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How to Create an Inclusive Workplace

How to Create an Inclusive Workplace

What makes a workplace “inclusive”? If your employees are diverse in terms of race, culture, and identity, does that mean you have an inclusive culture at work?

Actually, inclusivity in the workplace means more than simply broadening your employee demographics. It can’t be attained by “checking the box” of diversity. It’s built by many intentional choices, large and small, at every stage of an employee’s journey with your company.

Learn what inclusion in the workplace looks like, along with actionable steps to help your company achieve it.

What is inclusion in the workplace?

A company that hires people of many different backgrounds and identities may have a diverse workforce. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s inclusive. So what does inclusion mean in the workplace?

An inclusive work environment actively values the unique perspectives and experiences each employee brings to the table. Inclusion means employees feel a sense of belonging, are able to make meaningful contributions to the organization, and don’t feel like they need to hide or downplay any part of their identity. An inclusive workplace is fair, supportive, and welcoming to all.

Even in a diverse workforce, some team members may feel overlooked, voiceless, or unwelcome at work. It’s important to look past appearances and examine how people actually feel about their work environment.

Examples of inclusion in the workplace

What does an inclusive work environment look like in practice? Here are several traits you’ll see at an inclusive workplace:

  1. All employees have a voice. Workers are able to voice their thoughts and views and contribute to the company’s overall mission. They know their ideas and feedback will be respected, so they feel comfortable expressing their needs at work.
  2. Employees feel that they belong. Employees are confident that they’re valued at work and their contributions matter. While no work environment is conflict-free, employees at an inclusive workplace feel basically secure within the social dynamics of the group.
  3. Unique identities are celebrated. Differences are acknowledged, welcomed, and celebrated, rather than ignored, tokenized, or “othered.”
  4. Good work is recognized and rewarded. At inclusive workplaces, workers are recognized and rewarded for a job well done. They don’t feel that their efforts are overlooked. Recognition is not guided by favoritism.
  5. The company supports learning and development. Everyone in the workforce has access to professional development opportunities, mentoring, and other resources to help advance their careers.
  6. Collaboration is emphasized. Employees combine their strengths to tackle tasks and challenges. When there’s inclusion in the workplace, everyone recognizes the value of new perspectives.
  7. Resources are available to support all employees. Comprehensive benefits, employee resource groups (ERGs), supportive HR resources, a diverse pool of mentors, and other assets are available to help employees thrive.
  8. Strategic alignment. Inclusiveness in the workplace is identified in the company’s mission and values. New employee training and organizational processes and procedures highlight inclusion policies and resources so that everyone recognizes their value.

Benefits of an inclusive workplace

Why is inclusion important in the workplace? In addition to being a morally responsible stance, inclusion has been shown to boost employee motivation and retention. The Limeade Institute found that employees at inclusive workplaces:

  • Are 28 percent more engaged with their work
  • Experience a 19 percent increase in personal well-being
  • Are 43 percent more committed to their company
  • Are 51 percent more likely to recommend their workplace to others
  • Intend to stay at the company three times longer than employees at non-inclusive companies

A recent Deloitte survey found that 80 percent of employees see inclusivity in the workplace as a key criterion when choosing a job. That same survey found that “72 percent of respondents would leave or may consider leaving an organization for a more inclusive one,” with 30 percent of millennial respondents reporting they’d previously left a job for a more inclusive work environment.

Committed and enthusiastic employees are productive ones. When employees feel well, they’re more likely to do good work and deliver results. They’re also more protected against burnout and high turnover. When it comes to reaching your company’s potential, creating an inclusive workplace is a powerful tool.

8 strategies for creating an inclusive workplace

It’s never too late to start thinking about inclusion at your workplace. Even small steps taken faithfully over time can make a difference. These eight strategies can put you on the path to fostering a more welcoming environment for all.

1. Train managers and leaders

Managers have a lot of influence over how the workplace culture actually plays out in day-to-day operations. Make sure your managers are trained on how to create an inclusive environment. They’ll need collaborative skills, conflict resolution training, openness to diverse perspectives, and a strong sense of interpersonal integrity. While training alone won’t eliminate systemic issues of oppression, marginalization, or exclusion, including it as an expected part of your workplace culture can increase awareness and help foster inclusion.

