Diversity and inclusion in the workplace are among the most important topics facing HR professionals, but as employees, you also have a crucial role to play.
If you and/or your colleagues have to mask their authentic selves at work because they feel unseen or unsafe, this can create a flow-on effect that impacts retention, engagement and overall productivity levels.
The thing is, there is no diversity without inclusion.
Let us break that down for you…
A diverse workforce means having a headcount of various gender, races, and sexual orientations (and not only because it looks good on the company’s website)
On the other hand, an inclusive company culture separates itself from any possible unconscious bias in the work environment. Employees feel included irrespective of who they are or as what they identify themselves as.
If you want to leverage your team’s differences and make the most out of their unique backgrounds, ideas and opinions, it’s time to learn how to foster an inclusive culture.
To help you get started, here are five ways to foster an inclusive workplace culture
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable
Discomfort is actually a good thing; it’s a sign that we’re growing, trying something new, building our muscles of resilience. And as we encourage ourselves to engage in these difficult conversations, we can mindfully notice that the experience has not killed us. We are becoming more comfortable with being uncomfortable.
The word “privilege” may appear hostile, but the dictionary definition is actually more subtle. It’s “a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.” Having privilege doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It just means that the playing field is tilted in your favour.
If you are in a position of privilege, here are some ways to level the playing field:
Acknowledge – conversations require allies (that’s you) to recognise your privilege and be honest about the fact that you might have grown up blind in a system that oppresses others.
Listen – actively listen and learn from the people around you who are or have been impacted by discrimination or racism
Learn – do your homework, no one can do this work for you; individual learning is required if you want to become true allies. There are lots of amazing resources that exist to help you, here is one to get you started
Speak up – True allyship is risky, especially in a corporate environment – but it must be done. Remember that if words matter – actions always speak louder
Awareness also plays a key part here; when people start to become aware of unearned advantage it often motivates them to work towards a more level playing field.
Language is a powerful tool, by encouraging the use of inclusive language and implementing it into workplace policies you can easily resonate with employees or co-workers and help to prevent them feeling excluded. Using gender-neutral terms immediately makes people feel like they belong. And if you’re unsure of their pronouns, then just ask! They will know you are respecting them and wanting to refer to them in a way that’s consistent and true to who they are.
Creating a more inclusive workplace isn’t just about doing good. It’s also about doing well – it’s hard to imagine how any organisation can reach its full potential without including everyone and rewarding the best work. If you’ve ever found your employer saying that your workplace’s most valuable resource is its people, then contributing to a more inclusive and diverse workforce can be a great way to invest in that resource.