How to Establish an Inclusive Workplace: Best Practices

How to Establish an Inclusive Workplace: Best Practices

Today’s Canadian workplaces thrive with diversity and inclusion as part of their foundation. Fostering these qualities and utilizing them to improve productivity and workplace value and incentivize the growth of soft skills creates an environment where people want to work.

But how do management experts, HR staff, and their teams create an inclusive workplace? Getting started on improving workplace inclusivity leaves many business owners stumped.

At Group Enroll, we believe in empowering our clients through knowledge. We help businesses like yours locate and compare small business insurance and benefits packages to find the solutions that suit your needs best.

In this blog, we talk about ways to build inclusivity in your workplace, yet another way to make the employee experience you provide memorable and meaningful for all.

What Is an Inclusive Workplace?

Simply put, inclusive workplaces are environments in which employees feel valued, respected, and heard. In an inclusive workspace, all employees have the opportunity to contribute in ways that make sense for their capabilities and skill sets.

Despite having a unified goal, inclusive workplaces do not look or operate the same across the board. Instead, the management and operation styles in these spaces remain open to change and can have diverse policies and practices unused in other work situations.

Inclusive workspaces often emphasize qualities such as: 

  • Cooperation
  • Collaboration
  • Support
  • Openness
  • Fairness
  • Accountability
  • Transparency
  • Personal and group responsibility 
  • Communication

As a business owner or HR professional, transforming your workplace into an inclusive space for all begins with your employees. To brainstorm inclusivity in your workplace, ask for their input or suggestions for ideal changes, and weigh those options as a team.

Best Practices for Creating and Maintaining an Inclusive Workplace

Sometimes, inclusivity brainstorming sessions need a little inspiration. Check out our best practices for fostering inclusivity in your workplace or business.

#1: Create Safe Spaces

Unfortunately, the term “safe space” has garnered mixed reactions in some business circles. But the truth is that employees work and communicate more effectively when they feel safe physically and psychologically. Workplaces must be free of harassment, negging, and inappropriate feedback or behaviour.

Creating safe spaces in work environments fosters dialogue, gratitude, and trust. Employers and HR teams can create safe spaces by implementing mediation during interoffice conflicts, establishing privacy and anonymity procedures, and allowing feedback without retaliation or consequence.

#2: Model Inclusive Languages and Actions

Fostering inclusivity goes beyond policy changes in the workplace. Creating a workplace that welcomes all depends on the actions of all parties involved, especially those in charge.

Management and HR teams in any workplace should model inclusive behaviours for coworkers of all levels. Receive feedback in constructive ways, listen instead of responding, and find positive and proactive ways to express viewpoints, goals, and even requirements to your team.

#3: Allow Employee Culture to Shape Company Events

Employees feel more comfortable and included when their workspaces reflect who they are as people. This includes their heritages, lifestyles, and work methodology.

When employers allow their employees to design, schedule, and implement employee functions, these events automatically become representative and inclusive for those employees.

Allow employees to choose whether to celebrate birthdays and holidays by taking polls. Do not reward or punish attendance to after-hours employee functions, as those with families and other commitments may feel excluded.

Finally, encourage team cultural sensitivity by fostering productive conversation about event details.

#4: Provide Education for All Employee Levels

Inclusivity in the workplace often involves coaching to redirect, change, or eliminate exclusive practices, habits, and policies. When employees from all levels, from upper management to interns, receive inclusivity education, all employees can begin working on issues with similar tools.

In addition to levelling the playing field, providing development opportunities for upper management and lower-level staff demonstrates that people from all professional areas benefit from practicing inclusivity in the workplace.

#5: Practice Bias Recognition

To eliminate the practices, procedures, and viewpoints that keep workplaces exclusive, we must first be able to recognize the conscious and unconscious biases that create exclusion.

Most people operate under some form of bias, whether it’s connected to age, social ranking, gender, or other factors. How we perceive ourselves becomes a basis for comparing others to ourselves.

