How To Practice Inclusiveness in Today's Workplace

Jennifer Herrity

Updated February 3, 2023

Published November 12, 2020

Jennifer Herrity is a seasoned career services professional with 12+ years of experience in career coaching, recruiting and leadership roles with the purpose of helping others to find their best-fit jobs. She helps people navigate the job search process through one-on-one career coaching, webinars, workshops, articles and career advice videos on Indeed's YouTube channel.

An inclusive workplace creates a positive atmosphere where everyone feels appreciated and motivated to express their individuality. You should strive to make all your team members feel welcomed and included each day. There are many practices, techniques and policies a workplace can implement to ensure inclusiveness in the workplace is regularly used by both employees and managers.

In this article, we explore what an inclusive workplace is, why it's important and how to build an inclusive workplace.

What is an inclusive workplace?

An inclusive workplace is a workplace where all employees feel respected and included. All employees in an inclusive workplace receive equal opportunities to company resources. Inclusive workplaces emphasize the importance of not just hiring diverse employees but embracing and celebrating their traits and qualities. As an employee, you should work to make all your team members feel welcomed and encouraged to express their individuality. This helps them feel more accepted, comfortable and excited to come to work.

Related: Job Search Guide: Finding Companies That Value Diversity and Inclusion

Why is an inclusive workplace important?

An inclusive workplace is important because it builds a positive atmosphere that all employees will enjoy being a part of. This helps boost employee morale and creates a vibrant company culture, causing you to have more fun at work while also feeling accepted by all of your coworkers.

Diverse and inclusive workplaces can also make your office more innovative and productive, as everyone will feel like their ideas matter and are well-heard, no matter their culture, gender or ethnicity. This also typically builds confidence and self-esteem in employees to voice their opinions and produce impressive work for the company.

Related: All About Cultural Competence and Workplace Culture

Hierarchy of needs
Image description

Elevated Needs: Lower stated importance, higher revealed importance

  • Energized

  • Belonging

  • Purpose

  • Achievement

  • Inclusive + Respectful

  • Trust

  • Manager Support

  • Support

  • Flexibility

  • Learning

Basic Needs: Higher stated importance, lower revealed importance

  • Appreciation

  • Paid Fairly

How to build an inclusive workplace

As an employee, there are many ways you can actively work to make sure each employee feels accepted and included in the office. Follow these steps to build an inclusive workplace environment:

1. Create inclusivity goals for your team

Collaborate with your team to brainstorm goals you'd like to work toward to build an inclusive and accepting work environment for all employees. You can build these goals within your department or meet with your human resources team to establish company-wide inclusivity goals. Work with them to conduct employee surveys asking employees how inclusive they feel their work environment is currently and ways you can improve.

From there, you can build goals for you and other team members to work toward that ensure a more collaborative and inclusive environment. Establish and communicate clear and measurable goals to help create a more diverse and inclusive workplace. You and other employees can set goals to work toward to make everyone feel heard, appreciated and welcomed.

2. Teach others what inclusivity means

Some employees may be unfamiliar with the true meaning of inclusivity and are unsure of how to practice it in the workplace. Make sure to educate your team members on what inclusivity is and how to use it. Meet with your human resources team to see if they can set up regular training or educational programs to teach both managers and employees what inclusivity means.

Training can be interactive and engaging activities that explore ways to show appreciation, gratitude and acceptance for other employees each day in the workplace. Inclusivity can be much easier to practice when all organizational members clearly understand what it means and looks like.

3. Start an inclusion council

To ensure your team is continuously practicing inclusivity in the workplace, consider forming an inclusion council. This council can consist of eight to ten employees and managers who dedicate their time to implementing inclusion policies and programs in the workplace. Make sure your council contains a diverse group of people of different backgrounds, ethnicities and genders to gain various perspectives on different situations.

This council can work to make sure all employees are accepting of each other. It may also work to build goals around creating a more diverse workplace through the hiring and retention process and helping under-represented groups feel more heard. Your council should also place importance on educating leadership on inclusivity and ensuring their teams are regularly practicing it each day.

Related: What Is Inclusive Leadership?

4. Celebrate and embrace your team members and their differences

Many employees come from a variety of backgrounds where they celebrate all kinds of different traditions. You and your team members should accept and celebrate employees' differences. There are many ways you can show this acceptance of differences in the workplace, including:

  • Ask your HR team to set zero-tolerance policies that require employees to accept all employees and avoid any acts of discrimination.

  • Speak up or report any situations when employees don't feel included or welcomed by others.

  • Use accepting and inclusive terminology like "partner" or "spouse" when talking about an employee's significant other.

  • Think about employees' dietary restrictions due to their religious or physical health needs when purchasing snacks, ordering lunch or bringing in treats for the team.

  • Increase accessibility of your hallways, entryways and office areas to cater to employees with disabilities.

  • Throw parties celebrating holidays of all religions for employees that come from various backgrounds and cultures.

  • Offer up meeting areas to new mothers to give them a space to breastfeed.

  • Refer to employees by their preferred pronouns.

Related A Comprehensive Guide to Gender-Neutral Pronouns

5. Make your meetings inclusive and engaging

Everyone should feel more heard and noticed in your workplace, especially in meetings, where there can be subtle instances where employees may feel left out or excluded. If you're leading a meeting with employees who speak English as a second language, print out and send your presentation and meeting materials to all attendees beforehand. This gives everyone plenty of time to read them on their own and feel more informed.

You should also give everyone enough time to talk and express their ideas. Motivate and encourage everyone to share their thoughts and ideas on certain subject matters and praise people for sharing with you. If you spot any employees interrupting others with their comments, try to say something like, "Thanks for your thoughts, Kyle, but let's give Avery some time to finish their statement."

6. Express your appreciation for team members

You can create a more positive and encouraging atmosphere if you actively work to make others feel accepted and valued. If your team member helps you solve a problem or collaborates closely with you on a successful project, express your appreciation and gratitude for their help. Simple words like, "Thank you so much for taking the time to find those previous budget reports and teaching me how to use the new accounting system. I really appreciate it."

This helps employees feel more valued and encouraged to assist one another on projects and other collaborative efforts. When team members see you acting this way to others, they'll feel motivated to do the same, building a more positive, enjoyable and collaborative atmosphere.

7. Ensure everyone feels like they belong

Inclusivity is about feeling like you belong on your team. Actively work to make sure all employees feel this way with one another with every daily action you take. Some ways you can do this include:

  • Using the same business communication platform and inviting employees to join groups based on their interests

  • Keeping track of and celebrating all employees' birthdays, holidays, work anniversaries and any other milestones

  • Inviting all employees to company events, work lunches or any other team outings

  • Encouraging every employee to express their thoughts during meetings, brainstorming sessions and when collaborating on group projects

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