How to create an inclusive workplace
An inclusive workplace welcomes and includes every employee. It ensures that employees feel accepted within the team they work in, across the wider organisation (as applicable) and supports them to thrive doing the work they perform.
In addition, an inclusive workforce is an environment that respects and values the unique traits of all employees and means that each employee can bring their authentic self to work.
Here are my top tips for developing an inclusive workplace:
Start at the top!
Like all workplace initiatives, engagement at a senior level is paramount. Senior leaders should understand and be able to define what being inclusive means and live by this day to day. Without this, developing an inclusive workplace just won’t happen.
In addition to this, senior leaders need to give some of themselves to their workforce and be authentic, as this will help others do the same. This isn’t always easy when you feel you need to keep everything private so as not to blur professional boundaries, but you can still strike a balance. By bringing your whole self to work and sharing the things in life you place value on, you will better connect with your workforce and show others that it’s safe for them to do the same.
Embed it into the organisation
Embedding inclusion into any organisation starts by considering it your mission and vision and ensuring it features in your organisation’s values and ambitions. To truly embed any initiative into an organisation not only requires robust policies and procedures but also ensures that inclusion is considered at every touch point in the employee life cycle. This is from attraction, during the recruitment process through to onboarding, induction, performance management, employee engagement and even when someone leaves the organisation.
Like all initiatives, it’s unlikely to stand the test of time without investment in awareness and engagement. This is why embedding training and development specifically to maintain an inclusive culture should be a continuous focus from induction and throughout an employee’s length of service.
Inclusivity is often considered to be the next step in supporting a diverse workforce so creating and embracing a diverse workforce is a great starting point for any organisation. Given that diversity is the collective mix of employee differences and similarities which, outside of any protected characteristics, even includes individual characteristics, values, beliefs, experience, backgrounds, preferences, and behaviours. On this basis, no matter where an organisation’s starting point is, every organisation has diversity in their workforce now. Understanding your workforce and getting to know your people is key to opening up an inclusive culture.
Think ‘employee experience’
Traditionally, organisations talk about employee engagement, referring to the strength of mental and emotional connection that employees feel towards the work they do, their teams and their organisation. Having a stronger focus on employee experience will not only enhance employee engagement but it also fosters a sense of belonging and community. This requires an organisation, its leaders, and managers to really think about the physical and psychological environment people work in. This includes the facilities and signage provided and used on-site; the way communication is managed and shared; language being adopted by everyone; celebrating a range of diverse events; awareness campaigns and dates in the calendar.
The employee experience also includes encouraging openness; welcoming and pro-actively seeking people’s thoughts, feedback and ideas; helping them build personal skills or introducing the right forums for those who may not be able to do this, to really enable a contribution by all. Ultimately, if everyone working for an organisation is more mindful of the employee experience it will enhance what it feels like to work there. The employee experience is everyone’s responsibility, not just senior leaders or managers.
Keep inclusion moving
Inclusion can’t be static; it needs to keep moving, evolve and continually develop over time. An organisation needs to stay closely connected to its workforce to ensure it continues to move with it. It’s key to make inclusion an intentional habit for everyone, meaning that employees are reminded of this on a frequent basis and it becomes part of the organisation’s DNA. Finding the best way to quantify and measure inclusion as an organisation is also a critical success factor.
Rachel Clift is Health & Wellbeing Director at Ben