How to develop a more inclusive workplace
With October being Black History Month in the UK, it’s a time for people to celebrate the achievements and contributions of both black icons and communities. It’s also a time to reflect on the fact that there’s still work to be done in terms of having a truly inclusive society — and businesses have a huge role to play in this.
Any improvement you can make to things like your environment, ways of working or hiring practices, can filter through.
It’s not just the right thing to do either — it genuinely has a positive impact on your business. Countless studies have shown that companies which go down this route are able to attract and retain a more diverse talent pool, and in most cases it improves productivity and profits.
In a way, this isn’t rocket science. Let’s face it — having a poor and non-inclusive environment won’t do much for employee retention. Employees from minority backgrounds won’t hang around and even those who aren’t from a minority background are likely to follow.
And once those roles are empty, it won’t be easy to fill them. Remember we’re in a market where candidates have a lot of bargaining power, and are more passionate about Diversity & Inclusion than ever before. Businesses which aren’t seen as inclusive will struggle to be seen as an employer of choice.
So, what can you do to make your business more inclusive?
There’s a mix of things, which range from formal policies, to the type of language you use. Here are some of our top tips.
First things first. It’s important to educate yourself. Look outwards and learn about the communities your workforce and customer base is made up of. Whether it’s people from ethnic backgrounds, disabled people, the LGBTQ+ community or any other minority group — find out about their history, culture and challenges. This isn’t a 30 minute course either. It’s something you should constantly be doing (and encouraging others to do too). It’ll help you understand the difficulties faced by the communities, and ultimately shape some of your people initiatives.
There’s plenty of resources on the internet, but you could also look to invite guest speakers into the workplace, particularly around times like Black History Month or Pride Month.
Establish your stance
This should be obvious, but start by setting the tone through an anti-discrimination policy. If this is something you already have in place, use messages from senior leaders to emphasise your commitment to it. Lay out what your business stands for and what you expect from your employees.
But what happens if one of them ignores your policy? Disciplinary action is a must, and termination should be on the table as well — but don't ignore the importance of education and retraining. This will help people understand why their actions are unacceptable.
Remember to be firm though — if the message isn’t getting through, or they’ve caused irreparable damage, then don’t be afraid to let them go.
Mind your language
Words matter. It might seem like a small thing, but using inclusive language can make a big difference to how comfortable people feel at your company. Imagine a world where there’s never an option for you on forms – or where people call you by the wrong name, even if you ask them to stop. It’s hard to feel welcome when no one makes an effort to accommodate you.
Take a look at things like your job adverts, employment contracts, onboarding documents and HR software. Equally, educate people on microaggressions in the workplace. This is when people make statements or take actions that seem small but can convey discrimination (deliberately or unintentionally). Examples include:
- Assuming a person with a disability needs help doing basic tasks
- A woman constantly being interrupted during meetings
- Continuously mispronouncing a person’s name because “it’s too hard” to say correctly.
- Making assumptions about what a person can do based on their race
A lot of these can be tied to unconscious bias, so making this part of your D&I training and education is super important.
Evaluate your hiring strategy
When recruiting for staff, it’s important you showcase your commitment to being inclusive. Do you have networking groups, or champions for the various underrepresented groups? Is there somewhere people can go to access resources (see our first point about education)? Mention some of these in job adverts — and keep in mind our earlier point about the language you use in these adverts as well. You could also look at community-based job boards, in addition to mainstream ones. One example is BMEjobs.co.uk, for black and minority ethnic candidates.
Open up your benefits
Take a look at your benefits policies to ensure you’re catering for as many people as possible. For example, do health benefits where you can add a partner also cover LGBTQ+ families? Does the same apply to parental leave? If you have a rewards system in place, how much choice do employees have over what they get? After all, you wouldn’t want to gift someone a bottle of champagne and then find out it was against their religious beliefs. Rather than opting for a one-size-fits-all approach, create a diverse benefits package.
The key takeaway
No business has cracked D&I 100%. Every single organisation out there can learn and make improvements that create a more welcoming and inclusive environment. Hopefully some of the tips in this blog, along with things you may learn during October, is a great starting point for you.