Inclusion is crucial in the workplace. Committing to making an inclusive and open working environment is an important first step for employers. But how do you actually achieve it? On this page, we are going to provide a few ideas that you can use as an employer to establish a more inclusive company culture.
Practical Ways of Creating an Inclusive Environment in the Workplace
Thousands of companies across the U.K. have made significant steps towards establishing a more equal, diverse and inclusive working environment. First, they made public commitments to improving the company culture – but what came next?
At the heart of these projects, there is a collaboration between employer and employee, as we outline in our guide to implementing EDI in the workplace. All programmes, plans and targets should emerge as the result of transparent negotiations that include everyone.
This is essential to the successful development of an inclusive work environment because, although management plays an important role in setting the bar, inclusivity cannot be imposed from above. By nature, inclusivity comes via mutual acceptance and understanding of differences between colleagues, which cannot be genuinely fomented without their consent and participation.
To get into some more specifics of how inclusion can be created and sustained in your workplace, we have a list of achievable steps for you below. These are some proven methods that you can use in your workplace to keep your inclusivity journey on the right path.
Measure Your Current Levels of Inclusion
Before you get started with creating any new inclusion at work, you need to take stock of what is going on already. The best way to improve inclusion is to look at your current levels, find out how your staff feel at work, and analyse important inclusive metrics. We have an entire blog dedicated to how and why you can measure inclusion in your workplace, check it out for more details.
Loosen Dress Codes
It might seem like a small issue, but your company’s dress code is a great insight into your company’s approach to inclusivity in the workplace. First and foremost, the freer the dress code, the more inclusive it is for all the different protected characteristics.
By loosening your dress code, you are encouraging diversity in the workplace. You are stating that any dress, be that gendered or religious, is acceptable. This includes more than just what people wear but their hairstyle, piercings, or symbols such as henna.
It is also important to acknowledge that by taking this tactic you are also incentivising people to dress according to their identity. Allowing your employees to have their own unique sense of self in the workplace is beneficial for everyone. Inclusivity increases staff wellbeing, and it also has positive knock-on effects on staff retention, loyalty, and lack of absences.
Create Support Networks
Establishing support networks at work is key for inclusivity. Internal networks that allow for ongoing discussion and critique of inclusivity practices in the company can help to refine your company’s EDI program and make sure you continue in the right direction. This can look like a focus group or online forum.
It is important that these networks are accessible to and inclusive of each of the protected characteristics. It is crucial to give all identities and groups a safe space where they can openly discuss their experiences or challenges and be listened to. Everyone’s voice should be equally heard.
Provide Flexible Work Options
Flexible work options are great for inclusivity. If your company is able to offer flexible working hours and flexible contracts, you will find that your positions are then opened up to a much wider pool of candidates.
Allowing flexibility helps accommodate all groups of people in all sorts of different living situations. It particularly helps disabled members of staff, parents, people with religious commitments, and so on.
Offering a bit of fluidity with work hours is a small change that can have hugely positive outcomes for your inclusivity levels at work.
Tackling Unconscious Bias
There are a number of steps you have to take to develop an inclusive environment, none of which can be implemented overnight. As we always suggest, by having opportunities for open discussion and critique, along with regular and diverse training for all levels of the company, you can take the first steps toward inclusion.
However, some problems are not obvious. Particularly so, is the influence of unconscious bias. Even people who are actively trying to remain inclusive and oppose discrimination will have unconscious biases from their upbringing and societal influences. While there is no element of blame needed here, it is something we need to root out at work. Unconscious bias can be very destructive and it needs to be challenged.
Taking conscious and transparent steps to combat these problems will demonstrate the notion of an inclusive environment, and further encourage progress in the company culture towards becoming more equal and, in turn, diverse. You can do this by running training, having open discussions, creating inclusive and diverse decision-making panels, and so on. Read more about what we have to say about unconscious bias here to find out everything else you need to know.
To Wrap Up
Inclusivity can be a tough challenge in the workplace but it is one that is more than worth it. If you follow your guidance above, you will be on a great path to starting to increase inclusion in your work environment.
For more help with creating an inclusive work environment both now and in the future, check out more of what we have to offer on Aspiring to Include. We have services for employers to help you improve equality, diversity, and inclusion throughout your entire system. Then, we can help connect you with diverse job seekers through our inclusive job board.
Being inclusive can change your company’s future in many ways, all for the better. Why wait any longer to get started?