What Is an Inclusive Workplace?
An inclusive workplace is one that promotes a sense of belonging, acceptance, and value for all employees regardless of their background.
It is a workplace where all employees at all levels feel safe and respected, and where they can work without fear of being judged unfairly or discriminated against.
Furthermore, an inclusive workplace encourages collaboration, communication, and creativity while fostering a sense of unity and understanding.
By enabling employees to bring their unique perspectives and experiences to the workplace, an organization can reap the rewards of greater innovation, productivity, and success.
Ultimately, inclusivity leads to a stronger organization that is better positioned to serve its customers and achieve its goals.
In order to create an inclusive workplace, as an organization, you must take steps to ensure that each and every employee feels that they are treated equally and with respect.
This involves creating policies and a system at work whereby you:
- Take steps to prevent discrimination from taking place during the hiring process
- Promote diversity in the workforce by actively recruiting from a variety of backgrounds
- Provide equal pay for comparable work regardless of gender or race
- Ensure equal access to opportunities and resources
- Create an environment where everyone feels safe and valued.
Additionally, as an organization, you should ensure that employees have the right to express their views without fear of retribution or ridicule.
Indeed, creating and maintaining an inclusive workplace is essential for a strong, successful organization.
Tips and Strategies for Creating an Inclusive Workplace
In order to create a more inclusive workplace, try these 12 tips to get started.
1. Understand Whom You Need to Include
We talk of being inclusive but who are we looking to include? Who are the employees who tend to get left out or who might get discriminated against and need to be the focus of inclusive leadership?
As you can see from the graphic above, we can be discriminated against for a variety of reasons including because of our:
- ethnicity and cultural background
- skin color
So, the first stage in understanding how we can create greater workplace inclusion is to be aware of the various biases that occur and then take steps to reduce these biases.
By reducing workplace bias, we move towards helping more employees to feel a part of the team and to feel more accepted and treated fairly. This is one of the first steps toward inclusivity.
All managers can benefit from unconscious and implicit bias training.
2. Create Workplace Where Staff Can Express Themselves
What we call Psychology Safety is very important in the workplace. You may or might not have heard the term, but to explain, it is as follows:
Psychological safety in the workplace refers to a team climate in which staff feels comfortable expressing their opinions, admitting mistakes, giving and receiving feedback, suggesting improvements, and pointing out problems without fear of embarrassment, punishment, or rejection by the rest of the team.
So, as expressed in the definition above, for all staff to feel included, it is ESSENTIAL that we build a team, environment, and workplace that exhibits a high level of psychological safety.
This is really about training managers to ensure that they have the skills to create this sense of openness within their team.
3. Consider Disability Access to Your Physical Workplace
For staff who have accessibility issues, it is morally and also legally (in many countries) a requirement to ensure that the employee has fair access to all areas that their colleagues do.
Furthermore, facing accessibility issues that need not exist, can make the employee feel less included.
From research done by Dr Paul Symonds (an expert in Wayfinding) over 50% of issues regards accessibility in the workplace, such as for wheelchair users, can be quite easily solved within a few minutes.
Wheelchair users are often faced with issues that are easily solvable such as when:
- File boxes and other materials and objects are left blocking access in hallways.
- The tables in a meeting room are laid out such that a wheelchair user cannot navigate around the room
- A simple portable ramp has not been put in place that enables access to rooms with raised edges at the entrance
- Shrubbery has not been cut down on key paths around the building
You might want to allocate a member of staff to check access and train someone in ADA or DDA checks.
Here’s a good post also on improving access in the workplace.
4. Have a Solid Induction and Onboarding Strategy
The easiest way to alienate staff is when they first join the company!
Have you ever joined a company and been left without a desk and computer login for the first week and not been introduced to hardly anyone else and left with no work to do?
It’s not a great way to start and certainly not ideal for creating the right impression.
Onboarding can include informing staff of the equality, diversity and inclusion standards and how to get help if needed at any time.
5. Provide Feeback and Keep Staff Informed
A great and yet very simple thing you can do to keep staff engaged and interested is to provide them an insight into how their own skills and experience can help the organization create meaningful change.
Make them feel that they have genuine worth in the future and are valued as an individual.
As a team leader or manager, it will be up to you to learn about those you manage and to understand their skillset and real strengths.
Feedback should also be used to inform future decisions in order to ensure a workplace remains optimally inclusive.
