How to Foster an Inclusive Work Environment [8 Universal Steps]

Friday, August 5, 2022

Fostering an inclusive work environment not only benefits employees, but it also benefits businesses, too.

Article 4 Minutes
How to Foster an Inclusive Work Environment [8 Universal Steps]
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Research has found inclusive employers are 1.7 times more likely to be innovative and have team members who reel in 2.3 times more revenue. Millennials—the largest generation in the U.S. workforce—are 83% more engaged when they work for an inclusive company.

An inclusive work environment creates a safe and healthy workplace, but building one can be easier said than done. Here are eight universal steps to help you get started:

1. Invite feedback

Difficult conversations are challenging, and your team members may fear bringing up tough subjects. Thus, it’s essential to invite feedback and build a culture where input is valued.

Doing so opens a line of communication between you and your workforce. Regularly invite team members to one-on-one discussions to help them feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas.

2. Be an ally

Allyship is about understanding the disparity in opportunity and rectifying it. You can be an ally for your colleagues and team members by:

  • Unlearning what you know about success and opportunity: Some individuals must work harder than others to get to the same place. This is because of the societal barriers put in front of them. Learn about these barriers and raise discussions on how to eliminate them in your workplace.
  • Advocate for underrepresented team members: Take the time to listen to their experiences and concerns. Use these points to drive change. It’s important to note that there is a disconnect between what white employees see as allyship solutions and what women of color believe them to be.

For more guidance, view this helpful TED Talk by Medlina Epler on creating a more inclusive environment:

3. Stay conscientious of bias

An overwhelming 95% of individuals believe they are self-aware, yet only 10-15% of them actually are.

Subconscious biases and blind spots can bolster exclusion. To counter this, you can promote employee self-awareness by initiating 360-degree feedback on yourself and your team members. This feedback will help everyone learn how their actions and behaviors affect others.

4. Build empathy

One in four team members feel like they don’t belong. What’s more, Google discovered the top factor for team success is psychological safety.

Therefore, empathy matters. It’s the force that encourages authentic relationships and conversations.

Encourage yourself and others to practice empathy by:

  • Being curious: Talk to people and ask questions about their background and experiences. Step into their shoes to understand where they’re coming from.
  • Provide your undivided attention to someone who is talking: Put down all devices and ask follow-up questions to gain a more complete picture of their ideas and concerns.

5. Use inclusive language in company policies and communication

Work with key stakeholders to ensure that your organization:

  • Uses language that focuses on the person as opposed to their descriptor (e.g. “people with disabilities” rather than “disabled people”)
  • Provides the opportunity for team members to make their pronouns known
  • Avoids words/phrases that lack cultural sensitivity

Before implementing the above, be sure you’re actioning the above appropriately. You can confirm what makes employees comfortable during team discussions and/or employee surveys.

6. Provide accessible channels for communicating concerns

Managers may not be aware of every issue that occurs in the workplace, so it’s important to have effective channels for team members to report concerns to help bridge this gap.

Knowing that there are opportunities available to communicate issues can offer staff assurance and a sense of safety.

7. Promote accountability

Whatever inclusivity issues or topics you discuss with team members, set an appropriate goal and align all parties toward that outcome. Establish expectations for what is expected of them to accomplish that goal. This will promote accountability, which can help drive inclusivity in the workplace.

8. Set the example

Remember, as a leader, it’s crucial to set an example of inclusivity in your organization. Model and advocate the tips discussed above, and train your managers to do the same. It all starts with you. Company leaders should promote inclusion at all levels of the business.

Grow and lead by example

Sometimes it’s not enough to implement empty gestures. If you’d like to instigate real change, you may need more guidance on how to foster an inclusive work environment, so consider partnering with industry experts who can offer the tools and resources you need to get your organization where it needs to be.

Annabelle Smyth

Annabelle Smyth is a freelance writer located in Salt Lake City, Utah. She enjoys writing about leadership, HR, and employee engagement. She has most recently worked with DocInfusion. When not writing and educating herself, you can find her hiking the canyons with her dog and friends.

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