Is your company making the appropriate effort to foster an environment of inclusion? You likely know it’s important, but the stats supporting why it’s important may surprise you.
According to a recent survey by Deloitte, 80 percent of respondents say inclusion is an important factor in choosing an employer. In fact, 72 percent of the same respondents indicated that they would leave or consider leaving an organization for one that is more inclusive.
But what does an inclusive workforce look like? It’s one where a team member feels a sense of belonging, comfort in using their voice, participating in the decision-making process, and feeling like their contributions have buy in from the group.
A common misnomer is that a diverse workforce means an inclusive workplace, but unfortunately, that’s just not the case. Most people relate more to the way inclusion feels over how it may look. Even with a diverse workforce, you may still have a long way to go to foster a truly inclusive space for your employees.
Importance of inclusion
It’s important for any one person within an organization to feel like they are a part of the group, and that they can contribute. That’s the safety and assurance you need to grow. Beyond the feeling of belonging, the benefits of inclusion can be exponential.
The Deloitte survey continued by sharing that “companies with inclusive talent practices in hiring, promotion, development, leadership, and team management generate up to 30 percent higher revenue per employee and greater profitability than their competitors.”
It’s simple when you think of it: workers who feel a sense of belonging are more likely to be happy, and a happy workforce is more likely to produce better results. As morale shoots up, satisfaction, productivity, and empowerment rise with it.
Additionally, when employees feel comfortable and safe within their working environment, company culture is more likely to grow, which cultivates further innovation and a more diverse way of working and thinking. And as you continue to hire with an eye towards diversity and inclusion, you’ll see a wealth of additional knowledge and skill sets flow into your workplace. With more minds believing they are able to contribute, more and more ideas will be presented for any campaign or endeavor.
Tips to develop an inclusive culture
So how do you go about constructing or reshaping a business culture so that every facet is promoting inclusion and diversity? The good news is that there isn’t only one answer. There are many measures your organization can take to start creating a culture of inclusivity, with varying degrees of commitment and employee involvement.
Our advice would be not to start too small, though. While the culture will grow gradually from the changes you make, your vocal agenda should be loud and very clear from the beginning. Develop a strategy of changes that your organization needs to make in order to create a more welcoming and inclusive workplace. Share your intent to foster a sense of community and belonging, and be steadfast and proud in it.
Determine what inclusivity means to your employees
Creating a policy for inclusion without the buy in from all corners of the organization is hardly inclusive, so cast your net wide to catch everyone who would like to share their input. If you don’t know the needs you are serving by attempting to create belonging, then any attempt will be futile.
Send out anonymous surveys asking your employees how they feel in the workplace. It’s important to note that in order to get a true sense of how comfortable your employees are, you will likely have to ask some questions that you will be afraid to see the answers to. You might have to sacrifice your comfort for a little bit in the service of fostering comfort and community for all. And that’s okay! It’s extremely important to solicit feedback and advice from your employees. Without their input, you’re just throwing darts in the dark.
Start from the top
If your organizational leaders don’t buy into promoting an inclusive culture, it’s doomed from the start. For it to be effective, these measures and efforts need to be embraced and acted upon by all levels of management, not just human resources.
One area to devote focus to would be your Board of Directors. Create an intentionally inclusive board that takes advantage of differing gender, race, sexual orientation, and multigenerational perspectives. Some companies take the approach of having a multicultural advisory group in place to weigh decisions and options before releasing products to market. This is a good way to avoid embarrassing decisions that signify lack of appreciation for inclusion.
Provide safe spaces for connection and feedback
Most importantly, you need to create spaces and opportunities for everyone to share their feedback. At times, it may be hard to hear that feedback, but it’s a vital part of your commitment to making an inclusive work environment. If you don’t offer a venue to collect feedback from the people directly affected by your inclusion policies, you will never truly know how effective they are.
But you can’t just listen: you have to act, too. Be sure to measure feedback and plan results that make sense. When an employee shares their opinion, there needs to be some kind of action. Not every suggestion can be applied broadly to your organization, but an indication that you’ve heard their feedback is action that will be appreciated. You want your employees to know that you are accountable.
Employees who feel empowered to speak out without fear of reprimand are more likely to be happy and satisfied in their workplace. And people who love where they work are more likely to stay, and even recruit other people or recommend the company to their friends and family.
Overall, you will find that the initial discomfort of allowing room for feedback and criticism leads to happier employees and a culture that grows and matures into something welcoming, encouraging, and beneficial for work production.
Examples of programs to foster belonging and inclusion
If you’re looking for precise initiatives to improve your organization’s inclusivity, below are a few measures we have taken at BBB Serving the Pacific Southwest to grow our culture and celebrate diversity and inclusion.
These strides have already boosted morale, awoken conversation, and sparked innovation. And we’re not done: we are focusing on additional efforts we can take to ensure everyone feels included and celebrated and will do so in perpetuity.
Start a diversity and inclusion committee
In August, we created our IDEA Committee, which stands for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Awareness. Committees, generally, are a little challenging, because there will always be some people who will never want to be involved in one. They want to come to work to finish their tasks, and nothing else. And that’s fine!
But committees are important because they give employees a chance to have their voices heard directly if they choose. By becoming a member of a committee, an individual is ensuring that their input is received and noted.
This is especially important when creating a committee to foster inclusion. The people who may feel marginalized or left out in your organization will likely be the first to rise up and volunteer to be a part of the group that will endeavor to enact change. Their contributions are important and necessary for growth, and a committee is the best way to get them involved.
Provide an opportunity to share and celebrate traditions
When celebrating traditions and holidays, there is a big precedent set on those celebrated and shared by those who are Christian or of some western-European descent. Holiday calendars at nearly every organization back this up too.
As your company culture continues to grow, more and more beliefs and traditions will be represented, and it is important to make them feel welcome and celebrated as well.
In 2020, for the first time, BBB Serving the Pacific Southwest observed Juneteenth as a holiday. Juneteenth is celebrated annually on June 19th, and commemorates the day in 1865 when the enslaved Black Americans of Texas, then the most remote region of the Confederacy, finally learned slavery had been abolished and that they were free. For Black Americans, this day has long been celebrated, and we wanted their celebrations to be heard.
Additionally, all throughout the year, our IDEA Committee sends emails to recognize a wide variety of holidays and traditions from many cultures. These emails educate our workforce on observances that may be different from their own and create a rallying point for our employees to communicate and share stories.
Make leadership accessible to everyone
Finally, it’s important to give everyone within the organization an equal opportunity to speak with management. At BBB Serving the Pacific Southwest, every employee is allotted time to speak directly, one-on-one with our CEO, and has open lines of communication to him, and anyone else in leadership at all times.
This is great for myriad reasons, but the most important is in the way it helps everyone in the workforce to feel equal. If they were to have a complaint or an issue arise, it is a comforting feeling to know that there are people available and ready to hear them.
Grow your culture through diversity and inclusion
Those are just some of the ways that BBB Serving the Pacific Southwest has worked to create a growing and diverse culture that values everyone equally. It may look different in your organization, but the intent should be the same.
A growing culture is a prosperous culture. Celebrate each of your employees, and encourage ideation from all spheres of your organization. Allow them to bring themselves into the culture of your workplace, and watch them feel nourished and enriched by their renewed (or entirely new) sense of belonging.