How to establish an inclusive company culture
Have you ever started at a new workplace and immediately felt uncomfortable? Perhaps your felt uneasy expressing your opinion in a meeting ornoticed a tension in the workspace that you just couldn’t put your finger on, but it made you feel as though you couldn’t be yourself at work. Maybe there was even a clear “us vs them” mentality between leaders and other team members. These are all signs that you work in an environment that isn’t inclusive.
What is an inclusive company culture?
An inclusive culture in the workplace is a critical component of creating a positive and productive work environment. An inclusive culture is one where all employees feel valued, respected, and supported, regardless of their background, race, gender, sexual identity, or other personal characteristics. When employees feel included, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated, which can lead to better productivity and business outcomes.
An inclusive company culture is not just about diversity and representation but also about equity and fairness. It involves providing equal opportunities and resources to all team members, regardless of their background or identity. It also requires identifying and addressing any systematic barriers that may exist within the workplace.
Creating an inclusive company culture won’t happen overnight and will require dedicated, ongoing effort. Let’s look at the key factors involved in creating a more inclusive workplace and how these can be implemented.
Ask and listen
As a leader within a company, one of the best ways to start making the environment more inclusive is to simply ask your employees for their input.
Start by asking about the current culture, the working environment, and how they feel about them. Find out whether they are comfortable sharing their opinions and experiences, and whether they feel these are valued and well received when they do share. Ask if they feel comfortable being their authentic selves in the workplace, or if they feel compelled to adopt a work persona that differs from who they truly are out of fear of judgement or misinterpretation.
Take the time to listen and understand what is working, what needs improvement, and what is missing for your employees. There are many ways to create a safe and open space for team members to speak their minds, including anonymous surveys, facilitated workshops, discussion groups, and one-on-one interviews. By prioritising open and honest communication, you will soon be on your way to creating a more inclusive and supportive work environment.
Prioritise inclusive leadership
Leading from the top down is essential in creating an inclusive company culture. When leaders model and prioritise inclusive behaviours, it sets the tone for the entire company and sends a clear message that all team members are valued and appreciated. However, it is important to note that if inclusion is not a clear company goal, these efforts will not work.
To create an inclusive company culture leaders must also be aware of the blind spots within their leadership team and the flaws in their current system. They must work hard to dismantle these barriers and address personal biases that may hinder progress towards inclusivity. This is an important starting point for all leaders and decision makers and acknowledging mistakes within the leadership team can create a safe space for other team members to feel comfortable to contribute.
Inclusive leadership is not about making grand gestures but instead about taking regular action and being accountable to your peers. This includes actively seeking out diverse perspectives, creating a safe and open space for discussion and feedback, and addressing any issues and concerns that may arise.
Provide tangible proof of action
Show that you have been paying attention to the issues and suggestions that have been raised and are actively working(?) toward making change happen. This can include:
Diverse Hiring –Ensure that recruitment processes are inclusive, unbiased, and attract candidates from diverse backgrounds.
Inclusive Policy Making – create and implement inclusive policies and practices that support the issues and suggestions that have been raised during the listening stage of the process.
Employee Resource Groups –Establish Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) that provide a platform for employees from diverse backgrounds to connect, collaborate and support each other.
Inclusive Training –Create training and development programs that promote diversity and inclusion.
Action Plans – Creating an inclusive culture is an ongoing process and it is essential to continuously monitor and adjust this approach as needed. Stay up to date on best practices and industry trends, and regularly assess and gain feedback from team members.
Establishing an inclusive culture in a company is a continuous practice that requires the commitment and contribution from every person within the company. With dedicated work and ongoing effort, you can create a safe and supportive environment where employees feel valued and respected for their authentic selves. This leads to a higher rate of productivity and retention over time.