Committing to making an inclusive and open working environment is the first step, but how do you actually achieve it? Here are a few ideas that you can implement or suggest to your employees for establishing a more inclusive company culture.
Practical ways of creating an inclusive environment in the workplace
Thousands of companies across the UK 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, the company has to place open and honest discussion between their employees, as we outline in our guide to implementing EDI in the workplace. This means that all programs, 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 play 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.
However, there are some proven methods that you can suggest in these discussions to either get the ball rolling or guide the programs in the right direction. We have taken the ideas that have proven to work best in other companies in the UK, although some are most appropriate for larger enterprises.
Your company dress code is a great insight of 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.
As such, you are encouraging diversity in the workplace by stating that any dress, be that gendered or religious, is acceptable. This includes more than just what people wear but their hairstyle or symbols such as henna.
However, it is also important to acknowledge that by taking this tactic you are also incentivising people to dress according to their identity. This has shown to produce micro dress codes in which different levels of seniority or role in the company will have unspoken requirements for dress.
Therefore, it is important to be flexible in regards to your dress code, and you may want to encourage some sort of code, such as one that is more gender neutral. Whatever you decide, it should be the result of negotiation with your staff.
A major step that lots of larger enterprises have been able to establish are support networks. These are internal networks that allow for ongoing discussion and critique of inclusivity practices in the company, which can help to refine your company EDI program.
Furthermore, these networks are often tailored to each of the protected characteristics, to give each identity or group a safe space that they can openly discuss their experiences or challenges.
Flexible work has to be approved by the head of the company. Not being able to provide completely flexible work for employees has proved to be a significant barrier for a number of companies, especially throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Flexible work has a number of advantages and to some extent, can be implemented by all companies in the UK.
By offering flexible hours or methods of work, you make your company inclusive and accessible to those with disabilities, parents, and those with religious commitments.
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, 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 towards inclusion.
However, some problems are not obvious, such as the influence of unconscious bias, which is difficult to identify never mind tackle, and the use of inclusive language in the workplace. Most people who are actively trying to remain inclusive and oppose discrimination will have unconscious biases and will use exclusive language, so it is difficult to reprimand or fix.
Despite this, taking conscious and transparent steps to combatting these problems will demonstrate the notion of an inclusive environment, and further encourage progress the company culture towards becoming more equal and, in turn, diverse.