Building a Diverse & Inclusive Company Culture
With Pride Month nearing its end, it’s important that we remember that inclusivity and diversity is a year-round consideration. It is not just something to focus on through the month of June. Instead, we encourage businesses and people to be inclusive in all facets of work and life.
Especially in the workplace, diversity and inclusivity can be a huge factor when ensuring employee happiness, maximising business output and developing your company culture. But diversity and inclusivity aren’t exactly the same thing and they don’t always come hand in hand.
So, let’s break the two terms down for you before we dive into how both of these things can benefit your workplace.
Diversity and Inclusivity – what are they?
In this context, diversity refers to how varied or different your workforce is. The greater the variety of individuals working in a company, the more diverse that company is.
This can include anything from a variety of genders, ethnicities, class backgrounds or sexualities – and a lot more! And ensuring diversity in all of these areas can ultimately create a stronger business.
But this can rely on how inclusive the company is. And a diverse workplace doesn’t necessarily equal an inclusive workplace.
Inclusivity goes a step beyond diversity, looking at how a company supports its diverse workforce. It’s about creating an environment that allows people of all backgrounds to feel included, welcomed and represented in the company.
And it’s the combination of these that allows a company to thrive. But, how do you ensure you’re not just checking the boxes, and you’re actually making a positive environment for your employees?
1. Integrate inclusivity into the company’s core values
The core values of a company should be reviewed and revisited every few years as part of its internal or external organisational design process. As part of this review, it’s good practice to consider the inclusivity aspects of these core values.
If your company’s core values don’t already include a statement about inclusive company culture, then it might be a good time to implement one. As well as this, you should be regularly reviewing any anti-discrimination and D&I policies. This will help you outline what behaviour will not be tolerated in the workplace.
One of the best ways to ensure inclusive core values and policies is by simply asking for feedback and suggestions from your employees. This approach is inclusive in itself and will allow you to easily implement relevant suggestions.
Asking employees can be especially helpful for companies who don’t have a very diverse leadership or HR team.
2. Promote Inclusive Leadership
If the leadership team isn’t on-board with a diverse and inclusive workplace, then the whole concept falls apart. So, when it comes to prioritising inclusivity, you will absolutely need to get buy-in from the wider leadership team.
This starts with ensuring your company’s leaders are educated about the importance of diversity and inclusivity in the workplace. This includes everyone from Directors to executive and department managers. And this training should also provide opportunity for your leadership team to ask the embarrassing questions in a safe environment. This means being open to and prepared for some of the more complicated questions. But it’s worth it!
Once the leadership team is on board, they’ll be fantastic role models for staff throughout the company and will help set the tone for everyone.
3. Create company safe spaces
Whether working purely remotely or in a physical work environment, it’s important that your employees know there are safe spaces.
This can include things like providing gender-neutral restrooms, “quiet spaces” that people can go to if they’re overstimulated in the workplace, and wellbeing spaces to encourage meditation or prayer. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s definitely a start.
And this includes remote spaces too! Digital spaces can include setting time or a virtual meeting room aside for employees to relax or take a step back from stress. Similarly, you can invite employees to reserve time in their diaries for wellbeing activities, prayer or other personal needs.
Another way to ensure safe spaces within the digital sphere is to encourage employees to add pronouns to their email signatures – and to educate them on why this might help colleagues and customers feel more at ease.
And, as always, try to fully understand the needs of everyone at your company. This can sometimes be difficult, as not everyone will feel comfortable voicing their opinions. But, by talking to managers at all levels, you can begin to understand what areas and needs should be addressed.
4. Use inclusive language
As anyone in the business world knows, language can be very powerful. It’s part of what allows employees and businesses to form new networks, gain new audiences and develop connections. But, as with anything powerful, it can also be harmful.
That’s why it is important that we ensure we are using inclusive language – both internally and externally. This is true of the company and its employees. Inclusive language encourages people to focus on words and phrases that avoid biases. So, instead of making assumptions about a certain group or individual, you can stop and think about what you should say instead.
