3 Essential Strategies for Creating an Inclusive Workplace

The workplace is undergoing a massive transformation with an emphasis on building inclusivity. Many companies are readily championing a diverse workforce, and the benefits are significant. Companies with an inclusive workplace are shown to be 1.7 times more innovative and generate 1.4 times more revenue than their less inclusive counterparts.

In order to establish an inclusive workplace, organizations can begin with investments in company culture, recruiting for non-traditional skills and backgrounds, as well as intentional engagement in their employee’s communities.

1. Invest in company culture

Company culture lays the groundwork for the workplace. Recent studies uncovered that 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a defined workplace culture is fundamental to overall business success. It goes without saying that an inclusive workplace is rooted in company culture. Taking proactive steps like creating employee resource groups and investing in diversity training is a great way to start building a culture founded on inclusivity. In reality, much more needs to be done at a company-wide level, including using preferred gender pronouns, adhering to cultural calendars, and observing interfaith holidays.

The process of creating or building needs to start at the top.  When company leadership displays inclusive practices, it reverberates throughout the company. When leaders work from home, for example, it conveys to employees the idea that a true work-life balance is essential, and to not compromise one’s home life for the sake of work. What may seem like small changes can have seismic results.

Build from within a workforce that is attractive to everyone and offers an environment where one can grow and succeed in their careers.

2. Promote and value non-traditional skills

Degrees, diplomas, and certifications are all important, but they are not the only barometer by which companies should measure the value of their employees or potential employees. Some attention should be placed on the added benefit employees bring to a workplace environment – regardless of background. Many companies fall victim to an internal de facto hierarchy, often stemming from surface-level factors like which colleges employees attended, degrees earned, and external connections. Despite the urge to boast about shiny accolades and accomplishments, rarely do they factor in company fit.

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At Future State, for example, we don’t solely focus on an employee’s educational background as a formal hiring prerequisite. We have some employees who graduated from Stanford and others that simply have a high school diploma. It’s not the background that we care about, but rather the experiences and work ethic each candidate brings to the company. Instead of highlighting team members for on-paper accomplishments, set a precedent for valuing undervalued skills like communication, collaboration, and attitude. Ultimately, it is these values that will cultivate an inclusive workplace and bring the team closer together. It is critical that such values are not overlooked, but, rather, celebrated and encouraged.

3. Become involved in employees’ worlds and communities at large

In addition to promoting an inclusive company culture and diverse skill sets, consistent involvement with the local community is an effective strategy to develop workplace inclusivity. Looking beyond the workplace to address local needs and challenges can set companies apart and give employees an additional avenue through which to find meaning and personal enrichment.

Demonstrating a committed response to addressing and helping to resolve difficulties that plague communities can make the workplace far more fulfilling to employees and goes a long way to developing an inclusive workplace. For example, partnering with an organization like Opportunity Junction, which helps low-income residents develop the skills they need to secure jobs, shows that the company isn’t just acknowledging problems, but actively working to eliminate them.  Promoting generosity and community support can also help to develop an inclusive workplace, as employees will begin looking for ways to break societal constructs in the community. With 53% of employees under 35 years of age claiming to want to volunteer more, looking outward can be a great way to generate inner inclusivity.

Company leaders are encouraged to reflect on their own inherent biases and examine the actions they can take – and implement – in addressing and potentially correcting them. No matter how big or small personal changes may seem, the effects of such changes could have a monumental impact. While the year ahead will present unique challenges, it is paramount that company leaders take a proactive approach to develop an inclusive workplace that is fulfilling, enriching, and purposeful for employees. Although there are a plethora of strategies to establish inclusivity in the workplace, investing in company culture, promoting non-traditional skills, and community involvement are great places to start.

Shannon Adkins is a thought leader and CEO at Future State, a woman-led, employee-owned consulting company who challenges herself to always ask “why,” and to make sure the answers contribute to creating a world that works for everyone.

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