In today’s corporate world, diversity is a crucial issue, but merely hiring employees from diverse racial groups, ethnicities, and genders is insufficient. Recent studies show that diversity in the workplace fosters innovation, improves financial success, and keeps growing. In addition, businesses with pro-diversity policies did better and were more resilient during the 2008 financial crisis. The reason for this is simple: businesses with greater degrees of diversity are more innovative.
Even though many companies are working towards having more inclusive and diverse workforces, there is still a lot of growth to be achieved. Here are some easy steps you can take to encourage an inclusive workplace culture as a business leader. It must be kept in mind that the most important factors in encouraging diversity are involvement and communication.
How do you create an Inclusive and Supportive Work Environment?
Even though many companies are working towards having a more inclusive and diverse workforce, there is still a lot of growth to be achieved. Here are some easy steps you can take to encourage an inclusive workplace culture as a business leader:
1. Make sure you have a Clear Vision:
The value of inclusivity should be understood by employees (and future employees) right away. Inclusion as a corporate value should be promoted on websites, social media platforms, in-person events, and workshops. That must be supported by laws and regulations. A company’s route to concrete, successful steps toward inclusion will be guided by clarity and intentionality, which will also attract fresh talent, increase trust, and improve the organisation.
2. Provide Safe Spaces for Employees:
Workplaces that are inclusive go above and above to ensure the comfort and safety of all employees, especially those from underrepresented groups. For instance, gendered toilets, have the potential to make transgender and gender non-conforming employees uncomfortable, particularly in light of recent ‘bathroom laws’ in some states that may or may not affect the rights of transgender individuals. By providing gender-neutral restrooms in your office, you can easily convey that your company is progressive and inclusive.
On a larger scale, inclusive settings can be developed by simply socialising. Think about organising company lunches and other casual gatherings where workers can interact informally. If your business is large, setting up an internal network or support group for diverse employees might help them connect with others who have experienced similar things.
“Employee networks can provide a safe, open environment for sparking conversations and discussing topics that are important to the community,” said Miguel Castro, SAP’s global lead for diversity and inclusion.
3. Facilitate Inclusive Meetings:
Inclusion means involving the appropriate people in the generation of ideas and decision-making. According to research, people who are underrepresented at work are disproportionately impacted by meetings without a clear goal. For the sake of avoiding interruptions, the management must begin meetings by outlining objectives and advantages. People who are more quiet and introverted may be more easily heard by adopting strategies like partner talks, chat functions, and polling tools.
Leaders can distribute materials in advance to generate interest and make sure all participants in virtual meetings are represented and actively participating. To promote inclusivity, equal participation opportunities are provided by establishing and expressing ground rules. For leading effective meetings, create psychological safety and a space where people can be their complete, true selves.
4. Provide Training to Managers:
The rules and procedures that make an inclusive vision a reality are put into place by managers. They become role models, establish priorities, teach other employees, and communicate problems to the highest-ranking employees. A business must ensure that its managers are on the same page if it wants to create a more inclusive work environment. Managers require diversity workshops, training on unconscious bias, cultural training, and more; besides, it goes beyond basic discussions about inclusion. Managers should be provided with constant guidance, tools, and resources to assist them in implementing inclusivity into their everyday work routines. A manager’s job is challenging, and while managing employees of various backgrounds has its advantages, it also has its share of problems. Managers are better able to successfully foster an inclusive culture when they receive high-quality, ongoing training.
5. Examine Business Policies:
Employers must evaluate potential discrimination-prone aspects of their business practices. Company rules and interpersonal interactions, such as how an internal issue is handled, play a significant impact in sustaining existing problems. According to Bilal, poor interpersonal interactions are the biggest cause of employees leaving a company. Employers can address and replace unsafe procedures or interactions with more positive ones if they begin to reconsider their rules. Leaders must first identify whether rules facilitate or sustain workplace discrimination, such as racism or sexism, and then change them to create a better workplace.
For instance, in the case of Working from Home (WFH) and the COVID-19 pandemic, most people regarded working from home as a benefit that equated to flexibility. However, the new definition of workplace flexibility and related rules have to be revised after several months of remote working under pressure and in constantly shifting circumstances. And they still are, particularly in terms of inclusion, equity, and diversity. True workplace flexibility should give every employee the chance to work fairly and equitably, whether they are on-site, in the office, or working from home.
6. Coach for Growth:
Leaders tend to mentor peers who are similar to themselves. Leaders reduce the opportunities for others for growth by refusing to train those who differ from them, whether due to gender, background, age, or some other personality traits. A key element of a successful coach is genuine listening. Effective leaders listen for intent, emotions, and content. A good leader knows when and how to demonstrate empathy. In addition, the coach must express their own viewpoint.
Employees are more accessible to leaders who are vulnerable by sincerely admitting their own mistakes. Everyone can exchange experiences in safety due to transparency. Additionally, it increases everyone’s comprehension of differences, opens up the conversation, and promotes trust.
7. Fairly Resolve Conflicts:
Conflict is normal and important for better decision-making. Everybody, after all, has unique experiences, perspectives, preconceptions, styles, aptitudes, and motivations. It’s crucial that leaders consider various points of view. With their teams, leaders should define and discuss identity and cognitive diversity in order to achieve this. Understanding the team’s variety helps lay a solid foundation for valuing differences both within the team and outside the organisation.
8. Ensure Accessibility in both the Physical and Digital Space:
Physical barriers make it difficult or even impossible for people with impairments to move around in the workplace. Elevators, ramps for wheelchairs, spacious corridors, and other amenities are just a few examples of how organisations should prioritise everyone’s safety and comfort. Organisations can take additional measures to ensure accessibility, however many countries only mandate compliance with particular requirements, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act. This may involve putting aside money for a home office so that remote employees can purchase the chairs, standing desks, and other necessities. Another strategy for improving inclusivity is to make digital content accessible. The text, screen-readers, and video captions should all be supported on websites and other digital content.
9. Develop Empathy:
Empathy is the foundation for inclusion. Why? In order to fully connect with their team, leaders must be able to put themselves in their position. However, empathy is rarely included in business practices. Leaders often find it challenging to show empathy because of organisational rules and regulations. Such regulations include requirements for office hours, companies that monitor keystrokes, or the return of forced ranking in performance appraisal programs.
Leaders must show empathy in order to promote the same in the workplace. However, some leaders, especially those who have never personally experienced it, might find it difficult to relate to sentiments of exclusion. For this reason, it’s so important for leaders to have the chance to comprehend what it’s like to be excluded and to emotionally understand it.
10. Create a D&I Committee:
The four primary duties of diversity and inclusion committees are to provide advice on D&I efforts, integrate the initiatives across the entire organisation, evaluate the effectiveness of the industries, and ensure accountability. The membership should be diverse in age, race, gender, ethnicity, and gender identity. All stakeholders should be represented on the committee, including senior managers and employees at every level. It would be highly challenging to create inclusive practices that are effective and track how effectively practices are working without a committee. Successful D&I committees have the resources they need to monitor progress, complete support from the leadership, and clear expectations.
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