Inclusive Culture: 5 Ways To Foster Inclusivity at Work
By Samantha Randolph
Updated October 17, 2022
Published January 29, 2021
Samantha Randolph is an Employment Specialist with Goodwill Northwest North Carolina. At Goodwill’s Career Connections centers, Samantha assists participants with job applications, mock interviews, resume building and more with a particular focus on helping those facing employment barriers.
A company's culture can be a large part of what attracts candidates to seek employment at the organization and keeps current employees satisfied with their job. A diverse workplace includes employees from different demographics like age, ethnicity, race and socioeconomic background, and it's important to support diversity by forming and celebrating an inclusive culture that promotes individualism, respect and appreciation. Inclusion requires intentional action and understanding what actions foster it may help you build a more supportive company culture.
In this article, we describe what an inclusive work culture is, explain why it's important and share ways for fostering inclusivity at work.
What is an inclusive culture?
Inclusive workplace culture is an environment that values, appreciates and welcomes employees of all backgrounds and diverse characteristics. It's important to note that an inclusive culture does not strive to ignore differences between team members. Rather, companies that develop an inclusive workplace are creating a culture where employees feel respected for their differences. This also helps encourage all employees to follow the same standards.
Five reasons inclusive company culture is important
Alongside being a moral and ethical business choice, inclusive company culture can benefit both employers and employees in several ways. Here are some things that an inclusive work environment can do for an organization and its workforce:
1. Increase employee satisfaction and retention
Employees who feel like they work for an inclusive company might stay in their roles if they feel like their employer appreciates them. If team members are working for a company with a culture they approve of, their job satisfaction can increase, which may minimize employee churn. Employers benefit from this because they can develop individuals to become long-lasting employees at the company, which helps contribute to business success.
2. Generate more ideas
An inclusive culture helps employees feel comfortable expressing their ideas and opinions in the workplace among coworkers and managers. When people feel appreciated for who they are, they may produce more ideas. They might also be able to contribute openly during meetings, reviews and conversations with team members without feeling concerned about how others will receive what they have to say. Creativity and innovation typically flourish in an inclusive culture.
3. Attract top candidates
Companies that provide an inclusive work culture develop a reputation among individuals looking for a new job. Employees may be more eager to write positive reviews about what it's like to work at the company and share their experiences with the people they know who qualify for open positions and would appreciate being a part of this type of work environment.
As an organization establishes itself as an inclusive employer, top candidates may be more likely to apply for roles. This also affords current employees an opportunity to work with talented individuals from varying backgrounds.
4. Increase employee engagement
Inclusivity can also boost employee engagement. Engaged employees may participate in team-building activities, contribute to meetings, greet coworkers in the morning, brainstorm with their team and arrive at and complete work on time. The more inclusive the workplace, the more likely team members are to embrace these behaviors naturally.
5. Reduce hiring expenses
When employees are more loyal to their organization because of the work culture it provides, and are therefore more loyal to the company, their employer may see a reduction in hiring expenses. Attracting, hiring and retaining candidates can be costly to any company, but decreased employee turnover can make a difference in how often an employer needs to hire for the same positions.
How to foster an inclusive culture
Here are some ways you can promote inclusivity in your workplace:
1. Embrace learning opportunities
If your employer offers diversity and inclusion training sessions or workshops, sign up for them. It's okay to be unfamiliar with different terminology or concepts, but it's important to learn about new ideas and cultures to widen your perspective. Whether you're an entry-level employee or one who has more seniority, you may feel inspired by such a program and identify ways to promote inclusivity among your team.
If your company has yet to offer diversity and inclusion training, consider requesting some programs. You can also explore the potential for starting or taking part in a committee that has the goal of celebrating diversity and promoting workplace inclusivity. For example, many workplaces have employee resource groups, where team members can work together to advocate for their unique needs.
2. Listen to employees at every level
An inclusive workplace means all employees feel welcomed and appreciated by their employer and teammates. If you're a manager, provide space for your employees to speak safely, such as through anonymous surveys or consensual discussion groups. It's crucial that employees at every level have an accessible and safe way to communicate questions, comments, concerns and ideas.
Remember that frontline workers may experience an entirely different work environment with issues and concerns that are unique from C-suite workers. In all conversations, be sure to listen to your colleagues and team members actively. Ask questions during the conversation, engage with them and display sincerity in your responses.
3. Help train and mentor new hires
Starting a new job typically involves a high volume of responsibilities and policies to learn, and inclusive workplaces often strive to support new team members during this time. Consider signing up as a trainer or mentor for new hires so you can help ease the discomfort they may feel of starting over at a new organization.
You can act as their guide and advocate in the workplace, giving them the courage and ability to ask questions and share concerns, and introducing them to others they'll work closely with. With your direction, new hires may feel more confident in their work early on, helping them to appreciate the inclusive culture they're now a part of.
4. Offer your ideas for inclusivity
Even if your employer has developed an inclusive culture that's thriving, consider sharing your ideas for making it better. Inclusive cultures thrive on creativity and new ideas. Ask yourself how you can make workplace practices and culture accessible to all. Consider structural and policy changes that could empower everybody and grant equal influence to all team members.
Inclusive companies typically welcome and encourage ideas from employees, so leadership ideally embraces feedback from team members at all levels. You can offer to be a part of any policy changes or program enhancements to help bring your ideas to the workplace. For example, if you're a mid-level manager, you could offer to create an anonymous suggestion box that enables open feedback from all team members.
5. Recognize coworkers for their strengths
Every person you work with has certain talents and comes from a unique background and set of experiences. It's important to recognize your colleagues for their strengths. Treat coworkers like teammates rather than competition, and focus on ways you could collaborate and bring your unique strengths together.
For example, you might ask for their guidance on a project they may have a new perspective on or thank them for their contributions in a group meeting. You might even speak with your manager about how your colleague has made a positive impact on your work. By giving attention to their accomplishments and how they have succeeded in the workplace, you can contribute to the feeling of inclusivity that your employer has already developed.
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