February is Black History Month—a special time to highlight the history, contributions, and accomplishments of the Black community, in addition to continued promotion and celebration throughout the year.
For many corporate leaders and professionals, however, it’s also the perfect time to reassess and reinvigorate the commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.
But despite the increased attention given to DEI in recent years, many organizations are still trying to figure out what it looks like in practice—and how exactly it can benefit workplace culture and wellbeing. Many leaders have experienced challenges in implementing DEI initiatives that leave a lasting impact, causing some to pull back from these initiatives altogether.In this blog, we’ll cut through these complexities to show leaders why—and how—DEI is critical for organizational success, and how to implement it effectively.
Breaking Down Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Before we dive into strategies for effective DEI implementation in the workplace, it’s important to understand the intricacies and nuances of each term. All too often, companies devote much of their focus to workplace diversity, hiring individuals from diverse backgrounds and identities—and while that’s incredibly important, it doesn’t cover the “EI” of DEI.
Equity refers to the fair treatment and policies that govern a company and its workforce. In order to be truly equitable, an organization must acknowledge and address the systemic inequalities and injustices that certain employees face, whether due to race, gender, religion, etc. This usually takes the form of establishing practices and written policies to ensure everyone receives fair treatment.
The third component of DEI—and the primary focus of this blog—is “inclusion.” While it’s easy for organizations to implement policies around diversity and equity, governing inclusivity is a little more complicated, as it comes down to the culture an organization fosters, whether intentional or not.
For instance, an organization might be diverse and treat its employees equitably, but the work community itself might not demonstrate inclusive behavior.
What Makes a Work Environment Inclusive?
Inclusive workplaces are those in which employees feel welcomed, valued, and respected for their differences and contributions to an organization’s overall community, culture, and success. More than simply hiring a diverse team of employees, a company with an inclusive workplace culture supports the needs of each individual while ensuring equal opportunity for growth and development.
Here are the seven key elements of an inclusive workplace:
1. Diverse Workforce and Inclusive Leadership
Inclusive workplaces actively seek diverse talent because they value the myriad of experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives people bring to the table—from interns all the way up to C-suite executives.
2. Open and Transparent Communication
Leaders provide clear, transparent communication on organizational matters. Employees are free to voice their opinions, ideas, feedback, and concerns without fear of judgment or retribution.
3. Culture of Mutual Respect and Belonging
A workplace where each individual feels valued and respected for their unique contributions and diverse perspectives fosters a greater sense of belonging, which is crucial for inclusion efforts and employee satisfaction.
4. Flexible Work Policies and Accommodations
Offering flexible work options and accommodations demonstrates an organization’s commitment to supporting diverse needs, creating a better work-life balance, and promoting disability inclusion.
5. Equitable Policies and Opportunities for Growth
Establishing clear, equitable workplace policies and providing all employees with equal opportunities for professional development promotes a supportive and inclusive work environment.
6. Proactive DEI Strategies and Inclusion Training
Leaders actively work on building a framework of strategies that not only addresses current inequalities, but also evolves with the workforce and its needs. They also offer continuous education for employees and leaders in areas such as diversity and inclusion training.
7. Continuous Assessment and Improvement
Finally, inclusive workplaces regularly re-evaluate their policies, practices, and culture, making necessary adjustments to honor their DEI commitments and promote inclusive behavior.
How Diversity and Inclusion Benefit Business
DEI is a fundamental part of employee wellbeing and crucial for any organization, but the tangible advantages of workplace diversity and inclusion aren’t always obvious.
As it currently stands, despite the data, discussions, and commitments surrounding DEI, diversity and inclusion efforts have declined slightly over the past year. The pandemic saw a nearly 170% growth in hiring for Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officers, but that rate has since declined to -4.5%—the only C-suite position to see a drop.
Even so, organizations in the top quartile of ethnic diversity representation are still 27% more likely to experience above-average profitability, according to McKinsey. And that’s just one metric of the benefits a diverse team and inclusive culture provides.
To help organizations understand the true advantages of inclusion, let’s take a look at some of the benefits that are harder to measure.
