We’ve all heard the benefits of building a diverse and inclusive workforce. But in order to reap those benefits, you must first create a company culture and community that is welcoming and inclusive of people from diverse backgrounds. If team members from historically underrepresented groups are not feeling included, they will not be able to contribute in the same way other team members who feel included can. Ultimately, they are more likely to become disengaged and even leave the company.
Instead, takes steps to understand what it means to be an inclusive workplace and learn ways to build a culture of understanding and support no matter your differences.
How to Build an Inclusive Workplace Environment
- Put your mission in writing.
- Get your entire team involved.
- Establish a dedicated program or committee.
- Start with your recruiting process.
- Focus on culture adds, not culture fits.
DEI experts offer solutions to create a radically inclusive workplace.
What Is an Inclusive Environment?
Inclusion is the deliberate effort to create an environment where everyone is respected and empowered to contribute equally and supported with access to the same resources and opportunities, regardless of individual demographics.
What Is an Inclusive Environment?
Working to Understand and Alter Unconscious Bias
For starters, creating an inclusive environment requires everyone actively work to understand and alter the unconscious bias that instinctively emerges into stereotypes and attitudes toward other groups of people. To effectively reduce bias, people need to constantly learn and question their beliefs and actions toward people who may have different backgrounds, experiences and personalities from their own. When people are aware of their own biases, they are able to better distinguish between what is true and what is tainted by bias.
Using Inclusive Language
Another component of inclusion is utilizing inclusive language. What do we mean by that? Instead of greeting a group of mixed-gender people with the phrase “hey guys,” say “hey team” or “good morning, folks” as a way to be more gender neutral and inclusive. Get to know your colleagues’ preferred gender pronouns by including your personal pronouns in email, instant messaging and social media profiles. Doing so will not only open up a conversation with people who may not understand the importance of inclusive language, but more importantly, it will help people feel included.
Making an Effort to Recognize Exclusion
Make an effort to recognize when someone is not being included. This is really quite simple, and merely requires people to pay attention to those around them. Back in 2016, women in the White House banned together and adopted a meeting strategy called “amplification,” where if one woman stated an idea or important point, another woman would repeat the same point and give credit to the original woman. Anyone can do this regardless of gender, and in doing so, you’re helping bring underrepresented voices to the table.
Above everything, inclusion is being kind and considerate — it’s going out of your way to invite a new person to the lunch table; it’s asking people about their day-to-day, their personal life, their future aspirations and past experiences; it’s making connections through your similarities and learning from your differences. With a little effort, your community, culture and workforce will reap the benefits of building an inclusive workplace — but it will take everyone’s support and conscious effort to do so.
Benefits of an Inclusive Environment
Establishing an inclusive environment in the workplace cultivates a space where employees feel both accepted and at their most productive and engaged.
Workplace inclusion at its core creates happier employees. When employees are encouraged to come to work as they are, this opens the door for a range of knowledge and skill sets to be heard and used, and make employees feel needed and welcomed. In turn, employees who feel enthusiastic about their place of work are more incentivized to share their ideas, collaborate more effectively and drive business innovation.
In one study by Great Place to Work, employees who trust that they and their colleagues would be treated fairly regardless of demographics were about 10 times more likely to look forward to going to work, and about five times more likely to want to stay at their company for a long period of time.
Additionally, fostering inclusivity in the workplace also contributes to the aspects of a positive company culture. A solidified and welcoming company culture is proven to boost metrics of employee engagement, retention and overall productivity.
9 Ways to Create an Inclusive Environment
Now that we’ve covered some of the basics for what inclusion is and how to be an inclusive person, let’s take a look at how to put a plan into action. There are a number of ways to build an inclusive work environment and culture. To learn how companies are actually doing this, we talked with ten companies to hear what inclusion means to their teams. Here’s what they said:
“Ensuring a diverse workplace equates to inclusive programming. One does not operate without the other. Diversity is what you have; inclusion is what you do with it. Every community, no matter how big or small, has an organic diverse makeup — it’s the type of programming that follows that fosters cohesion.”
Focus Your Inclusion Efforts
“We focus on two key areas to drive diversity: cultivating a pipeline of diverse talent in the community and creating an inclusive culture. We also work hard to create an inclusive culture that reflects our entrepreneurial roots. Everyone has a voice on their work teams, in frequent leadership roundtables and on our Chatter communications platform. We drive profit and loss responsibility down to the segment level, which encourages every employee to contribute, learn and grow.”
PUT YOUR MISSION IN WRITING
“Our inclusion and diversity statement is, ‘Our zeal for inclusion fuels our best work.’ We wholeheartedly live by this and approach it as an ongoing conversation in which we are all evolving and learning together. To us, it’s not an initiative but rather a way of life and a part of our company’s DNA.”
GET YOUR ENTIRE TEAM INVOLVED IN INCLUSION
“As the newest Greenhouse office, we know how important it is to align culture with company values. We are developing our Denver culture in an intentional and inclusive way through regular cross-departmental collaboration sessions. By rotating this responsibility among our 25 employees in four different departments, we ensure that each employee is able to participate. Opening a Denver office was a strategic business objective, and our local culture committee is helping to ensure its success!”
ESTABLISH A PROGRAM OR COMMITTEE DEDICATED TO INCLUSION
“When we first launched the women’s program, we thought only women would attend, but the meeting was packed with employees of all genders, ages, and ethnicities, and we received overwhelming feedback about expanding the program for other minority groups. Learning that you work with such open-minded and motivated people is an incredible feeling.”
Start with the Recruiting Process
“We care deeply about reaching out to under-represented groups, so we allocate resources specifically to sponsor and/or attend events centered around diversity in technology. We have developed an employee experience that is inclusive of all gender expressions and backgrounds, taking care to utilize software that allows us to check for gendered language in our job descriptions and to ensure our websites are accessible to a wide range of abilities.”
FOCUS ON CULTURE ADD, RATHER THAN CULTURE FIT
“To foster an inclusive environment, we offer unconscious bias training, which is mandatory for people managers; interview for ‘culture add’ instead of ‘culture fit’ and have piloted removing resumes from the engineering interview process. Our employee-driven diversity council focuses on providing opportunities for learning, community building and celebration during nationally recognized months of diversity.”
BE INCLUSIVE AT EVERY STAGE OF THE EMPLOYEE LIFECYCLE
“When it comes to attracting a diverse set of candidates, we go the extra mile to remove biased language — gender or otherwise — from our job descriptions now that there is a lot of research on how word choice can subtly discourage certain groups from applying. We also like to make sure our inclusive work culture is highlighted online and on our website so that everyone feels welcome to apply.”
MAKE INCLUSION A PRIORITY IN COMPANY CULTURE
“Hosting events is one way we actively encourage inclusive practices in our offices and create firsthand inclusion opportunities for all. We opted for a volunteer system — we ask our teams to submit ideas for diversity and inclusion events they would like to see happen in our office and if interested, to sign-up to help plan it. This approach ensures the events we host are relevant to our team and, we hope, create a positive experience for both the participants and the hosts. It also helps avoid situations where we try to identify people in the office who observe or are affiliated with a particular group and then ask them to do work to share their perspective with us.”
Hear from expert panelists on the changes you can make to be a fully inclusive employer.