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How to Create a Culture of Inclusion in the Workplace

Did you know that a majority of US workers see diversity and inclusion in the workplace as a good thing? A Pew Research Center study found that not only did 56 percent of workers see the positives to diversity, equity, and inclusion, but they also said that 61 percent of workplaces that have instituted measures to include diversity and inclusion have had positive impacts that included more fairness in worker pay, hiring, and promotions. Learn more about the benefits of workplace diversity and the strategies and challenges of promoting it at a company.

What Does Diversity Mean?

Typically, "diversity" and "inclusion" are used together when discussing workplace culture. While these concepts are interconnected, they are far from interchangeable. Diversity signifies the make-up or representation of a person or group of people. Inclusion is when different people provide unique perspectives and contributions to their environment. These unique viewpoints and contributions can be an integral and valued part of an organization. Inclusion also means these groups get the same opportunities and access to resources, education, and other societal aspects for the betterment of their lives.

Importance of Diversity

As an integrated society, we do not live in a box closed to only the same type of people who look or act similarly. Each person has their unique perspectives, ideas, and creativity.

Not allowing others to enter any kind of setting can create internal biases that see other people as "inferior" to the established norms, when in fact, having a diverse environment allows for greater likelihood  of innovation, positive outlooks, and camaraderie. Diversity also may help overcome challenges and obstacles because more people are providing new perspectives that someone may not have considered before.

Different Dimensions of Diversity

Keep in mind that diversity is a broad concept that can be applied to many scenarios to achieve different outcomes. There are various dimensions to diversity, such as internal diversity, external diversity, worldview diversity, and organizational diversity.

  • Internal diversity encompasses characteristics or traits that are person is born with, such as gender, race, nationality, sex, sexual orientation, and physical ability.
  • External diversity focuses on circumstances, experiences, or traits that make up a person's identity that they may not be born with, such as location, appearance, marital status, religion, socioeconomic status, or education.
  • Worldview diversity is a broad concept that covers culture, beliefs, political affiliations, and travel experiences from a global perspective.
  • Organizational diversity means differences that may arise in a company, such as workers' job functions, work experiences, management levels, business departments, or seniority.

Impact of Globalization on Workplace Diversity

Technology has allowed people worldwide to connect with others through our computing devices. This globalization has provided a wealth of opportunities for companies to bring in a wider variety of customers to purchase their goods and services. It has also provided a means to increase workplace diversity, where companies can hire the best workers no matter where those workers live.

Examples of Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Let's say you are going through product development for a device many people can use. A diverse and inclusive workplace would have people from different backgrounds, genders, socioeconomic statuses, and physical abilities who can provide advice on whether they can use the product, how they would use the device, whether the product is valuable to them, and offer ways to market that device successfully.

A diverse and inclusive environment can focus on race, gender, socioeconomic status, cross-functional representation, location, education, and work experience for the benefit of a company as well as for the career success of its employees.

Benefits of Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Diverse companies that focus on creating inclusive talent pools and have diversity in the workplace have found a significant increase in creativity and innovation. Workers make better customer relationships and are better equipped with problem-solving methods to adapt to changing environments. When a company prioritizes diversity, recruiters and hiring managers can attract potential employees from a larger talent pool and offer competitive salaries that help retain top talent and recognize the value they bring.

Building an Inclusive Work Environment

Building an inclusive workplace is more than hiring diverse workers. You must also create policies and practices that promote inclusion, develop training, and define the leadership's role in managing the diversity initiative.

For example, workplaces can develop cliques, where groups form social circles that exclude others for various reasons, from job titles to gender. As a leader, you’ll want to make a more inclusive and accepting culture for everyone and proactively maintain this culture.

Leaders must actively show that diversity is essential. They can prioritize diversity when forming project teams, hiring job seekers with varied educational backgrounds and skill sets, and listening to employee experiences when working with others. Other ways to foster inclusion in the workplace include:

  • Developing inclusive policies and practices. These policies and practices should be wide-ranging and applicable to all workers, remote and local. They should focus on accountability and resolving team conflicts. 
  • Practical training. Employees and managers should have the tools and resources to recognize and implement diversity and inclusion initiatives. Training could include attending conferences and seminars or seeking keynote speakers to present at the company.

Overcoming Challenges and Obstacles

When implementing any new policy or initiative, there will always be some employee pushback. This problem will also occur when introducing diversity and inclusion methods. There are many ways to overcome these issues to create an inclusive workplace culture.

Recognizing Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias can crop up in various places, from hiring to calling on team members to share their ideas and only focusing on certain employees. Recognize that people will bring unconscious biases that could impact how tasks are completed and how workers interact with each other.

