In an inclusive workplace, every employee (and customer) feels welcome in terms of workplace culture and interactions with coworkers, facilities and amenities. Here are tools some organizations use to create an environment where people can be who they are, valued for their unique talents and perspectives and encouraged to stay.
Also, as Workplace for All states: The law prohibits employment actions or work environments that are affected by stereotypes, generalizations, assumptions, or biases about members of protected categories. Workers should not be treated unfairly or less favorably in employment due to their race, skin color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, religion, national origin, ancestry, place of birth, or any other protected category. Training is needed to ensure that hiring, training, promotions and recognition is based solely on merit.
Research & feedback
- Conduct employee engagement surveys that incorporate principles of diversity and inclusion. Also segment data to be sure smaller groups are identified in terms of any specific issues.
- Include diversity and inclusion principles in performance reviews.
- Conduct focus groups (use independent facilitators or diversity and inclusion specialists) and regular one-on-one conversations with management.
Create a culture of psychological safety
Create culture of psychological safety whereby employees can be their authentic selves without fear of judgment. You can help create psychological safety by:
- Approaching conflict as a collaboration not as an adversary. “How can we achieve mutually desirable outcomes?”
- Speaking human-to-human i.e., “This person has work and life challenges, just like me…” (empathy)
- Anticipating reactions and planning on counter moves.
- Replacing blame with curiosity.
- Stating the problematic behavior or outcome as an observation and using factual language.
- Engaging employees in exploration. “I imagine there are multiple factors at play. Perhaps we could uncover what they are together?”
- Asking for solutions from the people who have created the challenge or problem.
- Asking for feedback on the delivery of how the conflict was approached.
- Flexible schedules can help accommodate meetings with counselors, dependent care needs, medical appointments, etc. without needing special permission.
- Employee peer support groups may help employees who are in recovery and may also encourage other employees to seek help for substance abuse issues (establish procedures for confidentiality).
- Presenting organization-wide education and information to help reduce biases and unearth stigmas that are barriers to a non-judgmental, supportive culture.
- Measuring psychological safety.
Create a culture of belonging
Employees feel like they belong when they are recognized for their accomplishments, can express their opinions freely, and when their contributions are valued. You can create a culture of belonging by:
- Introducing someone as a whole person.
- Asking people how they feel and genuinely listen.
- Soliciting input from everyone.
- Delegating tasks in a way that demonstrates trust.
- Having diversity in decision-making teams.
- Using merit-based criteria for promotions and training opportunities.
- Paying attention during meetings.
- Asking all employees (so that no one employee is singled out as “different”) for their preferred pronouns and name pronunciations and use their preferences.
- Sharing stories and encouraging others to share their own (When doing this do not compare! Everyone’s story is their own.).
- To help bridge the we/they gap, managers or employees from other departments can mingle with employees, by placing workstations in production areas, sharing break times, or by working non-traditional shifts.
- Offer organization-wide training on unconscious bias (although some studies show that this has not really moved the needle on diversity and inclusion).
- Ensure that uniforms or worksite dress guidelines are as flexible as possible, you are accommodating different employees’ budgets as well as their needs, religions and preferences in terms of attire and body art.
- To help orient employees from other places, offer training on local customs and facilities, e.g., how to ride a bus or read a bus schedule, how to rent or buy housing.
- Commit funding and leadership to training about harassment, discrimination, hidden biases and unintended stereotypes.
- Be conscious of workplace practices that directly or symbolically value particular groups over others. What practices could be broadened to be more inclusive?
- Offering a choice of holidays may accommodate underrepresented minorities. If individual choice of holidays isn’t possible (e.g., manufacturing production line), you can offer rotating holidays.
- When you offer meals, consider offering international foods, to be more inclusive of differing preferences or backgrounds
- It helps to establish and follow clear policies to address alcohol and substance use in the workplace and work-related events. Having no-alcohol events may be cheaper than providing alcoholic options and may be supportive of employees in recovery.
- Use language that is inclusive.
Facilities & amenities
Every choice you make as an employer can improve inclusivity in your organization. For example:
- Offer gender neutral bathrooms, with diaper-changing stations in all. (Gender-neutral restrooms also help provide access for employees or customers with small children or personal care assistants, and can eliminate waiting lines.)
- Note: Vermont law H.333 requires that all single-user public restrooms to be available for all genders, and marked accordingly.
- Use braille on directional signage and business cards.
- Use an assessment app to test and revise your website for accessibility.
- Locate your facility on a bus (or bicycle) route and offer flex schedules to support employees who rely on public transportation.
- Supplying all restrooms with pads/tampons regardless of restroom gender to provides accessibility and also supports those with limited budgets.
- For nursing mothers, provide a private lactation space (for employees and/or customers), refrigerated space for storing breast milk and also information on lactation consultants.
Use of organization tools/equipment/space/buying power, etc.
Allowing employees to use equipment (e.g., phones, computers or printers) for personal use can help employees who might not otherwise have access to the equipment.
- Providing a private space for equipment use can help provide confidentiality for personal phone calls or documents.
- Add minutes to your cell phone plan for employees to use.
- Sourcing goods and services from organizations that offer livable jobs or are women-owned or minority-owned or fair trade certified can expand economic opportunities overall.
- Using financial institutions that also support investments in community, under-represented populations or the environment can also enhance your organization’s impact.
You can also use tips in the Family-Friendliness and Safety (info on discrimination) and Transportation sections to help create a workplace that accommodates employees from many backgrounds.