The modern workplace looks different than what it used to 10 or 20 years ago. There’s a strong emphasis on having a diverse and inclusive workforce. There are many benefits that come with having a diverse workforce. McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, conducted research that included 180 companies in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. They found out that companies with more diverse top teams were also top financial performers.
However, there’s more to this than simple financial benefits.Employees are actively demanding a more diverse workplace. 57% of employees want to see their company increase diversity. More and more organizations are beginning to understand the importance of an inclusive organizational culture. To do that, you need to learn how to build an inclusive workplace culture.
Benefits of an Inclusive Workplace
Companies that are intentional about hiring, retaining, and developing diverse talent are 35% more likely to outperform their competitors.
There are many tangible and intangible benefits of a diverse workforce. For instance, the different backgrounds of your employees also bring forth different perspectives, which help you solve problems faster and more efficiently.
However, when companies are creating policies, they often forget that there’s a difference between having a diverse workforce and an inclusive one. A diverse workplace is important as it brings people of different backgrounds together but it’s not necessarily an inclusive workplace.
Let’s take a look at ‘Company X’ that hires a certain number of male and female employees to meet their ‘diversity quota.’ However, the company does not have any policies that make the women employees feel included, such as having menstrual leaves, maternity benefits, etc. While this company can be called a ‘diverse company,’ you cannot call it an ‘inclusive’ one.
Steps to Build an Inclusive Workforce
1. Change Your Recruitment Process
Your recruitment process lays the groundwork for what your organization will look like and how it will function. More often than not, companies have a very standardized hiring process. Unfortunately, this standard process unintentionally leaves out many people.
For instance, even the job listing can portray exclusivity unless you’re careful. Similarly, the images that you use for your company can be more diverse. The recruitment process is key to having a more diverse and inclusive workforce.
Let’s say your company is hiring for an entry-level position. Most companies hire from a fixed list of colleges and institutions. Doing so limits their talent pool to a certain demographic. The alternative here is to expand your search to different colleges and universities to tap into a wider pool of applicants, thus increasing your reach to a more diverse group.
2. Embrace Different Perspectives
When you’re figuring out how to build an inclusive workplace, it’s important to prioritize one-on-one communication on a regular basis. Think of your employees as your customers. Just like you want your customer to give you feedback to improve your product or service, you need to have a clear line of communication to understand your employees’ needs.
By having a seamless communication system, you can understand the different needs of different employees, thus taking a step towards building an inclusive workplace. Employees from underrecognized backgrounds often feel like their voice is not being heard and this often happens in a professional setting as well. With the right communication system in place, your employees can convey their expectations and the leadership can draft policies that are more inclusive. This brings us to our next point about the role of inclusive leadership.
3. Practice Inclusive Leadership
A top-down approach towards leadership results in compliance. However, inclusive leadership results in commitment and employee engagement. Traditionally, the leaders at the top made the decisions as they deemed fit and everyone else had to comply with the new rules and regulations.
On the other hand, inclusive leadership recognizes that every employee has a different experience and relevant changes can be made to suit them. At Bak USA, leaders conduct regular town hall-style meetings as part of their communication with staff. “[It] teaches us what people really need and what makes them feel comfortable”
Practices like town hall meetings and surveys are a great way to understand what’s happening in your company and to connect directly with your employees.
4. Celebrate the Differences
One of the key steps in learning how to build an inclusive workplace is to recognize and celebrate the different backgrounds of your employees.
When an employee feels included in their workplace, they are more likely to stay. A great way to do so is to celebrate the different cultures and traditions of your employees by bringing them together in your workplace.
For instance, you can hold a casual potluck to celebrate the diversity of your workplace. Not only does it give employees a space to represent their culture but also explore the different cultures around them. If you are in a remote setting, you can do a ‘virtual team lunch’ to get to know each other better.
Building an inclusive workplace isn’t a one-off thing. It’s a continuous process that requires research, perseverance, and reflection. Societal norms, inequity, and structures can easily infiltrate a workplace, often due to unrecognized and unintentional bias.
The right way to learn how to build an inclusive workplace is to understand these biases and work towards creating a space where everyone can feel comfortable and welcome.