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8 Ways To Make Your Workplace More Inclusive For All Employees

By Jennifer Crump
Published: December 12, 2020
Key Takeaways

Workplaces with an inclusive culture are more likely to attract and retain strong employees — here's what you need to know.

Source: Fizkes/iStock

Inclusive workplaces are more successful workplaces. According to recent research, they are six times more likely to be innovative and six times more likely to anticipate change and respond effectively. They are also twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets and enjoy 2.3 times the cash flow as competitors who lack an inclusive workplace.

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Inclusive workplaces also offer another competitive advantage. Companies that foster an inclusive culture are far more likely to both attract and retain employees.

While inclusivity offers a clear competitive advantage, it is not one that all employers have successfully embraced. If your company is struggling to incorporate inclusion into the general workplace culture, here are eight ways to make improvements.

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Defining Inclusivity

Inclusivity goes far beyond mere diversity. It is taking your diverse workforce and ensuring that everyone feels that they are a contributing and valued member of your team. Achieving diversity is a factor of hiring, while inclusivity is related to a multitude of factors including company culture, management, policies and practices.

Model Inclusive Language

Inclusive language is less about our explicit biases and more about being aware of our implicit biases. When we don’t share the same experiences as others, it is sometimes difficult to remember that they may see things very differently. The language we use can reflect this ignorance.

Using inclusive language ensures the elimination of these biases, as well as slang, or expressions that discriminate against groups of people based on race, gender, or socioeconomic status. It also ensures you actively engage all of your workers with what you have to say.

Try to get to know the pronouns preferred by your personnel. Be sure to use these pronouns in your speech as well as correspondence, including emails. Use terms like partner when referring to couples. Not everyone is married and the words “wife” and “husband” simply to do not apply to all couples.

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Grow Your Company Calendar

Advertise special weeks like Pride Week. Consider sending out calendar notices or emails that provide information or news regarding other designated days, weeks or months. Some companies allow people to take time off to observe holidays that are important to them. Others have declared a companywide holiday for dates important to large numbers of employees. For example, several companies have designated Juneteenth as a companywide holiday.

Recognize high holidays observed by all of the major religions: Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur for Jewish employees, Eid-al-Fitr, Eid-al-Adha and Ramadan for Muslims and Diwali and Navrati for Hindus.

Recognize, Reward, Encourage

One in four American adults suffers from some form of disability. This is a considerable portion of the available workforce. And even those who do not have a permanent disability may be occasionally affected by a temporary one. Create a workspace that both expands your hiring pool and ensures the productivity of your existing staff.

There are numerous ways to make your workplace more accessible to everyone. Consider making it wheelchair accessible and installing accessible washrooms.

Take advantage of the wide variety of tools and add-ons for your enterprise software that makes it more accessible to your employees. Encourage workers to use accessibility options on their devices. Consider implementing human-centered and universal design approaches which both eliminate barriers and ensure products, environments and systems are usable by all people without the need for adaptation.

Empower Introverts

There are almost as many introverts in the world as there are extroverts. Find ways to engage the introverts in your workforce and to ensure they feel comfortable contributing:

  • Do not call out people in meetings. Allow them time to process information.
  • Consider sending out pre-reads – advance information that allows introverts to get a full understanding of the subject. They’ll be far more likely to contribute if you do.
  • Provide affinity bias training for your hiring staff, so they don’t only hire people who reflect their own personality traits.
  • Moderate meetings to ensure everyone has sufficient “airtime.” Send out both an agenda and a summary of the meeting.

Create Multilanguage Signage

Multilanguage signage serves multiple purposes. Of course, on a practical level, it ensures that everyone, from your workers to visiting members of the public, knows where your washrooms and exits are. Multilanguage signage also lends itself to a more welcoming and inclusive atmosphere. Finally, these signs are concrete evidence that inclusivity, and your diverse workforce, are important to you. Multilingual signs will deliver this message clearly to everyone who steps inside your workplace.

Rethink Your Physical Space

Reconfigure your physical space to make all of your employees feel that they are welcome. This could include adding nursing rooms for mothers, meditation or universal prayer rooms and gender-neutral bathrooms. Many businesses make this a signature move of their inclusivity efforts. However, as a single initiative, it isn’t enough. Make sure you combine your physical changes with other inclusivity efforts. Find ways to acknowledge all religious and cultural holidays celebrated by your employees in your decor or wherever else it might be appropriate.

Get Buy-In From Management

Your company leaders are your allies in creating, modelling and promoting an inclusive environment in your workplace. Provide inclusivity training that emphasizes their role in leading your inclusivity efforts. Focus on their critical role in modelling inclusivity.

As part of this training, allow your managers to come to you (or another trusted leader) with awkward questions or concerns. Create an open space attitude when it comes to dealing with these questions and concerns. Recruit your managers to help draft an inclusivity statement to add to your company core values.

Keep an open-door policy post-implementation. Encourage your managers to come forward with questions or concerns and especially with any feedback they can solicit from their own team members.

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Written by Jennifer Crump

Profile Picture of Jennifer Crump

Jennifer Crump is a former freelance journalist and author and now full-time content writer and strategist. She contributes to magazines and blogs throughout North America on issues related to business, training, financing and workplace safety.


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