Creating a culture of inclusion in the workplace

June 1, 2022

Creating a culture of inclusion in the workplace

The importance of creating a culture of inclusion 

Inclusion is about inviting people to come together to meaningfully contribute and create a sense of belonging. It reduces employee turnover and increases profits and productivity levels, all while boosting employee engagement

Inclusion also focuses on encouraging insights while working to decrease racism, homophobia, and sexism.

As individuals, regardless of our role in the workplace, we are responsible for contributing to and influencing inclusion.

It starts with changing the way we think about inclusion. All it takes is getting to know people as individuals and making them feel welcome as they are.

In this article, we’ll be covering:

Diversity without inclusion doesn't work 

You can have a diverse company, but without inclusion, it's all for nothing.

You need to cultivate an inclusive environment with thoughtful and deliberate discussions, followed by definitive, organisational change. It's important to remember that a minority group may be one individual or multiple people.

An article by Clipper Round the World correctly points out that it’s no good to simply pay lip service to diversity. Your company has a duty to support your employees and follow steps to ensure you’re creating mutual understanding and respect within your business. 

Regardless of the size of these groups, if they aren’t made to feel included, they won’t stay in your organisation.

Ask what inclusion looks like in your workplace

Before you rely on your own observations and experience, take a moment to ask your coworkers what inclusion looks like to them.

Don’t let your assumptions (based on your own experiences) get in the way of truly understanding another person’s perspective. Only by having a true idea of the issues they face daily will you be able to work on your inclusivity.

Rotate who runs and is invited to meetings 

woman runs buisness meeting in office

Mix up the routine to be more inclusive. A diverse group in meetings will inspire new approaches and encourage healthy debate.

Give everyone involved a chance to facilitate recurring meetings. Provide a framework to work from but allow staff to be creative in their approach to hosting the meeting. This small change can bring different voices to the table and drive solutions.

Understand that personal schedules differ

The business world typically runs on a Western secular year and by preconceived 8-5 work hours.

But cultures and personal situations differ drastically from employee to employee. Companies shouldn’t presume that everyone will be comfortable working within these limits.

Realise that employees may request time off for religious observances, differing New Year celebrations, and family care obligations.

While a company or manager may not be able to accommodate every schedule request, they can be open to understanding these needs and provide solutions that work for everyone.

Install gender-friendly bathrooms 

Up until very recently, ‘male’ and ‘female’ designated bathrooms have been the norm in public spaces. However, this has been challenged of late, with many organisations investing in unisex facilities to promote the core values of inclusion and diversity. 

If you have the opportunity, consider putting floor-to-ceiling partitions in all stalls. Or in the future, if you move offices, make sure that this is an element of your layout design.

Don’t let this simple structural change stand in your way of being more inclusive.

Create accessible spaces 

Accessibility is an incredibly overlooked aspect of office design. Work with health and safety guidelines to make sure that clearance around desks and through doorways is up to standard.

Work with your building management to make sure you have ramps where there are stairs or that there is meeting room space on the ground floor if you don’t have an elevator. These changes will ensure an inclusive environment for your employees and clients.

Install nursing rooms for mothers 

Nursing rooms are dedicated spaces that allow employees to breastfeed or express milk comfortably and privately while at work. 

If you have the space and decide to provide a nursing room, make sure the room has a lock, covered windows, and a special fridge to store pumped milk.

Only allow that room to be booked for this specific purpose instead of being seen as another small boardroom available to everyone.

Use gender-neutral language in company policies 

Many organisations and industries now have strategies in place to ensure their workplace culture is inclusive to LGBTQIA+ employees. 

That said, fewer companies are familiar with how to incorporate the entire gender diversity spectrum, particularly those who have non-binary gender identities, into their culture of inclusion initiatives. 

In fact, non-binary individuals often experience discrimination in the workplace, with almost a third experiencing it in the hiring process alone. 

This discrimination is sometimes led by a lack of understanding around non-binary identities. 

Gender-specific language is widely used in everyday conversation. When it comes to the workplace, best practice should include replacing gendered language such as ‘ladies and gentlemen’ wherever possible in everyday conversation. Where appropriate, use they/them instead of he/she.

There is some great advice for using gender-neutral language in this guide by Out & Equal Workplace Advocates

Respect employees' personal preferences and dietary needs 

man enjoying office christmas party

Whenever you cater corporate events or office parties, remember that employees might have specific needs that need to be respected; for example, not everyone drinks alcohol or eats meat.

Make sure you have a range of non-alcoholic beverages, and vegetarian and gluten-free options.

If you have team members with specific religious requirements, accommodate those as much as possible. While it may add a little effort to order a special kosher meal, this inclusive action shows the utmost respect for personal life choices.

Dedicate quiet space for religious observance 

Your employees should feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work, and feel safe to practise religious observances in their workplace if they would like to. 

It can be very uncomfortable for coworkers to pray out in the open. If you have space, consider creating a non-denominational religious room for all employees.

This reduces the stigma around religious practice and opens communication around what can be a susceptible topic.

When space is made, it allows employees to communicate their needs to managers instead of frustration building during uncommunicated employee absences during the day.

Recognise and celebrate religious and cultural holidays celebrated by employees

When religious and cultural holidays come around, take the opportunity to work with employees celebrating to educate coworkers.

We can begin to understand and welcome these practices into our lives by fully understanding why an event is important. It is how we learn the correct language to use instead of being offensive, for example. 

By asking to be educated, we can be understanding instead of intrusive. It's about inclusion, not exclusion.

Don’t tolerate inappropriate behaviour

It's up to each of us to respond when we see a situation of exclusion occur.

If a co-worker makes a joke that could be seen as offensive, take them aside and explain why what they said or did was inappropriate. 

In such situations, be polite and gentle instead of angry and confrontational. They may never know until someone clarifies why what they did was inappropriate. Never assume that they already know better.

Acknowledge any biases

We all have habits based on unconscious bias. It is important to acknowledge these and work to resolve them.

Try mentally flipping the person you are dealing with to someone else to test for biased reactions.

With your new awareness, make sure all your decisions are inclusive no matter what your biased initial reaction may have been. Don’t leave inclusion to chance when it will reflect on your reputation.

Looking for a more inclusive workplace?

A culture of inclusion at work helps you to feel comfortable in your work environment and gives you more growth opportunities. If you are considering changing jobs, our recruiters would love to assist you.

Search our job board for roles that are relevant to your experience. 

This post was written by: JC Cornell, Bids Manager