Leading an inclusive office is about more than hiring individuals with diverse backgrounds, cultures, and lifestyles.
Although that is a great starting point, inclusion requires a little bit more effort from team leaders, so with 2020 approaching, why not make “Creating a more inclusive workplace” one of your business resolutions?
In today’s article, we’ll give you some guidance on how you can achieve that goal, so keep reading to enhance your leadership skills even further!
Diversity vs Inclusion: Is There a Difference?
Before we get into how you can create an inclusive workplace, it’s important to fully grasp the definition of inclusion.
Many times, inclusion is seen as a synonym of diversity and the two concepts are used interchangeably, but that’s not exactly correct.
Both diversity and inclusion are very much needed in order to create a positive work environment. But they vary in the sense that while diversity refers to the differences and similarities between people, inclusion focuses on embracing and celebrating said differences.
A diverse workplace would be an office with employees from different countries, sexual orientations, religions, and such. An inclusive workplace would be an office that acknowledges all of those differences and makes sure that everyone feels accepted and valued for who they are.
A workplace that’s both diverse and inclusive is nothing less than the recipe for success and the following statistics prove it!
Why Is Inclusion in the Workplace So Important?
The answer to this question can vary.
For one, as human beings, we should always support each other. Whether we’re speaking about employees, individuals in authoritative positions, your business partners… open-mindedness can only lead to forward-looking connections.
But that’s not all.
Inclusion and diversity are also advantageous business-wise:
- Companies that are more diverse than average had 19% higher innovation revenues in 2018.
- In that same year, 43% of companies with diverse boards achieved higher profits.
- Companies that are ethnically diverse are 35% more likely to achieve above-average financial returns.
- Diverse teams are 87% better at decision-making.
Convinced about the power of inclusion? Keep reading and learn how you can transform your office into an inclusive workplace.
1. Connect with Your Employees
First things first, if you want your workplace to be inclusive, you need to lead by example.
So, we invite you to consider the relationships you have with your employees at the moment. Do you think that the way you interact with your team members makes them comfortable to be open with you?
Truth is that the only way you can create an inclusive office is if everyone feels like they can speak to you and not be judged.
So as the first step in this journey to inclusion, make an active effort to connect with your employees authentically and at a personal level. Don’t make any assumptions about people’s lifestyles, but rather, let them open up to you.
Do keep in mind that this attitude might lead to some difficult conversations. Unfortunately, not everyone will adhere to an inclusive mindset.
As such, it’s crucial that you are well-prepared for these conversations, by knowing what to do if a client, partner, employee or manager judges or excludes someone and being prepared to stand by your beliefs even when someone is trying to challenge them.
2. Be Open-Minded
Being open-minded is just as important as connecting with your team.
So, practice putting your assumptions and stereotypes aside. We all have them, but they’re not helpful to make others feel comfortable.
Instead, make sure you learn with every step you take in your journey for better inclusion at work. Even if you’ve never been in such a diverse space, time and experience will let you know which responses are appropriate and which aren’t.
As long as you’re aware of how your demeanor contributes to the inclusion or lack-there-of in the workplace, open to hearing the opinions of others and willing to change what you need to change, you’ll be on your way to success.
3. Support and Celebrate Your Employees’ Differences
By now, you know to connect with your employees with an open mind, so what’s the next step? Easy: it’s commemorating!
Being heard is great, but being celebrated is even better.
So invite your employees to share their traditions with the rest of the team. Doing this is nothing but valuable, as everyone will learn more about everything.
Here are a few ideas on how to celebrate the different cultures in the office:
- Create a shared calendar
Every year, ask your employees to add festivities to the calendar that are important to them.
This way you can show respect to different cultures on special days simply by wishing the employee a good Hanukkah, Chinese New Year, Kwanzaa, Cinco de Mayo – you name it. When appropriate, you can even organize small celebrations at the office.
- Have a prayer room in the office
People don’t leave their religion out of the office door – or at least they shouldn’t have to.
Having a prayer or reflection room allows them to still pray or meditate whenever they need to, safely and privately, without having to choose between their beliefs or their professional life.
- Train your team on cultural diversity
Investing in this type of training might not be the first thing you consider when planning out your business’s budget, but it’s certainly advantageous.
You can do something as simple as organizing a monthly workshop on topics such as gender identity, microaggressions at work, mental health, common stereotypes and more.
4. Rethink Your Meetings
Inclusion is meetings is all about making sure that everyone feels like they can speak up and contribute to whatever’s being discussed.
Often, managers plan their meetings in a general way, but considering the specifics might be a better strategy and here’s how you can do it:
- Create a plan for the meeting before-hand and send it to the participants
This is beneficial to all participants, as it gives everyone more time to think about ideas and suggestions.
But it’s even more useful for your introverted or socially-anxious employees, as having some time to properly prepare themselves will boost their confidence, making it a lot easier for them to actually share their opinion with others.
Plus, if you have any team members who don’t speak English as their first language, this method will also allow them to make sure they fully understand what’s being discussed.
- Praise your employees
Did someone come up with a great idea that benefited the company? Well, a meeting is a perfect place to give credit to that person!
This will encourage others to participate in future meetings, improving the dynamic of the team.
- Be aware of your communication style
It’s 2019 and we’ve all heard about mansplaining: it happens when a man explains something to a woman in a condescending way, assuming from the get-go that she doesn’t know it.
This is a great example of a communication style that doesn’t promote inclusion but rather makes people feel like less than, and the same mistake can happen between races, religions, and more.
To avoid this, make sure that you speak to everyone on the same level.
This will make everyone more comfortable to let you know that they don’t understand a certain concept and, when that happens, it’s your cue to explain.
5. Create Resource Groups
It’s possible that some of your employees aren’t yet comfortable with whatever differences they have compared to the rest of the team.
A great way of handling this is by initiating employee resource groups.
Check your team’s needs with an anonymous questionnaire and, based on the replies, create groups that focus on topics that might benefit your team members and boost their self-confidence.
6. Make Sure Everyone’s Safe
As mentioned before, not everyone is a fan of diversity and inclusion.
In some cases, this might even put the minorities in dangerous situations and it’s crucial that you do something about it as soon as you realize that your office isn’t a safe space for everyone.
If someone comes up to you with a complaint on this matter, make sure to speak with everyone involved and find a solution that’s fair and that’ll prevent similar situations to come up.
7. Speak Up About Inclusion
Finally, be vocal about the importance of inclusion in your office. A few easy ways you can do this are:
- Including inclusion as a core value in your onboarding material
This way, new employees know from the start how important it is to accept others and their differences.
- Including inclusion as a core value on your website
You know by now how important inclusion is for job-seekers. Mentioning it on your website lets them know that you’re aware of this.
- Celebrating diversity on social media
A post to celebrate Pride month, another to celebrate all the different holiday festivities, another one to acknowledge mental health awareness month… you get the drill.
Creating an Inclusive Workplace: It’s All About Listening
Making an effort to make your team members feel heard and understood is halfway to creating an inclusive workplace.
Once they realize the effort you’re making towards celebrating and valuing each and every single one of them, they’ll be even more willing to give it their all at work.
And those statistics that we mentioned earlier? Well, you might just start noticing them as you analyze your business progress and results.
Plus, your employee retention will be like never before: after all, who would want to leave a company that has included as one of its core values?
If you’d like more tips on how to make your office more diverse and inclusive, don’t hesitate to send us a message.
And of course, if you have more suggestions that could help other team leaders, feel free to leave a comment down below!