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6 Ways To Support Inclusion in the Workplace

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Written by

Kerry Wang

CEO, Co-Founder


October 27, 2020 12:38 AM


Best Practices

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There's a lot of talk about the importance of a diverse workforce. 

Intentional inclusivity is key to a work environment that's safe for underrepresented employees. Or else, diverse talent will be gone after three months to seek more inclusive workplaces. Deliberate action is the only path to more inclusion in the workplace. 

We must actively promote inclusion strategies and ensure business leaders understand the term "inclusion." We need to spell out what inclusivity looks and feels like for diverse talent. Then, we need to measure the success of our inclusion program to see if it's working.

What Does an Inclusive Workplace Look Like?

Many experiences take place at any given moment in a diverse workplace. Honor these experiences by anticipating the needs of underrepresented groups, asking good questions, and seeking to improve the employee experience.

An inclusive workplace provides:

  • Access to gender-neutral bathrooms where stalls have been walled-off for privacy
  • Nursing rooms for mothers that are available at all times of day
  • Accessible entrances complete with ramps, automatic doors, and functioning elevators 
  • Gender-neutral language in policies and official documents such as "they" rather than “he/she”
  • Team activities that don't rely on alcohol 
  • More women of color hired and promoted into leadership positions
  • Bathrooms with all necessary sanitary supplies
  • A noise-free zone reserved for restorative time-outs or prayer 
  • Kosher cookware/storage areas
  • Culturally inclusive holiday parties
  • Thoughtful discussion around appropriate humor, physical contact, and social media content
  • Space for feedback and follow-through

These may not all apply to your unique team, but they’re a good list to gauge the status of your office’s inclusivity. 

6 Steps To Grow Inclusion in the Workplace Right Now

Inclusion in the workplace: Smiling woman pointing something to a male in the laptop

Learning what makes an inclusive culture is the first step. Now, let's look at how human resource management can help.

1. Educate Your Leadership

It’s critical to train senior leaders on the mandatory behavior required for more inclusion in the workplace. Since leaders are in charge of decision-making, they need training in creating an inclusive culture with fair policies. Active listening, sensitivity training, and challenging unconscious bias are just a few topics that can be covered by a professional DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) trainer.

Even if leaders understand the benefits of diversity, more education on the real-life scenarios that affect diverse candidates and employees is crucial.

2. Offer Mentorship Opportunities

Mentorship is about an ongoing reflection and an opportunity to do better. Managers provide mentorship to team members but don't always get offered the support themselves. 

To help managers prioritize inclusion, invest in mentorship programs. Carve out space for regular one-on-one check-ins where they can share their concerns or difficulties. It helps when managers are given the autonomy to select their mentors and format that best works for their learning style.

Types of mentorship include:

  • Traditional one-on-one mentoring: This takes place between mentor and mentee, usually in person through a program or organization.
  • Virtual mentoring: This is growing to be a more common form of mentorship because of its flexibility. Virtual mentoring can happen over video conferencing platforms and can involve a group. Sometimes this group scenario is also referred to as a mastermind. The goal of a mastermind call is creativity and accountability combined.
  • Group mentoring: This takes place when one mentor addresses a group of mentees. It can happen in person or virtually and can involve portions of self-directed activities in between group calls.

3. Hire More Underrepresented Groups as HR Professionals 

We need more members from underrepresented groups to hire more members from underrepresented groups. Black, Hispanic/Latino, Asian, and Native American individuals all need to be present on talent teams. More representation at the nucleus of hiring decisions will grow workplace diversity. 

Unconscious bias can prevent even “woke” human resources managers from hiring diverse candidates. That's because we tend to hire people that are most like us.

Using Searchlight reduces unconscious bias and enhances workplace diversity. It uses science-backed referencing methods to distill the best hires. So far we've helped 80% of our partners to bring top-performing underrepresented backgrounds into the team. We can do the same for your team of HR professionals.

4. Consider Strengths-Based Management

A strengths-based work environment benefits inclusion in the workplace because the focus is on the unique gifts of each team member. 

Celebrating strengths builds teamwork and reduces competition. Focus on the strengths of the team and it benefits employee engagement too. This results in less turnover and also creates a better customer experience. 

When hiring for a strengths-based culture ask these interview questions:

  • How do you know when you've had a successful workday?
  • What are three things that are going well for you right now?
  • What kind of work makes you feel most useful?
  • How do you overcome challenges?
  • What do you find inspiring about your life?
  • How do your strengths benefit your community?
  • Tell me about a time when you felt satisfied in your work.
  • If you had the opportunity what would you like to teach others?

5. Provide a Safe Feedback Channel

Difficult conversations about the employee experience provide leadership with insight on inclusivity. Diverse team members must feel taken seriously or they'll be less likely to come forward.

Ask employees how they prefer to give feedback, whether it's via face-to-face meetings, through anonymous online surveys, or with other forms of third-party support. Providing options on how to relay feedback is an inclusive practice in itself.

If you go the survey route, SHRM suggests one of these:

  1. Employee opinion and satisfaction survey: measures views and attitudes of current team members
  2. Employee culture survey: assesses company culture fit based on point of view
  3. Employee engagement survey: targets sense of purpose and motivation

Consider the reliability of the data and its interpretation to counteract bias.

Gallup reports that "only three in 10 U.S. employees strongly agree that their opinions seem to count at work."

It's demoralizing for employees when they've taken thoughtful action and nothing changes. Take feedback seriously. Follow up with intended actions to address concerns where applicable and appropriate.

6. Measure Progress

Communicate the goals of building a more inclusive workplace. In order to do that, you have to see where you're starting from. Audit your human resources practices such as recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and mentorship to see where inclusivity practices are lacking. 

Ask yourself:

  • What are our goals for inclusion in the workplace?
  • What is the purpose of these inclusivity goals?
  • How will a more inclusive workplace benefit our decision making, team, and bottom line?
  • What does success look like? (Use SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound) 

Set regular check-ins with your leadership where you share stories, progress, and roadblocks. Review surveys and feedback from your employees and tackle any shortcomings immediately. Keep one another accountable to follow-through on intended goals. When you all work together, you can keep inclusivity practices and audits at the top of your organization’s to-do list all year long.

Stop Unconscious Bias From Hindering Your Organization's Success

Seachlight goals and mission

A diverse workplace doesn't always mean an inclusive workplace. We have to work against our unconscious bias to create more inclusive environments. 

Team success happens when members of the team collaborate with co-workers who are different from them. To learn more about unconscious bias that may be holding you back, take the implicit bias test. Encourage your colleagues and managers to as well and talk openly about your results. An inclusive workforce means a safe place for teams to express their opinions respectfully and safely for the benefit of the company and its customers.

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