Fostering a diverse and inclusive culture is and has always been of the utmost importance in the workplace. In fact, diversity programs date all the way back to the 1960s where they began as a result of the anti-discrimination legislation of that decade.
Today, creating an inclusive culture is especially important for employees who belong to the millennial and Gen Z generations. Millennials and the start of Gen Z are typically labeled as a group made up of people born between 1994 and the year 2000. Gen Z is the newest generation, born between 1997 and 2012.
Diversity and inclusion or “D&I” is defined as a group of unique individuals who acquaint and integrate with one another, but each are entirely different concepts with separate benefits. Diversity is the “what” (individual characteristics), and inclusion is the “how” (behaviors and social norms.)
But what does it really mean to build a diverse and inclusive culture?
It’s about more than just hiring diverse employees. It means developing an inclusive work culture from the top down. This has great appeal to younger workers who have “grown-up” in a more diverse world.
Developing a strategy
By building an inclusive strategy, you can improve your company culture and ultimately help your bottom line. Here are 5 simple steps you can take as a leader to develop and promote a diverse and inclusive culture:
1. Start from the top.
Building an inclusive work culture needs to start at the top, which is why it’s imperative that business leaders display inclusive behavior. Creating and encouraging a sense of belonging in the workplace begins at the leadership level. The company’s executive team needs to have a desire to build a diverse culture, and it needs to be “all hands on deck” in order for it to work.
“If diversity is not a company goal, it just won’t happen. People tend to hire people like them so they are comfortable and rarely challenged. It is human nature.” — Jason Beckman, CEO of Unified
2. Focus on inclusive recruitment.
Take a close look at your company’s recruiting strategy and ensure that you have a goal of fostering diversity and inclusion. The leadership team should be on board with hiring people who are open to working with all different nationalities, skin colors, genders, and sexual orientations. Pro Tip: Write inclusive job descriptions and widen your search to include diverse groups and pools of talent. Ensure that your job descriptions and job posting have inclusive language.
3. Ensure the safety of your employees.
An inclusive workplace is one that considers the safety and comfort of all its employees. One example of this would be offering unisex bathrooms. You may also want to consider hosting team lunches or events where employees can connect with one another in a safe space. Many organizations even put support groups and networks in place so that diverse employees can share experiences with one another. Additional ideas include creating a diversity video, establishing mentorship groups, and even issuing a diversity statement from the CEO.
4. Give employees a way to provide feedback.
One easy and effective way to do this is by issuing a company-wide employee workplace survey. Ask your employees for their ideas on how your organization can be more diverse and inclusive. Employees tend to be more loyal when they know their voice is being heard, and when they have the opportunity to affect change.
5. Offer ongoing diversity and inclusion training.
Consider offering quarterly or even monthly training courses so that your employees will keep diversity and inclusion top of mind throughout the year. Some organizations host company town halls where they dedicate a meeting to the topic of diversity. Another idea is to recognize and celebrate diverse holidays, heritage, and traditions company-wide.
Why it’s important
Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace is not only the “right” thing to do, but it can also benefit your business in many ways.
First, it fosters a healthy work environment—a sense of belonging should be a key focus because it ensures that all employees are connected with equal opportunity. It also increases employee engagement and productivity. When people are comfortable and feel they can be authentic, they are more likely to perform better.
When your workforce is diverse and inclusive, your employees can also help your company in terms of creativity and innovation. Make an effort to celebrate each team member’s distinct background and experience. This could lead to new business ideas, improved operations, innovative solutions, and more.
“Inclusivity means not ‘just we’re allowed to be there,’ but we are valued. I’ve always said: smart teams will do amazing things, but truly diverse teams will do impossible things.” — Claudia Brind-Woody, Vice President & Managing Director for Global Intellectual Property Licensing at IBM
About the Author
Kim is a seasoned content marketing professional with over twelve years of corporate communications experience. Her sweet spot is creative writing both short and long-form. She has a proven track record working with IBM, Jackson Healthcare, and Walt Disney World, among many others. Kim is a singer and actress. She has been performed on stage and screen her entire life and has a great passion for TV and film production. Connect with Kim on LinkedIn.