2. Conduct surveys and listening sessions

Wondering how “included” your employees really feel? Ask them! Provide multiple ways for workers to give feedback on whether you have an inclusive culture, including avenues that allow their feedback to remain confidential. Once you’ve gathered feedback, act on it and report back to your employees on your progress.

3. Set measurable goals

One of the most important aspects of long-term, impactful change is setting specific, measurable, meaningful goals. As you integrate inclusion efforts into company policy, create benchmarks that you can measure against to ensure you’re making meaningful progress. Then, track those results.

Research from Gartner indicates that organizational inclusion grows by up to 20 percent in companies that actually measure their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts. Measurement provides accountability.

4. Be mindful of dynamics in meetings

If some employees seem less comfortable speaking up, it may be time to switch up your meeting style or reflect on how your meetings might be perpetuating cultural messages about who is worthy of speaking up, critiquing ideas, or taking lead during a meeting. Consider creating a system of turn-taking where each person has a chance to speak uninterrupted. You might also provide meeting materials and questions ahead of time, which can help employees with different language abilities and communication styles.

5. Focus on inclusion at every stage of an employee’s journey

Efforts to build an inclusive culture should begin at recruitment and continue throughout an employee’s time with your company. During the talent acquisition and onboarding process, make your company’s diversity and inclusion goals clear. New employees need to know about the resources available to them and how to report acts of exclusion or outright discrimination.

6. Provide safe places to voice concerns

If workers remain silent, how can you address their concerns? Make sure everyone at your organization knows who to turn to if they have a concern about inclusion at work, and how they should share information about it. Your actions and responses should convey that their concerns won’t be dismissed or minimized, and that employees will not face retaliation of any sort.

7. Intentionally celebrate differences

There’s no need to pretend that differences between people don’t exist. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life, so do your part to help team members feel safe enough to show up with their authentic selves and unique identities if they decide they want to. Employees shouldn’t fear negative evaluation or exclusion for having certain social identities at work. You might create ERGs, host a potluck where employees bring their favorite traditional foods, celebrate new holidays, or find other creative ways to help people share the diversity in their midst.

8. Elevate diverse employee voices

People of all backgrounds and identities should have the opportunity for meaningful input on workplace decisions and policies. Even more essential—create intentional ways to ensure their responses are heard and influence the workplace culture. This doesn’t mean every employee’s opinion should lead to a new policy or procedure, but there should be a system that ensures people know their perspective is heard and valued. Consider forming a DEI committee so employees can hold the organization accountable for meeting its diversity and inclusion goals.

Explore broader inclusivity in the workplace

If you aren’t sure if you have an inclusive workplace, or want to broaden your efforts but don’t know where to start, Lyra Health can help. Lyra offers assessment tools that can help you evaluate, address, and prioritize inclusion in the workplace. We also offer culturally responsive care and a diverse network of providers to help make your workplace a healthier place for all.

Build a culture of inclusion

Lyra offers assessments and tools to make diversity and inclusion a priority.

Talk to us today
About the reviewer
Andrea Holman, PhD

Dr. Holman is a DEI&B program manager on the workforce transformation team at Lyra Health. Previously, she served as a tenured associate professor of psychology at Huston-Tillotson University. She served as co-chair of the health and wellness working group for the city of Austin's task force on Institutional Racism & Systemic Inequities and now works as a leader in the nonprofit Central Texas Collective for Race Equity that resulted from the task force. She has conducted research on understanding the psychological experience of African Americans and racial advocacy from the perspective of Black and Latinx Americans. She has contributed to articles (including publications in The Counseling Psychologist and Harvard Business Review), book chapters, national conference presentations, virtual seminars, workshops, and a number of podcasts on these subjects.

Clinically reviewed by
Andrea Holman, PhD
Program Manager, Workforce Transformation
By The Lyra Team
1 of February 2023 - 7 min read
Mental health at work
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