As a leader, you can set the tone for what is and is not acceptable in your workplace. Creating a more inclusive space for all employees should be a top priority. A more inclusive workplace is not only the right thing to do – it’s also good for business. When everyone feels like they belong, they are more engaged and productive.
A study by McKinsey found that companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. And yet, despite the clear business case, progress on workplace inclusion has been painfully slow.
Diversity and inclusion initiatives should be seen as an ongoing journey, not a destination. Here are nine actionable steps you can take to make your workplace more inclusive for all.
1. Assess Where You Are
The first step is understanding where you are on the diversity and inclusion spectrum.
This will help you set realistic goals and identify areas that need improvement. Conduct a survey or create focus groups so employees can share their experiences and perspectives anonymously.
You can also look at data points such as gender, race, and experience levels to get a better understanding of the makeup of your workforce.
2. Set Clear Inclusion Goals
Once you have a good idea of where you stand, it’s time to set some goals. You can begin by creating a list of what you want to achieve in making your workplace more inclusive. Once you have this list, set specific and measurable goals that you can work towards. This will help to keep you on track and ensure that you are making progress.
Some examples of goals that you might set include:
- Increase the number of employees from underrepresented groups in your workforce
- Implement training on unconscious bias for all employees
- Launch an employee resource group for underrepresented groups
3. Communicate Your Commitment
Employees need to know that diversity and inclusion are priorities for the organization.
Share your goals with the entire company and let them know what steps you plan on taking to achieve those goals. Encourage employees to get involved and provide feedback along the way.
Make it clear that discrimination or harassment of any kind will not be tolerated in your workplace.
This can be done through an employee handbook, regular company-wide meetings, or both. You should also put a reporting system in place so that employees feel comfortable coming to you or another leader with any concerns they may have.
4. Educate Yourself and Your Employees
Take the time to learn about different cultures and backgrounds to better understand and connect with your employees.
Diversity training is also a great way to ensure that all employees are on the same page regarding what is and is not appropriate in the workplace.
Schedule a meeting (or several!) to educate your team members on what inclusion means and why it’s essential in the workplace. This will help ensure that everyone is working towards the same goal.
5. Be an Active Ally
Speak up if you see or hear something that makes you or another employee uncomfortable! It can be easy to stay silent, but using your voice to create change is important. You should also encourage other employees to do the same if they witness something that isn’t right.
Leaders play a critical role in championing team diversity and inclusion initiatives. Provide training on unconscious bias, how to be an effective ally, and how to create an inclusive environment for all employees. Unconscious bias training can help reduce discriminatory behavior in the workplace.
By raising awareness of our own personal biases, we can learn to avoid acting on them in the workplace. This type of training can be beneficial for leaders and employees at all levels of an organization.
6. Listen and Take Action
It is important that you listen to the voices of those who are underrepresented in your workplace. This includes employees from minority groups, women, LGBTQIA+ individuals, people with disabilities, and more.
Take the time to hear their experiences and perspectives, and use this information to inform your action plan. It is also important that you take action on the goals that you have set. This shows employees that you are committed to making your workplace a more inclusive space.
When an employee comes to you with a concern, listen without judgment and take whatever action is necessary to resolve the issue. This may mean disciplinary action for the offender or simply implementing new policies to prevent similar issues from arising in the future.
7. Promote Diversity in Your Hiring Practices
Be intentional about creating a diverse workforce at all levels of your organization. When everyone feels like they have a seat at the table, they’re more likely to feel comfortable speaking up and sharing their unique perspectives.
Instead of seeing differences as something to be overcome, view them as something to be celebrated! Hosting events or celebrations focused on different cultures or traditions is one way to do this. You could also consider having “inclusion days” where employees can dress according to their cultural beliefs or traditions. We can help build a strong sense of community within our workplaces by celebrating our differences.
8. Encourage Open Dialogue
Open dialogue is key to creating a more inclusive workplace. Create an environment where employees feel comfortable talking about sensitive topics. This can be done through team-building exercises, company-wide events, or even one-on-one conversations.
The key is to create an environment where difficult conversations are welcome instead of taboo. Encourage employees to openly discuss their experiences with inclusion (or lack thereof) at work. This will help you identify any areas that need improvement.
Additionally, normalizing these conversations will make employees feel more comfortable coming forward with concerns in the future.
9. Ensure Access to Relationships Through Mentoring
Formalizing a mentoring program is a powerful way to ensure access to meaningful relationships is happening and all employees are able to access perspectives that can foster learning, increase engagement, and feel a sense of belonging.
This is particularly critical when you look through the lens of diversity.
Ensuring access to relationships is no longer just a nice to have, but a need to have when you consider what makes employees stay and what the hallmarks are of a culture of belonging.
The Bottom Line
Making your workplace more inclusive takes effort, but it’s well worth it!
Creating an environment where people of all backgrounds feel comfortable and respected allows you to open up your business to new perspectives, fresh ideas, and greater innovation.
Engage Mentoring can help you find ways to make your workplace more inclusive and foster a sense of belonging.