- Creating a Welcoming Workplace
- Improving Employee Retention and Recruitment
- Increasing Employee Engagement and Productivity
- Fostering a Deeper Understanding of One Another
- Alleviating Tension and Supporting Collaboration
An inclusive work culture is vital for employee satisfaction. When a worker walks into a welcoming atmosphere, it means they feel free to be their true selves, encouraging greater collaboration, creativity, and innovation.
While it can be difficult for leaders to gauge how “welcoming” their workplace is, they can use tools like anonymous surveys and job review sites to gather feedback from employees. This can be a helpful indicator of the current employee experience, uncovering opportunities to promote inclusive behavior.
Having inclusion as a core value can significantly improve employee retention and recruitment. By cultivating an environment that values diversity, organizations can not only retain talent but also attract a broader pool of candidates.
Existing employees will be happy to stay and advance within an organization that treats them right, while prospective employees will be more likely to join an organization that values and respects their perspective. Plus, the added reputation for inclusivity can elevate an organization’s brand image.
Inclusion in the workplace can also improve employee engagement. When workers feel included and valued, they’re more motivated to thrive in their positions. These engaged employees contribute more actively to team projects and company initiatives, driving overall success.
Leaders can boost engagement by recognizing and celebrating diverse contributions, ensuring every team member feels seen and supported and knows that their voice matters.
Inclusive workplaces encourage employees to share their diverse experiences and perspectives, leading to a deeper understanding and appreciation among team members. This mutual respect and knowledge help create an environment where empathy and collaboration are allowed to thrive.
Diversity training sessions and team-building activities are excellent opportunities for these types of interactions, providing a place to connect while highlighting the value of different viewpoints and problem-solving approaches.
Workplace inclusivity has a direct impact on team dynamics. When every employee feels welcomed, respected, and valued at work, they can approach potential conflicts with a mutual understanding. Not only does this minimize tension, but it also teaches people to value individual differences.
Encouraging open dialogue and implementing conflict resolution strategies often help to “clear the air,” leading to a more cohesive and cooperative work environment.
How to Foster Inclusivity in the Workplace
To help you create a more inclusive culture, here are 5 proven ways to foster workplace inclusion:
1. Establish Inclusivity as a Core Company Value
Instilling inclusivity as a core value means embedding it into every thread of your organization—from hiring practices to daily operations. This requires a top-down approach in which leaders exemplify and promote an inclusive environment where diversity is not only accepted but celebrated. With inclusivity as a foundational principle, you can lay the groundwork for a culture that values and empowers all employees.
2. Offer Diversity Training for Staff and Leadership
Diversity training for staff and leadership is crucial in cultivating a deeper understanding and appreciation of differences within the workplace. This training should cover various aspects of DEI, teaching both employees and employers how to recognize and challenge biases and create an environment founded on mutual respect.
3. Provide Support with Employee Resource Groups
Employee resource groups (ERGs) are vital for providing support and fostering a sense of community among employees from diverse backgrounds. These groups offer a safe space for members to share experiences, address common challenges, and celebrate their identities and individuality. Backing ERGs shows that you are committed to DEI and take an active role in shaping the workplace culture.
4. Adopt Inclusive Language
Inclusive language can be a powerful tool for fostering an environment of respect and belonging. By using gender-neutral language and avoiding assumptions about race, religion, or ability, you can communicate more effectively and empathetically to all employees.
5. Ensure Equitable Development Opportunities
Making sure all employees have an equal opportunity for growth and development is crucial for any DEI initiative. Leaders should create equitable and transparent pathways for advancement, offer mentorship programs, and provide ongoing training and educational resources. By removing the barriers to development, you can ensure that every worker has the opportunity to reach their full potential.
Discover How a Tailored Wellness Program Can Improve Workplace Inclusivity
Embracing diversity and fostering inclusivity in the workplace goes beyond policy changes—it’s about creating an environment where every employee is welcomed, valued, and has what they need to thrive.
WellRight’s tailored wellness programs can help employers build that environment through a holistic approach to workplace wellbeing. Our solutions offer practical tools for leaders to implement effective inclusivity initiatives.
Talk to our experts today to find out how a comprehensive wellness program can boost your inclusion efforts.