Addressing Communication and Language Barriers

When creating a diverse team, workers may have problems expressing themselves and communicating. This problem can lead to misunderstandings. You'll need to address both communication concerns and language barriers to make everyone feel included in the conversation and make the workplace feel safe for employees.

Handling Conflicts and Fostering Teamwork

When encountering conflicts in a diverse workforce, you should address these problems immediately while the clashes are still nominal. Listen to all parties involved and become a mediator to help foster teamwork and smooth over disagreements.

Strategies for Promoting Workplace Diversity

Management and human resources personnel will want a solid strategy for promoting workplace diversity across the company. The most significant areas for implementing such procedures include the recruitment and hiring processes and creating programs that foster camaraderie and growth.

Recruitment and Hiring Practices

Hiring managers and those in leadership positions should ensure they seek applicants that meet the job requirements, regardless of societal and educational background. Applicants with fewer societal or financial barriers may have more prestigious degrees or experience. However, by implementing more inclusive recruitment tactics, hiring managers can recognize unconscious biases and consider a larger talent pool. Another way to ensure more inclusive hiring practices is by conducting interviews with a panel of people from different backgrounds within the company.

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)

ERGs are employee-led groups that help build inclusion and promote a positive community with people who share similar interests, backgrounds, ages, and other characteristics. These groups can help people grow personally and professionally and become necessary advocates in workplaces. Some ERGs could be created for those interested in sustainability initiatives, connecting with the LGBTQIA+ community, or volunteering at a local nonprofit. As long as there’s interest at your company, you can probably create a group that speaks to your interests or identities.

Mentorship and Sponsorship Programs

Mentorship and sponsorship programs offer ways for employees to build necessary skill sets and education. These programs help bolster motivation and positive working skills that can advance their careers.

Ensuring Equal Opportunities for Career Advancement

Sometimes, managers and leaders will only promote workers who look like them or are a part of their social group. As a leader, you’ll want to ensure that career advancement opportunities are open to all employees who meet the requirements equally. Ensure that all employees are aware of the advanced position and have the chance to apply and interview.

Measuring and Monitoring Diversity and Inclusion

Leadership and managers will want to understand if diversity and inclusion policies are working and adjust those policies if they’re not.

Tracking Key Metrics

When measuring and monitoring diversity and inclusion policies, it’s important   to establish realistic goals and benchmarks first, then assess and track the progress made toward these goals. For example, suppose you want to increase the diversity of the hiring pool and enhance pay fairness. In that case, you will want to understand the pool of people hired and their starting pay, then track any changes that are made.

Conducting Surveys and Assessments

Employee surveys and assessments allow you to gain valuable feedback on employees undergoing different workplace experiences. Look for common themes and strange abnormalities that should be addressed, along with internal biases that prevent projects from moving forward.

Evaluating D & I Initiatives

Always be aware that your diversity and inclusion initiatives may change as your company grows. You will want to reevaluate and modify policies and practices periodically to address the changes in workplace culture and when new technologies and innovations appear that can advance your diversity goals.

Success Stories: Organizations Leading the Way

Several global companies are leading the way when implementing successful D & I initiatives. Let's check out a few of them:

  • Johnson & Johnson: With over 140,000 employees worldwide, the J&J company implemented 12 employee resource groups to drive more inclusive cultures and environments. The company seeks to have 50 percent of women in management positions and, in America, have 35 percent racial diversity in these same positions.
  • Accenture: Accenture has invested $1.1 billion toward implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion in their 738,000+ workforce. They have 32 global centers to provide tools, resources, and technology, and support to workers with disabilities. They also support the LBGTQ+ community and strive to increase ethnic and racial hiring in their US, UK, and South Africa branches by 2025.
  • MasterCard: MasterCard has set out to improve pay fairness and equity within their firm. Since 2021, the financial servicer has ensured that every woman and person of color earns $1.00 for every $1.00 men earn. They also invest in sponsorships to get girls more involved in STEM curriculum.

The Future of Workplace Diversity

When looking at the future trends and practices of workplace diversity, many opportunities will lie in hiring talent with open mindsets eager to collaborate with people with diverse backgrounds and characteristics. In addition, technology will continue to advance workplace diversity as people can communicate and work with others around the world, bridging the communication gap and allowing deeper understanding to take place.

Consider an Online Certificate in Diverse Leadership

With more global companies investing in workplace diversity equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, having knowledge in diverse leadership can increase your available job opportunities. Spelman College offers a Certificate in Diverse Leadership through their eSpelman virtual program. Learn more about this online certificate program by contacting Spelman today.