Inclusivity in the Workplace: Why it Matters

Bridget Papanicholas, CEO, Managing Director, TRANSEARCH USA

An inclusive company culture is one in which all employees are respected, valued, and supported. It starts with management setting a tone of respect for all backgrounds and perspectives so that everyone feels comfortable contributing their unique ideas. This type of culture also encourages diversity by creating an environment where every opinion is heard, regardless of background or identity. 

Why do inclusive company cultures and policies matter?   

Inclusive company cultures and policies are essential for creating an environment that allows everyone to be seen, heard, respected, and supported. They help create a work atmosphere in which employees can bring their whole selves to work without fear of discrimination or bullying. With these policies in place, diversity isn't just tolerated; it is celebrated. A culture of inclusiveness and belonging can help foster creativity, innovation, and collaboration. 

It's pivotal that your company's anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies have clear language that prohibits any discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Making clear statements in your mission and values about diversity is also integral. Consistently communicating these statements, values, policies, etc., across all forms of internal and external corporate communication will help ensure they become a part of the cultural fabric of your organization, understood, appreciated, and adopted by employees. If you feel confident that your company could improve in these areas, read on for four ideas to get started. 

      1. Counter Bias with Inclusive Hiring Practices and Equitable Interview Processes 

Inclusive companies can also create a more productive workplace by eliminating distractions from biases or feelings of exclusion. Research by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law found when inclusive cultures are in place, employees experience higher job satisfaction, increased productivity, and better workplace relationships. Conversely, a study published in the Harvard Business Review revealed that almost one-third of LGBTQ+ workers feel that they need to shield their personal preferences to be promoted. This ultimately costs the company in turnover and missed opportunities to leverage the full potential of its employees. Organizations can attract and retain talent by demonstrating to employees that the company values their input and doesn't discriminate against them due to their gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other personal characteristics. 

Hiring practices can help create a more inclusive company culture. Consider increasing diversity in the recruitment process by looking for candidates from different backgrounds and experiences. Make sure your job postings are free of language or assumptions about gender, race, age, etc., as these can discourage certain individuals from applying.  

The fact that some workers have faced legal discrimination and barriers to landing jobs and advancing in their careers due to their background or identity presents a compelling reason to take a close look at your hiring practices. It may not be evident to you, but how job descriptions are worded can have an unconscious bias that could deter some candidates from applying. Review your position profiles and consider having an expert in diversity assist with this. You may want to note in your job postings that your organization is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, with a link back to your website that affirms your policy. 

      2. Provide Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Training  

Training is a cornerstone of developing your employees and recruiting and retaining the best people. With DE&I training for all, your aim should be to arm employees with a better understanding of the types of workplace issues someone may confront. An equally important goal is to provide training that offers tangible skills, such as recognizing unconscious bias and communicating effectively in a more inclusive way.  

You can also invite a facilitator to provide more applied, skills-based training. In-person or virtual meetings with a facilitator not only serve to enhance awareness, acceptance, and inclusiveness but concurrently function as a team-building and morale-boosting exercise. The impact of this is significant. Studies have shown employees who said their organization offers diversity training have more positive workplace experiences, by a margin of 5-10% more so than those that do not.  

      3. Create and Protect Space to Foster Connection and Experience 

Inclusive company culture and policies can help to create a strong sense of team unity by showing employees that the organization is invested in their well-being and success. Achieving this requires companies to invest in practices such as networking groups, mentorship programs, and affinity groups. These initiatives can bridge the gap between different groups and provide a safe space for employees to connect on areas of shared interest or identity. 

Consulting firm Accenture set up networks and groups to enhance the LGBTIQ+ employee experience. Their research indicates creating a culture of equality within the company enabled LGBTIQ+ professionals to be 1.5 times more likely to advance to management roles and three times more likely to progress to senior management positions. These initiatives can help build trust and understanding, allowing people to engage in meaningful conversations. When done correctly, such forums can be invaluable for providing support and assisting employees in feeling included.  

      4. Broaden Benefits to Support Diversity 

There are many ways to treat diverse employees equally regarding benefits. For example, traditional healthcare plans typically only cover a single employee's family members. For employees with diverse families, this can be an issue. Look at more inclusive benefits such as extended family health coverage and same-sex partner benefits to ensure that all employees feel they are treated equitably by their employer. Offering comprehensive benefits to diverse families, allowing employees to attend religious holidays off from work, providing lactation spaces, and options for alternative work arrangements like flexible or remote work schedules are all benefits that can help make a big difference.  

Additionally, offering professional development options that attract diverse high-potential candidates may help increase the number of your team members from different economic and educational backgrounds, both of which can lead to a diversity of thought to help your company innovate. 

Are we doing enough? 

It's important to note that while Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives are essential for creating an inclusive culture in the workplace, it is not a one-time investment. Companies must constantly review their practices and policies to remain up-to-date and relevant. Regularly assess your company's DE&I policy and programs to ensure everyone is treated fairly and equitably. An excellent way to determine whether your culture and policies are effective is to survey your employees and candidates. For instance, include questions about benefits in your employee engagement surveys and exit interviews, and track why candidates decline your offers. This can help you understand how the workforce perceives your DE&I initiatives and where improvements are needed.  

In conclusion, creating a culture of inclusion is a continual process that requires an organization to take active steps to ensure that all employees feel safe, respected, and valued. You'll remain competitive in a rapidly changing economic landscape by investing in diversity and actively fostering an inclusive environment. Inclusive companies are more likely to attract and retain top talent, stay ahead of trends, and benefit from increased customer loyalty and higher overall financial performance.  

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