According to Understood.org, “An inclusive workplace is one where people with all kinds of differences and disabilities feel welcome and valued for their contributions.”
To be truly inclusive, an organization must embrace the diversity of its employees and promote a sense of belonging. As explained in an Ultimate Software report, “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance; belonging is dancing like no one is watching.”
When employees feel included and feel like they belong, they are likely to be themselves (while remaining professional, of course!) rather than hide who they really are.
Moreover, studies show that when employees feel like they belong, it leads to higher productivity, lower turnover and more transparent feedback from employees. But if they feel left out, alienated or unable to be their authentic selves, it can erode their well-being and cause disengagement and turnover.
The following are three characteristics of an inclusive workplace.
1. It Begins at the Top
Leaders, such as executives and managers, spearhead the organization’s chain of command. If your leaders do not support your vision for inclusion, then it’s a nonstarter.
In an inclusive workplace, leaders:
- Exhibit unwavering commitment to inclusion.
- Demonstrate language and behaviors that encourage inclusion.
- Treat direct reports and colleagues with respect.
- Are held accountable for unacceptable conduct.
- Are not afraid to have difficult conversations about diversity and inclusion.
- Strive to make every member of the team feel connected to the organization.
2. Diversity Is Viewed as a Strength
Diversity refers to employees’ differences in:
- Sexual orientation.
- Thought style.
An inclusive workplace views diversity as a strength due to the wealth of experiences, perspectives and ideas that it brings. When leveraged appropriately, diversity can improve problem solving and potentially spur groundbreaking innovations.
Every viewpoint or suggestion might not be practical for the organization, but in an inclusive workplace, each one is listened to and considered.
3. An Ongoing Effort
Inclusivity isn’t achieved overnight or by simply hiring people of different cultures, ages or backgrounds. To attain inclusion, there needs to be a long-term objective aimed at making everyone feel like he or she belongs.
- Develop and implement strategies for maintaining an inclusive workplace.
- Make sure your inclusion strategy reflects your workforce needs, such as remote and on-site employee needs.
- Incorporate inclusion into your brand and culture.
- Hire people whose values mesh with your mission and principles.
- Cultivate an inclusive employee mindset through training and education.
- Engage in practices that are symbolic of an inclusive workplace.
- Monitor and measure the success of your diversity and inclusion efforts.
All of this will take time and, most importantly, consistency.