed to develop strategies for fostering workplace well being for employees of all genders.

  • Disability awareness training: This training aims to equip employees with the skills and knowledge needed to foster a more inclusive environment in adherence to the disabilities act. It helps build empathy and raise awareness of the best inclusive practices for working with disabled colleagues.

Behaviour-based Training

Inclusive behavior training aims to give an employee skills and behaviours that promote a diverse workforce. Common types of behaviour-based training include:

  • Unconscious bias training: Helps employees recognize and address unconscious biases that impact decision-making and workplace interactions. It provides them with strategies for eliminating bias to create a more inclusive culture at work.

  • Inclusive language training: This training provides a guideline for employees to use language that is inclusive and respectful of all individuals, regardless of their background, identity, or disability. It helps develop strategies for using more inclusive and welcoming language while avoiding offensive or exclusionary lingo.

  • Allyship training: Encourage employees to support colleagues from underrepresented affinity groups to create more inclusive workplaces.

The chief people officer should provide resources to employees on how to approach and address issues related to diversity and inclusion. This could include information on reporting incidents to HR or seeking guidance and support when needed. Training should be ongoing so employees stay up-to-date on the latest developments in workplace employee well being.

Step 5: Evaluate and Measure Progress

Evaluating progress is a critical step for fostering diversity and belonging in the workplace because it allows HR managers to achieve the following:

  • Assess the effectiveness of their inclusion program: By tracking progress over time, you determine whether your efforts to foster diversity and belonging are working as intended. This enables you to make adjustments as needed.

  • Protect your employees through antidiscrimination and anti-harassment policies. Also ensure company managers provide equal opportunities for all employees and create measurable goals for the organization.

  • Hold themselves accountable: Measuring progress provides a means of accountability for business leaders and employees to ensure that the organization is progressing toward a diverse environment.

  • Identify areas for improvement: Metrics help identify areas where the organization excels and where they require more attention or resources.

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Why Creating an Inclusive Workplace Matters

Inclusive workplaces are more successful than work environments that lack diverse employees. According to the Harvard Business Review, a company with an inclusive workplace culture is more likely to report a boost in market share due to sufficient employee engagement.

Employees feel more secure and accepted in a diverse workplace that promotes open dialogue and inclusive cultures. They feel less anxious in their interactions with others and have a greater sense of belonging, ultimately contributing to their overall well being and satisfaction with life.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to the Open Door Policy in the Workplace 

An inclusive workplace is good for business. It boosts productivity, innovation, creativity, and profitability, which increases cash flow.

With Shiftbase you can easily stay on top of all your HR processes with the right resources. From digitalization of the hours worked and payment of salaries to easy-to-use cloud software solutions for employee scheduling, Shiftbase has got you covered.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • An inclusive workplace is one that values and respects the diversity of its employees, creating a supportive environment where everyone feels welcome, respected, and empowered to contribute their unique talents. It's a place where differences are celebrated, not just tolerated, and where everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed.

  • An inclusive workplace is not one that simply tolerates diversity; it actively embraces and celebrates it. Practices that hinder inclusivity include:

     

    • Lack of Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives: Absence of policies, training programs, or initiatives aimed at promoting diversity and inclusion signals a company's indifference to these values.

    • Unconscious Bias: Unconscious biases, rooted in societal norms and stereotypes, can lead to discriminatory practices, limiting opportunities for certain groups of employees.

    • Lack of Cultural Sensitivity: Failing to acknowledge and respect cultural differences can create an environment of exclusion and discomfort for employees from diverse backgrounds.

    • Lack of Communication and Openness: A culture of fear, secrecy, or mistrust prevents employees from feeling comfortable sharing their ideas, experiences, and perspectives, hindering inclusive communication.

    • Ineffective Grievance Procedures: Failure to establish clear and accessible grievance procedures can discourage employees from reporting discrimination or harassment, allowing such issues to fester and undermine inclusion.
  • Creating an inclusive workplace requires a strategic and ongoing effort from employers and HR managers. Here are some key steps to foster an inclusive culture:

    • Champion Diversity and Inclusion as Core Values: Clearly articulate the company's commitment to diversity and inclusion, integrating these values into mission statements, policies, and decision-making processes.

    • Understand and Address Unconscious Bias: Provide training and education to employees on unconscious bias, helping them identify and mitigate their own biases to promote fair and equitable hiring, promotion, and performance evaluations.

    • Promote Cultural Sensitivity: Encourage employees to learn about and respect various cultures, traditions, and perspectives. Create opportunities for diverse groups to connect and share their experiences.

    • Foster Open Communication and Inclusive Dialogue: Create a culture of open communication where employees feel comfortable expressing their ideas, concerns, and experiences without fear of judgment or retaliation.

    • Establish Effective Grievance Procedures: Implement clear and accessible grievance procedures to address discrimination, harassment, or other workplace issues promptly and impartially.
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