How to Foster Inclusivity in The Workplace

How to Foster Inclusivity in The Workplace

There’s more to inclusivity than simply meeting certain benchmarks, or being able to check a ‘box’. Companies who commit to inclusivity participate in creating fair workplaces, representative, and offer equal opportunities for all. Keep reading to learn more about the concept of inclusivity, why it’s so important, and what you can do to create genuine inclusivity in your workplace.

What is Inclusivity?

To understand inclusivity, you really need to look at two terms.

The first is diversity. This is the variety of ways in which people identify themselves. Some of these “identifiers” are ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, race, and gender identity. But, those aren’t the only factors. Diversity can also include socioeconomic status, educational background, physical ability, even cultural identity. Ideally, a diverse workplace means that you have people coming from all different backgrounds.

Diversity is the key element of inclusivity. A diverse workplace is inclusive when everyone is equally valued, treated, empowered, and treated as if they belong.

Why Inclusivity is So Important in The Workplace

It’s easy to see the moral reasons for creating an inclusive workplace. But, there are several other benefits to prioritizing inclusivity. Here are some of them:

  • Employees who feel valued and heard are more likely to put in extra effort to benefit the organization. They are more engaged and satisfied, and thus motivated and productive.
  • Diversity can lead to a larger share of the consumer market. As Seth Godin says “people like us do stuff like this”, meaning that most people want to be respected by those whom they aspire to connect with and self-identify with the group.
  • Workplaces that are diverse and inclusive have less turnover and associated costs. In fact, 84% of executives believe that lack of diversity and inclusion drives higher turnover.
  • Recruiting from a diverse pool of potential employees makes it easier to find qualified talent. Plus, inclusivity itself is a good magnet for the right talent. Research shows that for millennial job seekers the company’s policies around diversity, equality, and inclusion is a major for or against factor in employment decisions.

How to Foster Inclusivity

There’s more to creating an inclusive workplace than making the right hiring decisions and getting diverse people on board. In fact, a workplace can be diverse and lack inclusivity at the same time.

To succeed in this effort, you need to make a dedicated effort. Start with these action tips.

Learn to Recognize Implicit Bias

Explicit bias is direct and intentional, therefore easy to point out and avoid. Implicit bias is different. It’s more difficult to recognize. Worse, it’s often carried out by people who don’t see themselves as being capable of biased behavior.

Unfortunately, implicit bias is just as damaging as explicit, and it can ruin inclusivity efforts. Learn to recognize unconscious bias by:

  • Educating staff about unconscious bias and its effects.
  • Encouraging self-awareness without shame.
  • Holding training sessions on the bias, and techniques to eliminate it.
  • Engaging workers from different backgrounds in discussions on the topic of bias.

Data is also a valuable tool here. Many people don’t recognize their own bias when asked. However, if they are presented with some data revealing their tendencies, they may be more likely to acknowledge it.

For example, a manager may not believe that they only award employee of the month certificates to people who are somewhat like them. However, they might be forced to open their eyes when they eventually see the leaderboard proving the opposite.

Create a Business Case For Inclusivity

Anyone who wants to push an inclusivity initiative in the workplace needs to prepare a strong business case for it. In many organizations that’s the only way to get buy-in.

So you might want to appeal to some cold facts yet again. Start by pointing out that customers are more likely to patronize a company when the workforce reflects them. Then mention that companies with above-average gender diversity outperform companies with below-average diversity and engagement by 46% to 58%. And don’t forget to specify that lack of inclusion may be costing your company some good talent, or worse — good reputation.

Implement Sponsorship Programs

Sometimes, inclusivity requires direct and dedicated efforts to ensure that people from underrepresented demographics have opportunities. This is where a well-executed sponsorship program can be invaluable.

Unlike mentoring, where an experienced employee offers advice and insights, sponsoring involves direct advocacy by people in power in an organization. Sponsorship is an important way for talent, who may not otherwise be selected, access the opportunities they deserve.

Show Inclusivity in Leadership Methods

Leaders need to ensure that everyone on their team is equally heard, welcomed, and can express themselves. To do this, you may need to work to get past their own biases. For example, a thorough inclusivity definition means accepting different communication styles as being valid.

To put this into practice, it’s important to avoid tone policing or unconsciously allowing communication style to impact whether a POV is validate or not. Leaders can also be very deliberate in ensuring that they seek out input from team members of all backgrounds.

Parting Thoughts

There are clearly moral and business reasons to create an inclusive workplace. However, doing so takes an active effort. It requires leaders to take concrete actions. It also means that people must be insightful enough to recognize their own bias, and take action to fix those tendencies.

Photo by Alex Kotliarskyi

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