A survey by Glassdoor states that over 5200 employees from four different countries have fallen victim to discrimination based on race, age, gender, LGBTQ-(Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer), identity at work, and this is the result of a non-inclusive work environment. This affects employee performance and, ultimately, the organisation's productivity and efficiency. This article will guide you on how to create an inclusive work environment.
"Creating a company culture that celebrates and respects people for their diverse backgrounds and experiences should be a top priority for all employers. Employees must feel comfortable bringing their full selves to work without the fear of prejudice or ridicule, whether intentional or not. It is critical for employers to actively listen to how their employees feel about what it is like to work at their company. More importantly, employers must be willing and ready to take action to foster a workplace environment in which all people feel they belong"
What is an inclusive work environment?
"An inclusive workplace is defined as a work environment that makes every employee feel valued while also acknowledging their differences and how these differences contribute to the organisation's culture and business outcomes. An inclusive workplace is characterised by affirmative action, wherein any impact of bias/discrimination/unequal opportunity is negated."
An inclusive work environment is one in which employees with differences and disabilities feel a sense of belonging.
How does inclusion differ from diversity?
Diversity and inclusion are related, but they do not have the same meaning. Diversity refers to an entity's makeup or representation. Inclusion refers to how successfully diverse people's contributions, opinions, and presence are appreciated and incorporated in a given setting.
If there are different genders, ethnicities, nations, sexual orientations, and identities present, but only the viewpoints of specific groups are valued or have any authority or influence, then the environment is diverse but not inclusive.
In an inclusive and diverse workplace, everyone feels equally supported and involved in all aspects of the workplace, regardless of what they do or who they are.
Do you recruit from a diverse pool of candidates and have diverse departments and leadership? Or do you have a company where 50% of your employees are female, but 0% of your managers are female? Do you have a fair number of employees of colour in general, but they all work in the same department?
The importance of an inclusive environment at work
An article by Deloitte on diversity and inclusion indicates that inclusive and diverse teams perform better than their peers. Companies that use inclusive talent practices in hiring, development, promotion, leadership, and team management produce up to 30% more revenue per employee and are more profitable. The team-centric paradigm of a diverse workforce may not succeed without a strong inclusion and adaptation culture.
Organisations must be inclusive for diversity programs and initiatives to succeed. Without inclusion, diversity is meaningless. When employees feel included, they get a sense of belonging, which improves performance and the formation of collaborative, engaging, and innovative teams. Employees who feel included are more likely to be enthusiastic about their jobs. Increased employee engagement leads to increased productivity, retention, and overall corporate success.
It brings in new perspectives and innovation
With a more diversified workforce, your organisation has a better chance of coming up with new ideas. According to the Harvard Business Review, there is a statistically significant link between diversity and innovation results. As assessed by their revenue mix, the most diverse organisations, in terms of migration, industry, career path, gender, education, and age, were also the most innovative. Each of the six aspects of diversity was correlated to innovation, but the effects of industry, country of origin, and gender on the organisation's revenue were significantly greater.
Diverse teams are better at identifying products and services that meet the needs of new client segments. In addition, much diverse personnel have suffered substantial adversity in their lives. These difficulties compelled them to improve their skills and develop great problem-solving skills.
Stronger business results and profits
Diversity and inclusion benefit employees' mental health and have a positive business impact. According to Harvard Business Review, more diversified businesses generate 19% more income. According to a McKinsey analysis, every 10% increase in the racial and ethnic diversity of a company's senior-executive team results in a 0.8 percent rise in earnings.
Furthermore, businesses in the top quartile for racial, ethnic, and gender diversity are 25% more likely to be profitable than the national median for their specific industry. This is especially true in crisis situations. Before, during, and after a recession, Great Place to Work evaluated hundreds of publicly traded companies. Exceptionally inclusive companies experienced a 14.4% increase in stock performance.
Increased employee engagement and trust
Employees are more engaged when they feel included. Employees who are highly engaged go above and beyond for the company. Profitability, team morale, and retention result from an inclusive environment with engaged employees. People who work in inclusive environments also have better physical and emotional health and take fewer sick days. 83% of millennials are actively engaged in their work when employers support diversity and inclusion activities.
Furthermore, creating an inclusive workplace may foster stronger trust between employees and management, which is a major issue in today's workforce. Only 1 in 5 HR and engagement executives agree that their employees have a high level of trust in their bosses. Training your leaders to recognise team members' unique skills and reward them for performing well will help to solve this problem and make your workplace more inclusive. It's also vital to note to foster a truly inclusive culture, all employees must recognise one another.
