So, you want to build an inclusive workplace, but you’re not sure where to start.
You’re not alone.
Research shows that an inclusive workplace is linked to increased team innovation, creativity and knowledge-sharing. But, focusing on the tough topics can seem overwhelming and, at times, a bit like a minefield. Your intentions are good, but you don’t want to offend anyone or make them feel excluded.
Here are some sure-fire ways to help create an inclusive workplace, and you guessed it, without breaking the bank.
A win-win for all!
Wait, wait, wait… what does an ‘inclusive workplace’ actually mean?
Diverse employees are a key part of an inclusive workplace. Diversity is about the who, the what and the variation of people. Inclusion is the how.
Your workforce might include:
- Non-binary individuals
- Muslim or Jewish beliefs
- Disabled workers
- 25 or 65-year-olds
And this is great! But with such a variety of people, they all need to be heard and valued.
To be clear, just because you have a diverse workforce, doesn’t mean you have an inclusive workplace.
How are you uplifting and listening to each of your employees?
Do your employees really feel valued? How do you know?
What strategies and processes are you putting in place to amplify your workforce?
Over 47% of millennials are actively looking for inclusion when job hunting. Not only can you save yourself some money in the long run, but you might actually get some of the best talent too!
Lead by example
Leaders, executives, CEOs – we’re talking to you here.
Leadership teams must look at their own values, and the vision of the company. In order to build an inclusive workplace, leaders should:
- Be open to change
- Respect all employee voices, regardless of hierarchy
- Welcome cultural differences
- Commit to workplace improvements
- Awareness of unconscious bias
- Collaborate with your workforce to understand what teams really want from you
It can be sensitive and sometimes a little humiliating to admit bias, mistakes, or any form of previous exclusion. Being honest and committing to change is the first, and some might say, the most powerful step to building an inclusive workplace.
Encourage open communication
Championing a culture of honest and open communication is one of the best things you can do to foster an inclusive workplace.
Many businesses try and fail because everybody has to be on board. Each and every employee needs to actively listen and ask others for their thoughts in a way where employees feel valued.
To create a culture of openness and honesty, the senior management team should also reciprocate.
Be honest about targets, sales, how the business is going. You’re all one team, employees want to see the bigger picture, and the vision for what they’re all working towards.
Trust is also fundamental.
If employees don’t trust their managers, they’ll likely shut down and not speak up.
Ways to encourage open communication
- Ask precise questions
- Listen carefully
- Don’t dominate conversations
- Say thank you, and give credit for ideas
- Embrace mistakes – allow them to learn from them, don’t get angry
- Test different communication styles, e.g. meetings, instant messaging, emails, 1-2-1s
Provide training for everyone
As well as providing training for managers and business leaders, it’s also important to ensure all employees take some form of training.
This doesn’t have to be expensive. To really make sure managers have listened to their training, why not get them to set up internal meetings with employees to demonstrate how your workplace should behave and accept others.
However, if you want a more permanent, no-nonsense kind of training scheme, there are plenty of accessible training courses that won’t break the bank:
- Equality and diversity training
- Unconscious bias for employees
- Bullying and harassment – focuses on The Equality Act
Plus, all of these training courses come with a downloadable eBook. Leave them around the office so employees can boost their knowledge and have their own mini refresher courses when they want!
Employees should also be trained on the use of gender-neutral language. Introducing yourself with your preferred pronouns allows employees to feel safe enough to do the same.
According to a survey conducted by ScottishTrans, 90% of non-binary respondents said they were worried if they shared their non-binary gender at work, they would not be respected. 88% said it would make their environment more difficult, and 55% worried it would impact their career.
The workplace should be a safe space for everyone to feel included, respected, and express who they are.
Not everyone goes by gender-binary pronouns such as “he/him” and “she/her”.
Other pronouns such as “they/them” and even “name only” are common, and to be a progressive and inclusive workforce, you mustn’t assume an individual’s gender.
More general language can have gender-neutral alternatives too, for example:
“Guys” -> “Team”
“Salesman” -> “Sales Representative”
“Waitress” -> “Server”
“Husband” -> “Spouse” or “Partner”
Celebrate national (and international) awareness days
There are so many days, weeks and months to celebrate to make everyone feel more included.
A few great ways to celebrate awareness days:
- Publicly showing your support on social media
- Writing an in-depth blog post to raise awareness
- Hosting an intimate but collaborative shindig in the office to open the conversation around specific awareness days
Psst, don’t tell anyone, but we’ve got something else for you…
We’ve got an easy-to-read eBook with your name on it!
Discover how to support neurodiverse employees, the fight for LGBTQIA+ in the workplace and, see how much you’ve learned with our ‘inclusive workplace’ quiz.