Inclusivity in the workplace and how to encourage it

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 13 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Having an inclusive workplace means that everyone feels equally happy working there. It means that you and your colleagues receive recognition and criticism solely because of your performance in the workplace. If you're in a leadership position or otherwise responsible for workplace culture, understanding inclusivity and its benefits can help you make your workplace fairer and more effective. In this article, we explain what inclusivity in the workplace is, how you can encourage it and the various benefits this can bring to your organisation.

What is inclusivity in the workplace?

To understand inclusivity in the workplace, it's important to understand what inclusivity itself means. In any scenario, inclusivity is when you include and accommodate everyone equally, regardless of their identity, background or ideology. In the context of the workplace, this simply means extending the same courtesy to everyone you work with. Inclusivity, therefore, starts from the moment a person submits their application for a job and is an integral part of the company culture. You can recognise an inclusive workplace because everyone within it receives equal treatment and equal opportunities.

In an inclusive workplace, colleagues from various backgrounds can work together happily and comfortably. Everyone is comfortable with their own identity and accepts others. Additionally, any facilities or in-work benefits are equally beneficial and accessible to everyone. For example, your workplace might implement features that increase accessibility for those with disabilities or offer a variety of food options to accommodate dietary preferences.

Related: Learning about diversity and inclusion: 10 free virtual courses

How to build an inclusive workplace

In many cases, inclusivity can require some effort to encourage. If you want to make your workplace more inclusive, consider some of the steps outlined below.

1. Develop inclusivity goals

This is a good idea for anything you're trying to implement, as establishing clear and achievable goals can make it easier for you to determine how successful you've been. There are two types of goals that you can set, namely removing something or introducing something new. In the case of removing things, these would typically be obstacles to inclusivity. Something new would often replace the older thing you've replaced. To use the example of dietary preferences, you might remove the old canteen menu and replace it with one that has more options.

2. Speak with your colleagues

Since inclusivity means ensuring that everyone in the workplace is happy and included, it's useful to speak to as many people within it as possible. This allows you to get the broadest and most relevant feedback. There are different ways that you can do this, and these can frequently complement each other. For example, you could hold a meeting and ask everyone who attends to make suggestions for improving workplace inclusivity. Alternatively, you could meet people individually or in small groups, as certain individuals may feel more comfortable expressing concern in these settings.

You could also create an anonymous survey where people can answer basic questions about how inclusive the workplace is and how they'd improve it. You can then hand this survey out or share it online so that your colleagues can complete it whenever is convenient for them. Anonymity can encourage people to be even more open and honest about how they feel. This could help you identify areas for improvement and direct your attention to things you've overlooked.

3. Celebrate differences

A lot of differences between people include differences regarding what they value and celebrate. These could be cultural, religious or otherwise. An example of this would be religious holidays. In a workplace with people who follow different faiths, it's a good idea to recognise these to show that everyone's beliefs receive equal treatment. Therefore, if you're going to allow people to celebrate religious holidays, it's crucial that you do this for every religion that's represented in your workplace. If your organisation allows people to take a day off for these occasions, ensure that this benefit applies to everyone.

A simple way of doing this would be something like a workplace calendar. On this calendar, you can mark the dates of any such days in advance so everyone can see them. This can also be a good way of encouraging others to wish their colleagues happy holidays during the times that matter to them. You could even encourage the whole office to celebrate it together to make everyone feel included, such as putting up appropriate decorations, giving gifts, bringing in food and anything else that can bring people together.

Related: The difference between diversity and inclusion

4. Accommodate differences

It's important that accessibility and convenience in the workplace are as equal as possible. To ensure this, try to accommodate for the different needs that people have. For example, if you offer food in any form at work, then try to offer a variety of options that can suit people's different dietary choices. If some of your colleagues have disabilities, then try to ensure that all parts of the workplace are as easily accessible for them as possible.

It can also be a good idea to learn about language and terminologies that mean different things to different people. Take the time to understand the concerns of others regarding language usage and try to accommodate this. The priority here is to ensure that nobody feels offended or excluded, so group discussions on the topic can help encourage understanding.

5. Focus on the individual

Very often, you may find that different people understand the various factors that comprise someone's identity differently. Many people have their ideas and assumptions about what identity is, and these can sometimes be incorrect. A good way to bypass this issue is to treat someone primarily as a unique individual rather than a member of a group and to encourage others to do so. This allows you to remove any unfair assumptions and encourages you to try to understand this person as a unique individual instead.

6. Take action

Most workplaces are going to encounter some issues, even if they're minor or unintentional. When a large group of people work together for a long time, some disagreements or misunderstandings can likely occur. What's important is that you use these incidents as learning opportunities for colleagues to learn more about each other.

In the event of an unintentional problem, take the opportunity to help colleagues learn more about each other. If something intentional occurs, it's important to have a zero-tolerance policy and implement corrective measures. What's most important about taking action is that you do it fairly and treat everyone equally, regardless of who was involved.

The importance of workplace inclusivity

Encouraging workplace inclusivity can be very beneficial for everyone. Some of the key benefits that in-work inclusion can bring include the following:

Happier staff

A happy workplace is one where everyone is happy and feels appreciated. If your workplace is an inclusive one, then everyone is more likely to feel this way. Simply seeing their colleagues happier due to inclusivity can help others feel happier too.

Attracting talent

If your organisation wants to attract the most talented individuals, it's important to expand the talent pool it recruits from. If your organisation has a reputation for inclusivity, this increases the number of potential candidates. By doing this, you can improve the chances of attracting the most talented professionals.

Related: 11 effective recruitment strategies for attracting top talent

Productivity

Motivation and feeling valued are important contributions to people's willingness to work hard. An inclusive workplace means that everyone feels equally valued and motivated. This means that more people are going to be willing to work harder and increase overall organisational productivity.

Retention

Individuals are much more likely to continue working at a particular company if they feel included and respected. By encouraging inclusivity, you increase the chances of talented individuals staying with you. These people can then contribute to its long-term success and become candidates for leadership positions.

Related: What is an employee retention strategy and why is it important?

Diverse talent

Understanding different cultures, ideologies and religions is a useful skill to have, especially when your organisation interacts with these people. Encouraging inclusivity and having a diverse workforce means that you increase the collective knowledge of your organisation. For example, if you're in a business that's trying to understand the demands of a particular group to sell to them, having people from this group within your teams means that you can get direct input from those who know their demands best.

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