A good marketing strategy, strong onboarding practices, and a solid business plan are all essential for success in the workplace. However, the heart of every business is its employees.
You can do everything else right, but if you’re not fostering an environment that prioritizes your employees’ mental health and well-being, and promotes a culture that is understanding, accepting, and inclusive, you’re likely not getting as much from your team as you could be.
Now, more than ever, having an inclusive work environment isn’t just encouraged, it’s expected. One survey found that 80% of workers want a more inclusive workplace. That means taking a look at your current company culture and deciding how you make sure everyone feels welcome and understood. In doing so, you’ll help to draw in better talent, retain existing employees, and see fewer resignations.
What Does an Inclusive Workplace Look Like?
Most people have a basic idea of what an inclusive workplace is. However, as a business owner or hiring manager, it’s important to dive deeper and understand what it truly looks like for the sake of your company’s culture.
An inclusive workplace makes every employee feel valued and understood while respecting their differences and understanding that those differences are essential. Having employees from different ethnic backgrounds, belief systems, and even employees with different cultural customs can add value to your company.
Inclusive work environments take everything from cultural backgrounds to disabilities and illnesses into consideration. It can be a lot to think about, and it’s not always easy to build an environment of inclusivity when it’s not yet the “norm.”
However, if you choose to celebrate diversity within your company and move forward with that mindset, you’re likely to put practices in place that encourage all of your employees, rather than making them feel unvalued. Having an inclusive workplace comes with many benefits, including:
- Greater productivity
- Employee loyalty/greater retention
- Stronger public relations
- Better talent
Most importantly, a healthy, inclusive workplace environment can do wonders for the mental well-being of you and your workers. Mental health is often overlooked by employers, but employees who are struggling with anxiety or depression due to work can experience lasting effects that carry over into their personal lives. It can also negatively impact their productivity at work and contribute to a toxic office environment.
So, what can you do to create an inclusive workplace environment?
Don’t Use Broad Strokes
Part of being an inclusive workplace means looking at everyone with equity, but not assuming everyone comes from equal backgrounds.
What does that mean, exactly? Shouldn’t everyone be on the same playing field? Yes, but it’s up to you to even out that field the right way. For example, if you choose to hire an individual just because they’re a minority, you’re not doing them or your business any favors. If you want to be truly inclusive, you’ll use merit-based practices when it comes to hiring individuals from all walks of life and all backgrounds.
When it comes to the people already on your team, inclusivity means acting on individual needs. If you have a disabled employee who has difficulty commuting to work, you might consider allowing them to work remotely. If you hire someone in the LGBTQIA+ community, ask them what you can do to help them feel safe and supported. If one of your workers comes from an underserved community, they might benefit from additional training or education. You can even help minority employees who might be struggling with their mental health by giving them specific resources to reach out to or offering some time off.
By ignoring sweeping generalizations and avoiding broad strokes, you’ll make each employee feel valued. Equity is what makes that playing field level, and makes your inclusion policy a reality rather than a PR stunt.
Enforce Your Inclusivity
One of the best ways to maintain an inclusive work environment is to hold yourself accountable. You can start by publishing an annual report of your diversity efforts. Most major corporations publish these reports each year, including:
Monitoring this type of data isn’t just good for publicity or to show potential employees and the public that you’re staying true to your efforts. It also provides a clear picture of where you are with those efforts while showing you how you can improve.
You can also hold yourself accountable by creating a system of enforcement. Without a mechanism in place that brings non-inclusive behavior to your attention, your efforts likely won’t last long, or you’ll start to see them dwindle over time. Consider utilizing an internal task force to provide resolutions to any discrimination issues. Your employees need to feel safe in the workplace, and that includes being able to speak up against harassment or discriminatory actions.
Diverse and inclusive workplaces are essential nowadays to the success of a company. Some of the biggest businesses in the world are also the most inclusive. Whether you’re just putting a strategy together or you know you should be doing more to enforce your diversity efforts, keep these suggestions in mind to make sure your work environment is one that makes every employee feel valued.