How do you build an inclusive workplace with an effective diversity, equity, and inclusion policy? You can start with these 10 Steps for Building an Inclusive Workplace.
When people think about unsafe working conditions, they might think about faulty wiring or dangerous machinery. But one of the ways offices overlook when creating safe working conditions is creating an inclusive environment where employees feel comfortable being who they are. Inclusion is not just diversity — it’s taking it one step further. Creating an inclusive workplace means making everyone in the office feel included and comfortable in their environment, and not just comfortable working and being there, but comfortable contributing to the company’s work.
Identify Current Leadership Demographics
One of the easiest ways to incorporate inclusivity is to diversify the perspectives from the top of the workplace. If your office is looking to hire new leaders, from management to executive, think about hiring underrepresented leaders. While they might be underrepresented at the top, chances are their perspective will represent a significant office demographic. With a leader who has their interests in mind, there is more progress toward inclusivity in the office.
Look at Current Policies and Identify Discriminatory Practices
As with most workplaces, there are likely outdated policies and practices that many workers and executives accept without thinking about them. But these types of policies are very likely holding your office back from being truly inclusive. Policies like pregnancy discrimination, ageism, and gender or sexual orientation-based discrimination are still frequent but are extremely easy for workplaces to leave behind.
Encourage Employees to Voice Their Opinions
These changes include revamping the complaint system. Whatever system your office currently has in place, no matter how forward-thinking it might be, it could probably stand to be updated and made more inclusive. Employees will feel more comfortable in the workplace if they also know that they can be comfortable discussing issues that might be present. Connecting with employees on a personal level makes them more likely to feel like they can trust you with their concerns. Employee-level concerns are more likely to represent what needs to change in the office rather than the issues management and executives may think exist.
Creating safe working conditions also means making the workspace physically more inclusive. Spaces like desk and office spaces need to be disability accessible. Bathrooms should be gender-neutral. These are all fast — and frequently easy — ways to keep office members from feeling excluded.
Analyze Which Suggestions and Ideas are Being Heard
Look at all of the suggestions that your office has accepted and implemented over the past year. Whose ideas does management select for improvement opportunities? Are they coming from a specific group of people or across the entire office, across demographics and seniority levels? You could even try an experiment. Have employees give suggestions anonymously, with a way to link them to their idea, and choose the best ones. Are these the same employees whose proposals were selected before, or are they a group that’s more representative of the office as a whole?
Educate Employees and Offer Diversity Training
Offer diversity training to employees and managers without making it a requirement. This consideration means employees more willing to undergo training and more likely to continue practicing what they’ve learned after the module is over.
Make Events Inclusive
Making events inclusive means everything from how you give employees recognition, ensuring there are food options present for all dietary needs, and respecting cultural boundaries that might make events difficult or inconvenient for some groups.
Inclusivity also means ensuring that everyone is on the same foot and receiving the same tools and opportunities. One of the most critical tools in the modern workplace is providing a good training program. Training opportunities such as workshops and software courses are excellent ways to level the playing field for workers. They also set the stage for new workers to enter higher positions. Mentorship programs, either from management or on a corporate level, are an excellent and effective way for all employees to explore upper-level careers and think about what work might interest them.
Make Inclusion a Metric — and Make it Accountable
What do your business metrics say about your company? Some companies have gone so far as to tie executive and management bonuses to inclusion implementation in the workplace. Executives will only receive their full bonuses if inclusion goals and metrics, like management diversity, physical workspace changes, and idea implementation, are met in the workplace. This step is a great way to make strides toward real differences. It’s easy for upper-level management and executives to ignore or put off material changes if there is no reason for them to act.
Management and C-level executives stepping forward to promote safe working conditions go a long way to making these changes permanent with staff. Once employees see that their bosses are committed to making a change — and more importantly, committed to enforcing those changes — they will be more willing to follow suit.
Building an Inclusive Workplace
It has been identified as one of the top trends that will shape HR. Creating an inclusive workplace is one of the top steps to creating safe working conditions for everyone in the office and ensuring that all workers feel heard and welcome. Try some of these steps to make positive changes to the workplace.