Five Steps to Create an Inclusive Workplace

The power of diverse workforces has become clear, but many businesses have trouble making the transition from traditional operations to the new. Getting management buy- in, improving internal communications, and putting new metrics in place smooth out potential bumps in the transition.

Today, diversity is more than a noble platitude: it is a foundational building block for successful organizations. Inclusive workplaces are six times more likely to innovate and have 2.3X the cash flow per employee according to Deloitte and are 35% more likely to achieve above-average financial returns.

Yet many companies struggle to create an inclusive workplace, so, here is how to make the change.  

Get Management Buy In

No surprise that employees look up to their top leaders for establishing the company’s tone, so the C team needs to take a prime role in creating and promoting an inclusive workplace. This step requires more than simply funding such programs. They also must educate themselves about the meaning and importance of inclusivity and recognize the broad areas it touches. Race, gender, ethnicity, age, and sexual orientation are often thought about, but diversity extends to other areas, like socioeconomic status, culture, physical ability, and religion.

Managers may need help better understanding others’ viewpoints. One possible way to gain that knowledge is to take another person’s job for a day. Ideally afterwards, the executives reflect on that experience, address their own bias, and have a fuller appreciation of their coworkers’ abilities and backgrounds.

Create Opportunities for Small Talk

Employees interact in a formal way when they have team, department, or company meetings. Yet, close relationships are often forged during casual conversation at places, like the water cooler and lunchroom. Businesses need to provide associates with such opportunities, especially so they bond with colleagues outside of their department.

Therefore, a business needs to create events where cohorts meet and chat informally. An agenda free company-wide lunch, volunteer days, or cross-team recreational activities, like softball, bowling, or volleyball teams, are possibilities. End of the week wind downs offer one more option.

Build Inclusion from the Bottom Up and Not Top Down

Your employees have diverse interests and areas that are important to them. You need to find ways to understand and embrace them.  

One option is creating a shared calendar.  Every year, ask employees to add festivities to the calendar that are important to them. In this way, they gain insight into different cultures’ special days and wish cohorts happy Hanukkah, Chinese New Year, Kwanzaa, Christmas, or Cinco de Mayo. Sticking with the idea of informal get togethers, the business organizes office celebrations on those days.

Develop New Metrics

Legacy companies put reward systems in place that were based largely on manufacturing models, which focused on increasing sales or reducing expenses. Diverse workforces require new models, an area where most companies are now lagging. As evidence, 85% of Diversity & Inclusion leaders cited organizational inclusion as the most important talent outcome of their efforts. Yet only 57% of them currently have metrics to track their progress,

Corporations need to develop ways to measure items, like fair treatment, decision making, trust, and diversity, in employee evaluations. Then they need to go further and hold employees accountable for supporting these programs by, for instance, tying bonuses to their own and company diversity goals.

Encourage Honest, Open Feedback

Employees feel under appreciated. A recent survey  found that about 34% of employees in America feel undervalued while 64% of them are disgruntled and plan to quit their jobs.

One way to build up trust and harmony in an organization is to communicate frequently, clearly, and effectively. In many cases, individuals are leery of raising sensitive issues with managers, but such feedback is vital to establishing a strong culture.

Many businesses rely on an annual review to deliver feedback to employees, but such programs fall short of both employee and company desires. Nowadays, corporations need to create open, ongoing feedback. Here, employees provide insights into company operations daily. Therefore, feedback evolves from an annual event to a Just In Time model, where it is given whenever and as often as needed. The change provides both the employee and the company with a clearer, more consistent understanding of what is working and what needs fine tuning.

Create Different Work Areas

Not everyone works well in traditional cubicles. Open floor plans may distract or overstimulate certain workers, so creating quiet areas with soundproof dividers and encouraging employees to use noise reducing headsets makes them more comfortable

Employees may need quiet during the day, just to collect their thoughts.  Establish prayer or meditation spaces where they can unwind and relax. Enterprises can go the extra mile by inviting associates to reserve time for such personal time and block it out on their calendars.

Inclusion has become a common goal in today’s enterprise. Corporations have been struggling to find ways to make that goal a reality. Best practices, such as getting top management approval, improving formal and information communication, and deviating from the traditional business floor plan, help companies make the transition. 

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True Synergy, Inc