Is your company culture inclusive? Upon immediate consideration, most company executives would likely say yes—because their businesses don’t support an oppressive, divisive culture. But inclusion is more than just reproaching bad behavior. It’s about making employees feel heard, seen, and supported at work. It’s about empowering all of your employees to bring their whole selves to work, and therefore offer their best contributions on the job. This looks different at various organizations, but it’s best exhibited when employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas, taking risks, and being vulnerable.
So, how do you create an inclusive culture? First, read more about employing a diverse workforce and valuing equity over equality in business. If your company isn’t prioritizing equity and diversity first, true inclusion is impossible to achieve. This is because diversity and inclusion are, in practice, very different: While having a diverse staff is crucial to doing work that increases company value, your employees won’t feel comfortable sharing their best ideas without inclusion. Think of it like this: Diversity is shown through who—and how—you hire. Inclusion is exhibited in what you do after you hire a diverse staff. Here’s how you can ensure your business is an inclusive one:
- Acknowledge biases. No one is perfect. We all have what’s called “inherent bias” — the innate judgment that comes into play when we’re working or interacting with others. But rather than ignore these biases, we have to acknowledge them to break them and become better leaders and colleagues.
- Commit to building a diverse and inclusive leadership team. Hiring a diverse group of employees is one thing—but pledging to build a diverse leadership team is another. Your staff should be able to look up to executives and see themselves mirrored in leadership.
- Educate your staff. Diversity and initiative training should be engaging and actionable. Consider bringing in a D&I specialist to present to staff on how they can encourage inclusion on their teams.
- Form an inclusion council. The best way to show your commitment to inclusion is to prioritize it. By forming a group dedicated to addressing opportunities, you’ll see more success in creating a culture that brings out the best in your staff.
- Celebrate and accommodate differences. Making your employee’s culture, needs, and desires a priority is part of creating an inclusive environment. Actions like creating a space for employees to pray or meditate—or offering a dedicated pump room for new mothers—allows employees to integrate work seamlessly into their lives. Consider celebrating all holidays, not just bank holidays, and offering flexible time off for employees who may want or need it.
- Encourage feedback. Offer a method for providing anonymous feedback and constructive criticism, either electronically or physically in the office. Employees will feel more comfortable offering honest thoughts when they know their identity is protected. Address feedback in a public forum regularly, and include an action plan to remedy problems when appropriate.
Above all, transparency is key. Include measurable diversity, inclusion, and equity initiatives in your company goals, and make sure your business mission and handbook align with these goals. Be open to change and hold yourself and your employees accountable for inclusive action, and your business will flourish.