When we recognize the existing biases in our viewpoints and workplace policies, we can begin to step outside of them. We can recognize our biases by asking ourselves: 

  • Why do I feel this way about X thing? 
  • Do my feelings or actions exclude or degrade others? 
  • In what ways could my feelings or actions uplift others instead?
  • Can I implement these changes? 
  • Why or why not? 

In most cases, the answers to these questions reveal critical details about our biased perspectives. These same questions can reveal unfair practices, skewed policies, and more when applied to workplace policies.

#6: Model Listening

In many situations, people enter conversations with the intent to respond. Planning your response to what another person is saying, however, often reduces the amount you listen to what they’re saying.

Listening is an essential part of conversation. When we genuinely listen during discussions, we not only absorb more information from the person speaking, that person feels the value of their voice. 

By modelling listening without the intent to respond, you show employees that you care while demonstrating ways in which they may do the same.

#7: Create Inclusivity Incentives

Changing old habits can be hard sometimes. Incentivize your team to foster inclusivity by finding ways to make inclusivity fun.

Keep employee calendars flexible to allow changes based on creativity and new ideas. Take suggestions for workplace themes and engaging working styles.

#8: Create Opportunities for Conversation

Sometimes, communication in the workplace requires encouragement. Team members may hesitate to speak out until the opportunity presents itself — so give it!

Implement feedback opportunities for all aspects of the work environment, including workplace events, meeting discussions, and policies. Suggestion boxes, anonymous critiques, and open forums provide valuable tools for these efforts.

#9: Establish Multilingual Signage and Other Aids

Today’s work environments feature professionals from around the globe. Make your workplace inviting and inclusive for all by including appropriate multilingual signage.

When new employees arrive, go the extra mile to include their native language in appropriate paperwork and other places in the workplace.

#10: Develop Pronoun Visibility

Building an inclusive culture in the workplace requires social progress. Assumptions based on physical appearance create division in the workplace. Eliminate these learned biases by providing up-front visibility of employee and management pronouns.

Displaying pronouns allows for free expression of self within the workplace and reduces miscommunications.

#11: Design Roles for Different Work Styles

Not all workers work the same. Allow your workplace to adapt to the work styles of productive workers, even if productivity looks different for them than it does for you.

Have a perfect programmer who likes working nights? Consider a flexible remote position. Have a working parent who has hour restrictions? Create an opportunity for them to do the most in the time they have.

Show your workers you’re willing to work with them, and they’ll be willing to work with you.

#12: Form an Inclusivity Team

Sometimes we need help ensuring we’re taking the proper steps to include others. Workplaces sometimes need that help, too. Create an inclusivity task force or employee resource groups in your workplace to make sure everyone keeps their eyes on the prize.

#13: Plan for Physical Accessibility

Sometimes we need help ensuring we’re taking the proper steps to include others. Workplaces sometimes need that help, too. Create an inclusivity task force or employee resource groups in your workplace to make sure everyone keeps their eyes on the prize.

#14: Encourage Check-Ins

Finally, check in with your team and encourage them to do the same with you. Inclusivity isn’t a one-off, and it doesn’t exist in places where people don’t help it thrive.

Ask your team how they’re doing, both in their day-to-day and overall, and do it often. The more you check in with them, the more they’ll check in with you until it becomes part of the workplace culture.

Four Ways to Cultivate a Positive and Productive Work Environment

Want to know more ways to create a welcoming and motivating workplace? Read our other article and find out.

Find Inclusivity with Your Employee Insurance

Building an inclusive workplace takes making little and big steps every day. Work with your team to make those steps possible, and you’ll increase your chances of success.

Ready to find more ways to achieve success with your team? At Group Enroll, we can help. Compare rates from providers and find the perfect group benefits plan for your business by filling out our quote form today.

You can also email us at [email protected] or address mail to 10 Great Gulf Drive, Unit 5, Vaughan, ON, L4K 0K7.

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