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Workplace Inclusivity: What is it? Why is it critical? And how do you do it?

  • February 28, 2022
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Introduction

Inclusive workplaces are becoming more important as any person can be a victim of workplace harassment. But what does it entail? What is the goal of an inclusive workplace? How do you make your office work environment inclusive, and how does that affect employees' productivity? This blog will answer these questions and provide strategies for making your workplace more inclusive.

Why is an inclusive workplace critical to the success of your business?

A diverse workforce is one of the biggest strengths your business can have. Employing people from different backgrounds, races, genders, and cultures makes for an office full of creativity, ideas and innovation. In addition, a more inclusive workplace creates a positive working environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas. It also leads to lower turnover rates as employees are happier at work.

Workplace inclusivity isn't only a topic for HR staff to consider. Senior management and line managers must be engaged in making their workplace more inclusive. After all, they are the ones who set the office culture and can directly impact your company's inclusivity.

What are the disadvantages of not having an inclusive workplace?

If you have a workplace that does not encourage diversity, you are limiting your recruitment pool to only people similar to each other. This means you lose out on the chance to hire talented employees with different backgrounds and perspectives. Not being inclusive also increases the chances of running into problems with harassment and criticism of your recruitment policies. 

Non-inclusive workplaces often suffer from low staff morale. Employees are less likely to speak up or share their ideas, which means the company misses out on any new opportunities for success. Without diversity in your workplace,  you are setting yourself up for failure.

Steps to make an inclusive workplace environment

Awareness

Awareness is the first step to creating an inclusive environment. Awareness creates understanding. If people understand what they're doing wrong, then they have a chance to correct it. 

Create awareness by holding monthly meetings with employees to talk about current events or issues in the company's culture or industry. Hold these meetings on days with no major deadlines, so everyone has time to think about their answers beforehand without feeling rushed or overwhelmed.

Some issues to consider could be:

  • How does the company handle difficult situations?
  • Are there policies in place to deal with workplace harassment? 
  • What is the daily office environment like, and do employees feel welcome? 
  • Is everyone treated with respect? 
  • Study your environment. Pay attention to areas labelled 'male' or 'female' and gender-based discrimination in hiring practices for certain positions.

To create awareness of these issues, you can do something as simple as asking employees how they feel about the issues and develop anonymous surveys for employees to fill out. These can be sent out by email or in-person meetings like the ones mentioned earlier.

Building awareness takes time, but it is time well spent as it creates an environment where everyone feels welcome and accepted. In addition, it prevents workplace harassment by preventing discriminatory behaviour before it happens. As research suggests, prevention is the best strategy for all forms of discrimination.

Targeted training

Once awareness has been established, it's time to implement targeted training. Training should include handling difficult situations, what harassment looks like according to law, and familiarity with company policies regarding harassment. This targeted training should also address any issues that arose during the surveys or through awareness and how to handle them.
A training course should be mandatory for all employees and any new hires. Once completed, award a certificate saying the employee took part in the training. This will help with accountability as anyone who has not undergone it can be easily identified for future training.

These sessions should also include information about workplace banter to show the difference between acceptable and unacceptable language. Once again, this creates accountability as everyone will know what behaviour is not acceptable in the workplace. 

Accountability

Any time you talk about harassment and discrimination, people will blame others. However, you can give your employees a way to report bad behaviour without putting themselves at risk by making an anonymous hotline for reporting problems so other employees cannot retaliate against them.

Create a list of all phone extensions in the office plus cell phone numbers for key members of management, such as directors and assistant directors. That way, employees can lodge complaints without revealing their identity.

Hiring

The easiest way to make your workplace more inclusive is by hiring people from different backgrounds. Remember that diverse teams are better at problem-solving than homogenous groups because they bring different views and experiences to the table.

According to LinkedIn, diverse teams are 35% more likely to outperform their competitors. They also report that number of women in senior management positions has a direct impact on financial performance 

Diversity training should be done as part of hiring employees. It is much easier and less time consuming than trying to change employees behaviour after they have been hired.
LinkedIn has a tool that identifies companies committed to diversity and equality for potential employees. You can then decide whether you want to work for those companies or not. However, remember that no matter how strong your company's commitment is, it will need time to change workplace culture. 

By doing all of this, you create an inclusive workplace where everyone feels welcome and accepted. Consequently, you will see a positive effect on staff morale, leading to better company performance. 

Managing workplace banter

Workplace banter can be a tricky issue. It can be hard to know what is acceptable and what isn't. You don't want to cross the line and end up offending someone, but you also don't want to hold back and not have any fun.

Here are a few tips for workplace banter:

  • Make sure that everyone is comfortable with the level of banter going on. You don't want to make someone feel uncomfortable or bullied.
  • Avoid making fun of someone's race, religion, or gender. This is not only offensive, but it can also lead to a lawsuit.
  • Keep it clean. Avoid using obscene language or making sexual jokes.
  • Be aware of the person's body language when you are bantering. If they seem uncomfortable, stop.
  • Let them in on the joke. Don't leave someone out of the conversation just because it is meant to be good fun. Remember that everyone likes different things, and some people take their work seriously while others want to relax with a bit of banter at times.
  • If you are making others feel uncomfortable, stop.
  • Don't use banter as a way of insulting someone's work performance. Joking around is fine, but there are more productive ways to reprimand workers.

Summary

To summarise, there are several ways to make your workplace more inclusive:

1.    Create awareness about different types of discrimination and harassment
2.    Implement targeted training for employees that includes information about company policies and responsibilities
3.    Make it mandatory by requiring that all new hires complete the training course
4.    Offer anonymous reporting methods such as hotlines and extensions to key management members
5.    Hire people from different backgrounds to make your workplace more inclusive
6.    Ensure diversity training is part of hiring so you have the most inclusive team possible.

At Martin Veasey Talent Solutions, we have decades of experience helping companies achieve their objectives. Please call us on 00 44 (0)1905 381320 or get in contact today to discuss your requirements.
 

 
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