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4 Ways to Ensure an Inclusive Work Environment

By: Andrew Deen


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Inclusion is one of today’s hottest business buzzwords. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts are front and center for many major corporations. Inclusion has become a measuring stick by which companies are assessed by their stakeholders and customers.

Incorporating some kind of diversity policy is quickly becoming a must-have PR insurance policy, and failure to pay lip service to inclusion activity is liable to create outcry or consumer scrutiny for organizations in just about every industry.

Is it all just hype or a press exercise? Absolutely not. In fact, integrating inclusion and diversity efforts into your organization can significantly change not just your bottom line but sometimes the fundamental nature of your organization as a whole. Increasing inclusion can allow it to mature, improve, and change in ways you might never have thought possible. However, the road to achieving sustainable, effective inclusion can be difficult. Here are some tips for better understanding and implementing inclusion within your organization.

Why is Workplace Inclusion Valuable?

Inclusion efforts within the workplace, when accomplished, ultimately produce workforce diversity. Without understanding the real power of diversity within organizations, it’s easy to design inclusion efforts that ultimately prove ineffective.

Here are the ways that well-executed inclusion strategies can benefit your organization:

Increased Diversity Leads to Stronger Problem-solving

No matter what industry, your organization faces challenges. These can range from everyday snafus and hiccups, to difficult projects or campaigns, to fundamental or strategic-level crossroads. The results from countless academic studies are in – teams that are made up of diverse groupings of individuals (across nationalities, ages, genders, ethnicities, work, or life experiences, and more) consistently out-think and out-innovate those that are largely homogeneous.

In today’s turbulent markets and high-stakes business landscape, effective problem-solving and decision-making can often make the difference between staying afloat and going under.

It also Allows for More Complete Customer Representation

Especially in business-to-consumer companies, understanding the customer is arguably the most important part of developing strong market offerings and succeeding as an organization. It is absolutely imperative.

This becomes difficult, however, when those that are making important decisions about the product do not represent large portions of the customer bases they hope to attract. Having better diversity within your organization means that your team members can collectively understand and relate to the personal experiences of more of your customers. This can provide critical insights that are very difficult to reproduce artificially without that representation of lived experience within your organization.

Better Overall Performance

Studies show over and over again how diverse workforces result in better performance and higher profitability. These statistics persist irrespective of industry or organization size. This is an important reality.

It can be very beneficial if you are interested in prioritizing inclusion efforts, but other decision makers in your corporation may not think it necessary or important. Even those that don’t necessarily value inclusion for inclusion’s sake can be swayed by the fact that inclusion also propels better performance. Inclusion is simply a business-savvy choice.

How to Foster Workplace Inclusion

Whatever the size and type of your organization, here are a few strategies you can employ to get the ball rolling and begin incorporating inclusion as a priority area.

  • Examine Your Hiring Processes and Existing Culture

A huge part of inclusion is attracting a more diverse audience to be interested in working for your company. This can prove more difficult than expected for many entities. Lots of corporations find themselves at a loss when adding “we’re interested in hiring diverse applicants” to job postings doesn’t yield a boom in applicant diversity.

Fostering true inclusion practice requires real commitment, time, curiosity, and creativity. Look at the language used in your adverts and learn to recognize the subtle hints that your organization isn’t as inclusion-conscious as it could be.

Would someone different from a mid-30’s white male be interested to apply? If not, why? And what can you change to make it more appealing to different demographics? If you don’t know, there’s a way to find out: find individuals that belong to demographic groups you’d like to attract and ask them.

Look at your facilities – would they be easily accessible by differently-abled persons who might not be able to use stairs, or might be colorblind, or deaf? Would they be easily accessed by middle-aged women who are reentering the workforce but may need to quickly get in and out to briefly address any issues with their children at school during the workday? Would those of different religions or ethnic backgrounds be comfortable in the space? Inclusion efforts must be much more than skin-deep if they are to catch hold and be effective.

  • Support Inclusion Efforts at the Graduate Level

In order to grow workplace diversity, we have to support the diversity efforts of the talent pool. One way to meaningfully make an impact in improving diversity is to prioritize hiring diverse graduates as well as developing partnerships with undergraduate and postgraduate institutions that promote diversity in their student populations.

Not only will your organization benefit by having access to more diverse new talent, but you will be supporting institutions that are equipped to propel these efforts even further.

  • Ask for a Range of Diverse Opinions and Critiques When Designing Your Inclusion Strategy

Do not ask the one token individual one your team who is different from the rest of your team to design your whole inclusion strategy. And please do not ask them to represent the entirety of every group that is different from the predominant one represented in your organization.

Oftentimes, if your organization is not yet very diverse, that minority individual(s) within your organization is already working overtime trying to navigate an otherwise homogeneous workplace that presents them with challenges no one else will understand.

Rather, consult multiple experts and voices. These can be outside your organization and can be hugely valuable sounding boards as you design your strategy. It can be difficult to hear these critiques sometimes, but this method is much more effective than assuming you know how to do it yourself or saddling your one diverse team member with the responsibility.

  • Create Inclusive Culture Within Your Organization

For inclusion efforts to take hold, the entire organization needs to be bought in. Your (sometimes substantial) effort to recruit a diverse new class of team members or employees could all be wasted if their teams, managers, or co-workers make them feel unwelcome and they (understandably) quit to go elsewhere.

Inclusion needs to be a regular, explicit, open, honest conversation within your organization. Engage your entire workforce in this process. Hear your team out – their interests, ideas, and hesitations alike. Inclusion often takes wholesale culture change to foster it well.

Using these strategies can help your company or organization institute an inclusion strategy that will ultimately prove effective, long-lasting, and significantly beneficial.

Published: June 23, 2022

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Andrew Deen

Andrew Deen has been a consultant for startups in almost every industry from retail to medical devices and everything in between. He implements lean methodology and is currently writing a book about scaling up business. Twitter @AndrewDeen14.

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