6. Hold Team Building Days (Include Employees Virtually as Needed)
I cannot emphasize enough how useful team-building days can really be as team-building days are essential for a productive, healthy work environment.
They can help to:
- Foster relationships between employees
- Build trust and morale amongst the team
- Create an overall sense of camaraderie at work
Team building activities also provide a great opportunity to practice a range of skills that are essential for any successful working environment, such as:
- and collaboration
Additionally, team building can help break down silos and broaden employees’ perspectives, allowing them to think more creatively about how to work together.
Ultimately, a successful team-building day will result in improved efficiency, increased morale, and strengthened relationships between colleagues.
If you are managing employees from around the world, organize an online virtual team-building day or session.
7. Provide Equal Pay for Equal Work
There are still many roles in many companies where employees are paid differently to do the same job.
If you are able to help ensure that this pay issue is resolved in your workplace for your teams, you will avoid alienating staff and this certainly aids the idea of an equal and inclusive workplace.
8. Encourage Mentorship Programs
Mentoring (and reverse mentoring) programs can be a wonderful idea when it comes to workplace inclusion.
In essence, mentoring, when well-designed and implemented, can help:
- Build relationships between people from different backgrounds
- Connect new staff to the culture of the organization
- Create better opportunities for career growth.
Mentoring programs promote inclusion by providing an environment that is more welcoming to diverse talent.
When employees are exposed to different perspectives, they become more open-minded and better understand the needs of fellow colleagues from different backgrounds.
Additionally, mentoring programs can foster meaningful connections between remote workers by providing them with resources and support. It helps remote workers feel a greater sense of belonging and connection.
9. Create a Positive & Happy Workplace
When the work environment is a positive, happy and enjoyable one in which to work, staff tend to have a much greater sense of team unity.
In other words, the sense of feeling included tends to be much higher, largely because staff tend to make a greater effort in a more positive environment.
I recently wrote a post about how to create a positive work environment for your staff and this covers many ideas on creating a positive workplace.
10. Adopt Flexible Working Practices
Having flexible working practices is a wonderful way to aid inclusion because it provides a solution for many employees and provides them with a much fairer chance in the workplace.
Consider the following employees, for example, and how a flexible working practice might aid them:
- a single mother with a young child, who needs to pick her child/ren up from school every afternoon
- an employee with a health condition which means that they need to attend hospital appointments often
There are numerous examples of staff who could benefit from flexible working hours and what do you get if you provide flexibility for these staff?
You will tend to find the following:
- More loyal staff because they greatly appreciate the flexible approach (and higher levels of staff retention)
- Greater job satisfaction
- Improved levels of productivity
11. Work to Build Trust
If you are a team leader or manager, working to build trust is essential for an inclusive work environment.
Engagement & satisfaction – If you can trust others and you feel trusted, you tend to feel more engaged and happier with your work situation.
12. Have an Open Door Policy and Listen
As a manager, work towards having an open door policy, meaning that your staff feels comfortable to approach you at any time to talk to you.
Make it clear, such as through team meetings and one-to-one meetings, that you are there to help and that they should approach you with any issues they have.
Whilst managing employees can be time-consuming, this is still less time than it can take to deal with issues if they are otherwise allowed to fester and build. Likewise, lost productivity because of staff absence from stress and a feeling of exclusion, can be costly.
In order for the people you manage to feel included, they need to feel respected and listened to.
In order to create an inclusive workplace, as a company or department, you must be willing to commit resources, time, and energy towards this effort.
This includes implementing policies that prohibit discrimination in hiring, promoting diversity in the workforce by actively recruiting from a variety of backgrounds and creating an environment free of harassment or retribution.
It also involves cultivating a culture of respect, where everyone is encouraged to share their perspectives in order to drive innovation and success.
Regularly engaging with staff to gain insights into their experiences can help to identify any gaps in the organization’s efforts and reveal ways that it can further its commitment to an inclusive workplace.
Such feedback should also be used to inform future decisions in order to ensure a workplace remains as inclusive as possible.
Involved with education for over 25 years, Valeria has taught at the University of Bath and Cardiff Metropolitan University (both UK) & Hankuk University (Korea). With a PhD, she has also worked as a researcher (Exeter University) & has many years of industry experience including with Cardiff University in management roles. She is the founder of Symonds Training.