Tips to Celebrate Diversity and Inclusion in the Workspace

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Many employers are committed to increasing diversity in the workplace, with the hiring of people from many different backgrounds. However, increased diversity does not necessarily mean the workplace has been made inclusive. An inclusive workplace means that the workplace is designed to value everyone equally and give all employees equal opportunities to shine. 

There are many benefits to increased diversity and inclusivity in the workplace. More diverse and inclusive workplaces are found to actually increase revenue by 19% due to innovation. In fact, studies have found that the global GDP could increase by $12 trillion by 2025 simply by working to close the gender gap. 
If you actively work to create diversity and inclusion within your workplace, you will reap the benefits. So as you start on your diversity journey, we’re here to provide you with some tips to create a more inclusive workspace.

Provide Inclusivity Training at All Levels
To create a more inclusive workspace, it is important to have buy-in at all levels of your organization, from the leadership team to each and every employee. Diversity and inclusivity training will help to build a better understanding of these ideas within your workspace. Start the training with just your leadership team. With those at the top on board, they will be able to lead by example and help guide the rest of your team during their inclusivity training. As your whole team learns about the importance of inclusivity, they can approach the leadership team with questions or concerns and will be more likely to commit to your plan to increase inclusion.

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Create an Inclusive Taskforce and Resource Group
With members of your organization and your leadership team on board, now you’ll want to consider who are the key team members who can help bring your new inclusivity culture to life. Look for the people who are passionate and excited about inclusivity in your workspace and are willing to put in the extra effort to bring your vision to reality. Form a diverse taskforce of these stakeholders - inclusive of various backgrounds, demographics, locations and functions - whose mandate is to bring new initiatives to management and to work with you and others to implement the change. 

Enable the members of your taskforce to have regular check-ins with the other employees in the office. Short, weekly 1-on-1s or small group meetings will help to build trust with the taskforce or resource groups and give employees someone to open up to about any needs or challenges they may have.

Make Adjustments to Your Core Values
To help drive this new change in your organization, integrate inclusivity and diversity into your company’s core values. When you include diversity and inclusion in your core values, you send a message to your employees and prospective employees that you are committed to these values. The addition to your core values can motivate your current employees to help change your company culture for the better. Job-seekers who are more passionate about these topics will be more likely to apply when you have a position open. 

To help implement the change in your core values, ask all employees for suggestions and feedback. This may help you earn buy-in across the whole company.

Model Inclusive Language
To be an agent of change within your organization, it’s important that you practice the changes you are making and model inclusive language in front of your employees, in both verbal and written communication. Learn and use the preferred pronouns of the employees within your company. If you talk with someone about their partner, use “spouse” or “partner” rather than “husband” or “wife”, especially if you don’t know their gender. “Partner” is a great option as it can be used for both married and unmarried couples. Be careful not to use any harmful language, and if you do, apologize and work hard to ensure that you won’t repeat the same mistake.

Connect With Employees and Facilitate Communication
Trust is important between employers and their employees, and employees want to be able to come to their managers if anything is wrong and not feel judged. In order to be that person for your employees, you will need to make an effort to connect with them on a personal level. Have some regular 1-on-1 conversations with your employees to see how they’re doing. Listen to what your employees have to say. You may have some difficult conversations as some people may not want to adopt an inclusive mindset. Prepare yourself on how to handle a situation where a colleague judges or excludes someone and stand by your beliefs if there is pushback.

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You’ll also want to facilitate communication among your employees. Set up some opportunities for employees to mix and chat, such as company-wide lunches or weekly randomized get-to-know-you chats, where everyone is randomly assigned to each other and they take 20-30 minutes to talk and get to know each other better. The more your team can communicate, the easier it will be to make a more inclusive workplace.

Update the Company Calendar and Offer Flexible Time Off
Another effective way to a more inclusive workspace is to celebrate all of the different holidays that your employees celebrate. Update your calendar to include holidays such as Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali, and Ramadan and send out greeting cards or, when appropriate, have small celebrations in the office. Offer flexibility to take time off or receive holiday pay for holidays that may happen during the week. Even consider adding a new company-wide holiday. If you can at least acknowledge these holidays on the company calendar, then you can raise awareness and increase a sense of belonging for those who do celebrate these holdiays.

Rethink Common Practices
Inclusivity will be hard work. It will require you to make little, but impactful, changes to the way you think, speak, and act. A smaller, but still important, change that can be made is to add your pronouns to your email signature, org charts, and Slack names, such as “Jane Doe, she/her” or “John Smith, he/they/them.” This signals your awareness and respect of preferred pronouns and can be welcoming to any nonbinary employees. You might also consider multilingual signs in the office or work documents. Think about accessibility needs, such as those who might need a wheelchair or have difficulty maneuvering in small spaces. Also consider inclusivity when it comes to company events or holiday parties.

Another aspect to think about is how you run your meetings. Inclusion is about making sure everyone feels that they can speak and be heard during meetings. For the introverts and socially anxious among your employees, consider releasing meeting plans ahead of time to help them prepare something to contribute, or even creating a digital suggestion box that employees can contribute to (in the form of a group video), and then opening discussions or providing responses to these video clip suggestions during staff meetings. The more you can do to make others feel comfortable and included in some way, the better off your new company culture will be.

Create Safe Spaces
A safe space is somewhere that an individual can go where they can feel confident that they will not be exposed to any kind of discrimination, harrasment, criticism, or any kind of harm. Ideally, your goal should be to make the entire workplace a safe space. However, this isn’t always possible. So you might look into setting aside a private meeting room to be used as a meditation/prayer room, or even as a lactation room for new moms. Many workplaces have started providing gender-neutral bathrooms. Work with your managers to determine the needs of their direct reports, and look for ways to accommodate those needs. A safe space should ensure that its users feel safe when they are there. 

There are many considerations when focusing on inclusion in the workspace and often quite a bit of change involved. Sometimes this change requires a significant amount of effort to implement. So keep in mind that inclusion should be an evolving and ongoing practice with continuous improvement. Aside from the friendlier and more welcoming culture that they foster, inclusive organizations have been found to be more profitable and more innovative so the more inclusive you can make your company, the more rewarding it will be!

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