Together employers and employees need to understand and remove the barriers in the workplace for greater inclusion for all.
Diverse and inclusive workplaces can not only grow your business but can also lead to real social change. The desire for more diverse workforces is apparent, with employees strongly supporting organisations that are taking action to create a workplace which is diverse and inclusive.
But first, how can businesses demonstrate their commitment to diversity and inclusion, and how do they go about producing and delivering a successful framework?
1. Remove unfair barriers
Everyone should have access to fair employment and feel safe when they are at the workplace. Unfortunately, for many groups of people, there are a lot of barriers that stop this from happening.
To discover the barriers that exist in our workplaces we can examine hiring, employee experience and employee growth. Do all groups feel like they are welcome to apply for a position at the company? Are they considered fairly and in an equitable way when they are undergoing the recruitment process? Do employees feel encouraged to share their ideas at work, do they feel rewarded for their achievements and free to be their authentic selves with their colleagues? Do they feel encouraged to grow and be given promotion opportunities? Are they supported in development and urged to pursue leadership roles? These are often areas where people from diverse groups find themselves encountering barriers.
What can be the drivers of these barriers? It can be unconscious bias – where leaders or managers may be making decisions or comments that are discriminatory without intending to. It could also be conscious bias. Openly discriminatory discussions and actions can still take place, even within companies that consider themselves to be progressive. This needs to be called out and challenged.
Most people generally assume they aren’t biased, but this doesn’t mean they shouldn’t look deeper into their actions. Research shows that people who believe strongly in their own objectivity – and believe they already take a neutral standpoint – are more likely to make discriminatory decisions.
2. Create an open and understanding culture
In the Journal of Business Ethics essay ‘Building an Inclusive Diversity Culture: Principles, Practice and Processes’ (2004), Nicola Pless and Thomas Maak explore the essential need for colleagues to listen to and understand each other’s experiences. They suggest this can be made easier when a company has a culture of active listening, consideration, and trust. When you have a better understanding of your staff’s perspectives, it will be easier to aid where required and create a fair and welcoming environment. A 1:1 meeting, for example, can foster a culture of trust, openness and active listening between staff and managers.
3. Treat everyone with respect
It goes without saying that everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. Every person in a company is an individual with different skill sets, ideas, and feelings. This is at the very heart of diverse and inclusive workplaces.
When employees feel engaged and respected by the company and other team members, they’re more likely to have a greater sense of wellbeing and they will want to actively contribute to the company’s success. When employees feel like they are not being shown respect, their sense of wellbeing can suffer – they often disengage and might even resign.
4. Cultivating an atmosphere of inclusion
When you have created a workplace that values diversity, you don’t only implement policies and formal goals – you have a culture of inclusivity. In an inclusive culture, everyone feels welcome at the table. Ideas are free-flowing between members of your team, each person feels equally valued, and everyone feels nurtured for growth within the workplace. Recognise and reward your staff for sharing great ideas.
5. Celebrating difference
When your business is powered by diverse thinking, it has the best chance of succeeding, thriving, and growing. Difference is an asset to your business. Diversity should not just be accepted; it should be sought out and celebrated.
Lastly, following a leadership principle of creating a workplace of culture and respect, will ensure businesses connect with their employees and drive employee development.
By Alex Hattingh, Chief People Officer at Employment Hero.
In this article, you learned that:
- To discover the barriers that exist in workplaces, examine hiring, employee experience and employee growth.
- People who believe strongly in their own objectivity – and believe they already take a neutral standpoint – are more likely to make discriminatory decisions.
- In an inclusive culture, everyone feels welcome at the table and ideas are free-flowing.