Characteristics of an inclusive work environment
A number of aspects characterise an inclusive workplace:
Diversity and inclusiveness are valued as a way of life
In an inclusive workplace, diversity is visible at all levels of the organisation. Both the workforce and the client populations have diverse cultures, traditions, beliefs, languages, and lifestyles, all of which are recognised without prejudice. People are seen as individuals who have banded together to achieve common goals through coordinated action.
It assesses individual and group performance based on actions and abilities that are visible and measurable
Employees are well-versed in their roles and responsibilities. They are evaluated based on their own actions rather than the opinions of others. Expectations and objectives can be met.
It follows policies and procedures that are open to the public
There are no hidden norms of behaviour that certain groups may be aware of while others are unaware of.
Its interactions with everyone are consistent
There is no discrimination. There is no preference for one group over another. Throughout the institution, rules are enforced consistently and appropriately.
It fosters and sustains a learning environment
Management encourages and supports all employees' professional development.
Mentoring programs are extensive, with both formal and informal mechanisms in place to address the requirements of all employees. Mistakes are acknowledged, and consequences are dealt with, but they are considered learning opportunities rather than faults in character.
How to implement an inclusive work environment
Despite the fact that many firms are striving toward more inclusive workforces, there is still much work. As a leader, you can take some basic steps to build an inclusive workplace atmosphere
1. Begin from the top
Creating and encouraging a sense of belonging at your workplace starts at the top, just like any other aspect of company culture. According to Eloise Bune, co-founder of Tentrr and previous CEO of ScribbleChat, the company's founders and management team must desire to develop a diverse culture and hire people who are open to working with people of all backgrounds.
2. Adopt inclusive recruitment strategies
It's simple to spread that attitude throughout your company once the leadership sets the tone.
"What's fantastic about cultivating a culture of belonging is that it can be done both top-down and bottom-up"
Ullmann also suggests scrutinising your company's recruiting strategies to ensure that you're hiring with the objective of developing diversity and inclusion in mind.
"To enhance your company's future, cultivate your employees, and invest in the community as a whole, make inclusive recruitment an intrinsic part of your company's DNA," he said.
3. Provide employees with a safe working environment
Inclusive workplaces go beyond normal practices by ensuring that all employees are secure and comfortable, especially those from underrepresented groups. For example, gendered bathrooms have the potential to make transgender and gender non-conforming employees uncomfortable, especially in light of controversial bathroom bills that could or are affecting transgender rights in various jurisdictions. According to Bune, providing unisex bathrooms in your workplace is a simple way to establish a modern, inclusive workplace.
Consider having team lunches and other casual get-togethers to let staff get to know one another. On a bigger scale, simply spending time together can create inclusive environments. If your organisation is larger, creating an internal support group or network for diverse employees may help them connect with others who share their experiences.
The work environment needs to be psychologically safe to ensure that employees are always at their best performance.
4. Connect with your employees and be sensitive
Connecting with your colleagues personally is one of the finest ways to convey to them that it is fine for them to be comfortable at work. Be honest with them about your own life, and they will likely do the same.
Asking about "spouses" or "partners" (rather than assuming someone's sexual orientation and using gendered language) can encourage LGBTQ employees to speak up about their personal life and feel included in non-work talks. It is crucial, though, to be sensitive to their identity.
LGBTQ employees should be treated like everyone else in the organisation. It is important to avoid asking inappropriate questions like, 'How did you come out?', unless you have a personal relationship with the person.
5. Allow employees to submit feedback in different methods
Employees should have a place to engage with others and share their views. It can be through employee surveys, suggestion boxes, or the workers union. Employees' perspectives matter and should be taken into consideration
Examples of organisations implementing an inclusive work culture
Several organisations have created an inclusive work culture for their employees. Here are a few examples:
LinkedIn has a global employee resource organisation that provides executive sponsors and a strong ally community for LGBTQ employees. Employees, executives, and LinkedIn Influencers were invited to share their experiences about belonging at work as part of the company's #ProudAtWork campaign.
In Jamaica, 74% of their workforce is made up of women.KPMG has an inclusion and diversity strategy that helps them create an inclusive work environment. They were the first organisation to publish their gender targets externally.
Inclusive workplaces ensure all employees are safe and comfortable. Leading organisations must want a diverse culture and recruit people who are open to working with people from various backgrounds. As a leader, you can develop an inclusive workplace because the organisation benefits in multiple ways.
Nicole Chimwamafuku is Finance, Strategy and Performance Management Consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd, a business management and human resources consulting firm.
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