When it comes to the workplace, diversity and inclusivity aren’t the same things. Diversity refers to the physical makeup of the employees and the variety of cultures that are represented within your workforce, whereas inclusivity is about making those diverse individuals feel like they belong and are celebrated within the workplace.
There are multiple things that can be done to create an inclusive environment within the workplace, one where employees feel valued and welcomed. If you strive for your for-purpose organisation – whether it’s a social enterprise, B-Corps, charity or not-for-profit – to be as inclusive as it is diverse, here are a few tips to help make it happen.
Start with Management
Simply telling management you are attempting to create an inclusive environment isn’t enough. They may not understand that diverse and inclusive are different things. Sometimes people think that just hiring from different cultures is enough. Unfortunately, or maybe, fortunately, the company’s tone is set by the attitude of those at the uppermost rung of the corporate ladder.
One way to help management is to create inclusivity training which is a mandatory part of management training. As part of that training, you might consider creating human rights flyers to highlight the points you’re making in your training. Everyone has a bias, often without realizing it, and teaching the people at the top how to recognize those biases will help them begin to model more inclusive behaviours. That modelling will have a trickle-down effect on the rest of the company.
Make Meetings More Effective
As the air of inclusivity begins to move through the company, you can help facilitate better meetings between management and employees or even simple staff meetings.
Learn to host meetings that make every employee feel like their input is valued and respected. There are a few ways to foster participation and contributions from even the shyest employees.
- Create and distribute talking points for meetings before the meeting. It’s helpful to introverted employees and those who may have a language barrier. This helps everyone know what will be discussed and think about how they will respond to the talking points.
- Don’t forget those workers who work remotely! Allow them to voice concerns and have a part in the conversation. Ensure that you have the appropriate technology to facilitate meetings that can include your teleworkers.
- Set meeting times that work for everyone regardless of their location.
- Make sure everyone gets appropriate recognition for their contributions. Give credit to the person who initially presents an idea.
- Pay attention to how you communicate. Avoid over-explaining things. Don’t assume you have more knowledge than the others simply because of your position. Give employees credit for the intelligence and experience you hired them to share.
- Facilitate courtesy among the participants. Allow employees to participate in active debates and conversations with each other. Ensure they understand that everyone should listen to each other’s points without interruption.
Don’t expect the first or second meeting to go off without a hitch. Cultivating an inclusive environment takes time; it isn’t a linear process; it evolves with the changing face of the workplace.
Celebrate Employee Diversity
One surefire way to help cultivate inclusivity within a workplace is to celebrate the changing face of that place. How can you do that? There are several ways to facilitate a celebratory atmosphere around the various cultures sharing your workplace.
- Have monthly employee potluck dinners or parties where each person is encouraged to bring their favourite dish from childhood. An alternative could be to have themed dinners surrounding foods associated with the cultures represented in your workforce.
- Create a room for prayer or reflection. Some cultures have daily prayer traditions. Honouring those traditions can help your employees feel their culture and, by extension, themselves are valued.
- Allow floating holidays. Most companies give Christmas and Easter as off-days for employees, but what about those employees who don’t celebrate those holidays? Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu (and any other culture and religious affiliation) colleagues have their own holidays to celebrate. Consider allowing them to have those days away from the office as a paid holiday even if you can’t make it a company-wide holiday. Encourage everyone to add holidays and festivals to a shared calendar.
Inclusivity and diversity are companion ideals. Facilitating an inclusive workplace begins with management and HR. Modeling inclusive attitudes hopefully will lead to a trickle-down effect throughout the office.
Listening to and celebrating your employees will make them feel valued and an integral part of the company. Coordinate meetings where everyone can give input and feel heard. Celebrating differences and cultures allows your employees to share details of themselves and learn about their colleagues. These are just three of many ideas for facilitating an inclusive workplace; use these as a starting point for some of your own.
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