From Challenging Bias to Turning on Captions: 4 Ways You Can Be More Inclusive at Work

August 8, 2023

Workplace inclusivity often headlines leadership summits, but implementing it within your organization can pose a challenge. Old-school thinking, poor habits, and previously-failed initiatives lurk in the shadows of new ways of structuring workplaces.

However, research has shown that inclusive workplaces have an edge that’s tough to replicate. Integrating strategies, practices, and behaviors that welcome all can boost your inclusivity, team morale, and overall productivity. Here are some strategies to help you be more inclusive at work.

1. Get Leaders On Board

No matter your industry, teams look to their leadership for direction, even if employees don’t agree with them. The organization chart creates a power structure that can drive meaningful change when used for good.

Engage your leaders in the conversation about inclusivity, making them aware of the risks of not being inclusive. You could host a DEI speaker to lead the conversation, as an outside perspective can garner better attention and offer greater expertise. Then, tap into the factors that’ll inspire the desire to change, offering actionable steps toward progress.

It’s also beneficial to identify an executive sponsor to help lead the charge. Recruiting a leader who may otherwise sit on the sidelines can be especially beneficial. Their engagement may inspire change among even the most resistant of teammates.

2. Review Your Company Culture

Even if you don’t have a culture manifesto, every organization has a culture. Your company’s values, expectations, and behaviors make up your culture; if you aren’t intentional with these factors, everything suffers.

Take a close look at the behaviors your team naturally displays, making note of any that stand out. If your team regularly uses terminology that can be offensive, consider how you’d re-frame and retrain offensive language.

Less obvious anti-inclusive behavior can also run rampant, like the celebration of overwork and overtime. For teammates whose batteries run on “normal mode,” it can feel like meeting expectations isn’t enough. And for colleagues managing chronic illness, doing well at work can feel like an uphill battle. Identify potential culture issues, both blatantly obvious and not, and integrate tactics to change them within your organization.

3. Examine Your Recruitment and Retention Strategies

Talent management has always been a key indicator of success but, increasingly, employees are looking for more than pay and benefits. Gen-Z, those born in the late 1990s to early 2010s, are shifting the narrative among new hires. While fair compensation and meaningful work remain important, what employers offer by way of inclusion tops candidate wishlists.

Highlight the work your organization is doing to improve inclusion throughout your recruitment process. If your initiative is a work in progress, be honest about it. Share your inclusion plans, highlight key markers of success, and share a vision of the future. Your organization doesn’t have to be perfect, nor do candidates need it to be to accept an employment offer. What does matter is authenticity.

Once a candidate is on-staff, nurture their experience, implementing layered strategies to integrate them into the team. Assign mentors to new employees, relationships that can benefit both parties. Invite new colleagues to affinity groups, social clusters, and culture initiatives, which can give them a voice and help build relationships. By including new team members in decision-making, they can influence inclusion initiatives, which can improve retention.

4. Experience Your Workplace Through Varying Abilities

The advice to “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” doesn’t just apply to situations surrounding empathy. Getting curious about how others experience the world, specifically the workplace, is essential for inclusion. Laws surrounding accessibility provide a baseline for what structures must exist in public spaces. However, the reality is that the world is largely designed for the able.

Once you’ve ensured that your organization is properly outfitted for what’s required by law, it’s time to model lived experiences. First, consider the needs of your current team members. If your application developer uses a wheelchair, review their day start-to-finish. You may discover that their desk height is incompatible with their wheelchair, and an adjustable desk would improve their workspace.

Review your team’s current needs and discuss what would make their accessibility better. Doing so shows empathy and a willingness to accommodate their needs so coming to work doesn’t create new challenges. Include digital spaces as well as the hours, locations, and styles in which your team works in your review. The more flexibility you can provide, often the better talent you can recruit and retain, and the better results you can achieve.

An Inclusive Workplace is Within Reach

Like any business transformation endeavor, integrating inclusivity into the fabric of your organization requires a strategy. The goal of an inclusive workplace can be abstract, so it’s important to understand what that means to your team. Review annual employee engagement surveys, research best practices, and engage with your employees. Establish a cross-functional team to initiate the inclusivity tactics you determine to be the best fit for your organization.

Inclusive teams don’t just attract great talent; inclusive teams yield greater rewards, boasting productivity boosts of up to 12%. Gain the advantage of an inclusive workplace for your colleagues and your bottom line. Your organization will thrive thanks to the diverse thoughts, ideas, and individuals whose presence is welcomed and nurtured.


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