Diversity and inclusion. Two words that are thrown around in press releases to somehow prove that the organizations behind those releases actually know a thing or two about the concepts. Not to mention the sheer number of brands that claim to promote an inclusive workplace.
In a world where so many companies herald the concept as their trump card, a way to make them superior to their competition, these two very important words have gradually started to lose their true meaning.
Is there more than meets the eye? Is inclusivity more than just the latest ‘in thing’? I’m glad you asked.
The answer is, unequivocally, “YES!”
What does an inclusive workplace look like?
Imagine this. You wake up in the morning and head to the office, almost excited to share yesterday’s evening activities with your co-workers.
You receive an email you completely disagree with on an intellectual level (not because you dislike the person who sent it, of course). You draft your reply, not at all afraid to say what’s on your mind, while being sensitive to the recipient’s differences.
Two hours later, a reply chimes in your inbox. Your co-worker acknowledges your ideas and gives some of their own; just like that, you’re collaborating on a project that your boss will later commend you for.
These are examples of inclusive behaviours in the workplace. Inclusive workplace culture is one where everyone feels safe to go to work, is valued and appreciated for their thoughts, and is respected as a worker.
Why is workplace inclusion important?
Workplace inclusion is the bedrock upon which your company can achieve all its goals, successes and more. When Vaughn Aust, EVP of MarketStar, said, “Happy employees lead to more profits,” he knew exactly what he was talking about.
With inclusion, employees feel their opinions, thoughts and ideas are valued. This encourages them to share their ideas with their team and to contribute to greater innovation and creativity. We all know what it’s like to cower in a corner, afraid to speak up because we’re too scared of getting shot down, don’t we?
In an inclusive workplace environment, employees will feel much happier and more at ease coming to work each day. They will be delighted to work on their assigned tasks, and even find meaning and value in completing them to perfection. This also leads to increased productivity at work, which results in higher growth and revenues for your company.
What happens if your workplace is not inclusive?
If your workplace is not inclusive, your employees will either stay in the company, continue to be unhappy, unproductive and stagnant in their growth or leave. Either of these is not a good outcome for your company.
If your employees choose to stay, despite being unhappy and unproductive, not only will your business growth slow, but you will also be breeding a culture of unhappiness.
If they leave, you’ll have to put in that much more effort to attract top talent to your company (and hope they won’t run at the first anecdote of your undesirable workplace culture).
How can being inclusive help your employees?
Being inclusive can help your employees nurture their creativity and uniqueness. Each human being comes with different perspectives, thoughts and ideas. Encouraging and tapping on those diverse strengths and skill sets will allow your employees to grow, in both personal and professional capacities.
In addition, being inclusive can help your employees cultivate a strong sense of loyalty and belonging to your company – the sense that their company values and respects them. It will also make them happier and more productive at work.
How being inclusive can help drive your company to be more successful
Being inclusive nurtures creativity and innovation among your employees, which you will soon see turn into business and revenue growth over time.
On top of that, with word going around that your company has one of the most inclusive workplace cultures, top talent will swarm to your HR personnel like bees to honey. More top talent means greater opportunities to cultivate a high-performing team that delivers the business results you desire.
Top 5 Ways to Build an Inclusive Workplace
Now that we’ve discussed why building an inclusive workplace is so important, if you’re keen on reaping the benefits of inclusivity, we’ve got you covered!
Here are the top 5 ways to build an inclusive workplace.
- Embrace employee differences by respecting their needs to set aside time to pray, get off early from work to fetch their children home, and so on. You can even go as far as to suggest or create infrastructural changes in your workplace, such as having a meditation room, wellness space, prayer room, or breastfeeding counter in the female toilet.
- Treat inclusivity like any other strategic goal in your organization. Make sure that there are concrete and well-communicated goals around building an inclusive workplace, and that action steps trickle down to all aspects of the company. And don’t forget to measure those goals so that everyone is working towards a tangible outcome!
- Recognize biases that you have with regard to different groups of people in society. For example, when a Black female colleague whom you’ve never met before walks into a room, what are you assuming? What are some of your preconceived notions of people who are Muslim? Start to become aware of your unconscious biases – they’ll enable you to respect and honour other cultures more and ultimately create a safe space for everyone in your organization.
- Notice and understand your (and your colleagues’) thoughts and feelings in the workplace with Emotional Intelligence 101. This will go a long way in creating a healthy environment in which you not only are aware of your emotions, but also feel comfortable expressing your truth to others in the workplace.
- Navigate difficult conversations in the workplace and overcome ambiguity with ease with Resilience Training. This will help you cultivate resilience and a healthy, conducive work environment for yourself, no matter what challenges are thrown at you.