Top 5 ways to foster inclusion at work
Within the few years and more strongly within this past year, there has been an ongoing conversation concerning race in America, and more specifically, how we as a nation treat race. Instances of police brutality, daily occurrences of discrimination, and language used in the political sphere have become tools to vocalize and protest the wrongfulness of the very strong discriminatory foundations of our country. As the conversation has continued to grow, large and small companies have sought out different ways to not only address problems of discrimination and inclusivity within their own businesses, but also foster greater inclusion at the same time.
Dismantling workplace discriminatory policies and fostering inclusion may seem like too large of an issue to handle, however, as an employer, the equal treatment and satisfaction of your employees is what matters first and foremost- not the numbers. Addressing these certain workplace issues, whether they are obvious or invisible, might not be comfortable to you, but the attempt and acknowledgment is a step in the right direction.
Fostering inclusion for many is a complicated issue, and when you intertwine inclusion with the responsibility of being an employer, it can seem as if your hands are tied, you don’t know which direction to go or even how to begin. Are you an employer that wants to make your workplace more inclusive for all of your employees? Unsure of which steps to take and how to initiate this change? Here are five ways you can foster inclusion at work and create a better atmosphere for your employees.
Acknowledge and manage unconscious bias
Acknowledgement of inherent racial biases is the first step to making effective change in the workplace. Because of our human nature, we are all bound to have biases, whether we realize it or not. As an employer, you can educate your employees and greater staff on the impact of unconscious bias in the workplace and how such biases are reinforced. Writers Danielle Ng-See-Quan and Nancy Chetaitis of Ceridian suggest, “One way to build awareness and address unconscious bias is to encourage every employee to review, question and analyze their own personal potential biases and assumptions.” Managing biases can be more in depth and require more resources, such as training programs.
Develop training programs
Being the leader of your workplace, you are responsible for implementing programs that tackle discrimination and racism within your company. Developing such programs is complex, and consulting with employees and staff of color should not only be welcomed, but carefully considered as it will give you better insight on how to go about implanting such policies and programs with sensitivity. Mental Health and racial trauma therapist Ashley McGirt spoke in her podcast on the matter, saying, “If you are already in a position of leadership create policies that promote an antiracist culture, address microagressions, and discrimination in the workplace. Create a policy around racism just as there are policies in place to prevent sexual harassment.”
Establish a safe and effective complaint system
More often than not, employees facing discrimination will become greater targets of harassment if they speak up. David Pedulla of the Harvard Business Review notes, “Approximately half of all discrimination and harassment complaints lead to some type of retaliation. And workers who complain about harassment are more likely to end up facing career challenges or experiencing worse mental and physical health compared to similar workers who were harassed, but did not complain about it.” In the workplace world, the complaint system is broken, so what can you do as an employer to combat this? Consult your higher ups or staff and shift the attitude seeing complaints as threats to the reputation of the company and instead value these experiences, as they can help to foster greater inclusion. Give your employees the freedom and support to vocalize when a discriminatory workplace situation upsets them and stand your ground by affirming that no such behavior will be tolerated.
Listen to employee thoughts and concerns
While it may seem like an obvious solution, few employees take this piece of advice seriously. Listening to the thoughts and concerns of your employees gives them a sense of support and allows for them to feel comfortable within the workplace. But listening to complaints and grievances isn’t enough. As an employer, there are several different steps you can take to elevate your listening ears. Vice President of global diversity and inclusion at American Express, Dianne Campbell, suggests, “Conduct a comprehensive assessment of your organization’s demographics and people processes to develop specific strategies to promote inclusiveness.” Additionally, surveys and focus groups can also help employees elevate their voices and feel supported!
Celebrate employee differences
Its one thing to treat employee differences as a job, and its another to embrace and celebrate those differences. Organize a company event, such as a picnic or potluck luncheon and encourage employees to bring food that means something personal to them and is a part of the culture. In the holiday season, welcome different traditions during the office party to show you enjoy taking part in such diverse celebrations.
Now, more than ever, it’s important for employees to act against discrimination in the workplace and foster inclusion wherever possible. Though it may seem too much to handle, implementing small changes within your company will not only make your employees more comfortable and happy, but it will reflect a broader, greater change within your company, and make you look better!