Encouraging your workforce to use inclusive language and implementing it into company policies will also help people feel included. This can be implemented in company training at all levels, through the language used in job descriptions and in many other areas of the business.
For example, a great way to implement inclusivity is through the design of your company’s recruitment processes. iungo’s “AAA” (Attitude, Aptitude & Ambition) recruitment framework is one example of how to prioritise inclusivity in your recruitment activities. This prevents discrimination of any kind from impacting any step of the process – job advertisement, interviewing and decision-making.
If you need help with inclusive job advert design, then take a look at our recruitment solutions. We can help you attract a diverse pool of applicants and ensure your inclusivity shines through in your recruitment too.
5. Encourage Team Building
There’s no better way to build trust between employees than by giving them the opportunities to develop their relationships. For example, 1-on-1s provide a great way to ensure consistent conversation between an employee and their manager.
Don’t treat them like a feedback session, build a space for open dialogue. If an employee can express their worries or needs with their manager, they will benefit from it – and the company will too!
Our team has found that even 1-to-1s with people beyond their direct team can help build an open and trusting environment. It gives people an opportunity to discuss things beyond the day-to-day work and instead just feel comfortable around their colleagues.
Matthew Ettridge, iungo’s Graduate Software Engineer, feels that conducting these activities has helped a great deal in feeling comfortable to speak up: “As someone new to both iungo and remote working, the ‘Speed Connect’ initiative has helped me feel happy and confident in a team of people I’ve never met in person.
“Not only have I gotten to know the whole team better in a more casual environment, but I’m now more comfortable putting forward ideas and receiving feedback during cross-team discussions.”
This goes to show that setting aside time to get to know your colleagues works. This isn’t always easy for larger companies, but it’s beneficial to allow for cross-department conversations that go beyond day-to-day work where possible.
But you don’t have to limit team building exercises to 1-on-1s. In fact, it’s a great idea to organise regular team building activities for your team, the department or even the company as a whole.
6. Get involved in initiatives that drive inclusivity
There’s so many options when it comes to organising these inclusive initiatives. And, even better, there’s many times in the year when they just seem to work. Pride Month is a great example – team building opportunities or chances to connect can offer the team to get to know one another.
Or you might wish to share informative videos and documentaries to celebrate these important events. This approach works well for a number of events, from International Women’s Day to World Mental Health Day – and everything in between!
These are all fantastic opportunities to educate your workplace.
Not everyone will gravitate towards attending work events and initiatives, but that’s fine. By ensuring that you’ve done your best to make the event inclusive, you can rest assured that you’ve done what you can to encourage attendance.
For example, if you’re inviting a guest speaker, then try to ensure they’re covering a diverse range of topics that will appeal to a wider audience. Or, provide a number of these events that span many interests, so there’s something for everyone.
If this event is virtual, then you can even assure employees that if they attend, they’ll be able to mute themselves. Or, even better, video is optional! This can help the company’s resident introverts feel at ease knowing that they can keep participation to a minimum.
But, make sure those who like to talk have their opportunity to do so as well!
7. Listen to your employees
We’ve already covered how receiving feedback from your employees is helpful for ensuring inclusivity in the workplace. But, it goes beyond that!
An individual’s daily experiences within the work environment say more about your company’s inclusivity than anything else. So, you’ll want to really know how your employees are feeling.
This can also be accomplished through regular employee surveys. Make sure they cover multiple aspects of the company – and make them anonymous too! Surveys provide a unique opportunity to learn people’s honest opinions, so they’re a fantastic tool.
Some of the things these surveys could focus on include: engagement and inclusion within the workplace; your company’s demographics; and employee happiness and satisfaction.
This will help you drill into how inclusive your company really is and the areas that need improvement.
For help with embedding an inclusive culture into your organisation, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free consultation.