How To Create A More Inclusive Workplace Culture
Eric Mosley Contributor
While diversity and inclusion in the workplace continue to be among organizations’ top core values – recent research from McKinsey has found its benefits range from greater employee engagement to increased business performance – challenges remain as to how to implement companywide tools and initiatives that help prevent biases in the workplace and instead encourage inclusivity, respect, appreciation and recognition of all employees.
Recent examples of simple, yet impactful ways companies have helped foster inclusivity within their organizations include adding nursing rooms for mothers, meditation or universal prayer rooms, gender-neutral bathrooms and acknowledging all religious and cultural holidays celebrated by employees. While certainly a good start, creating an inclusive workplace culture really begins by actively soliciting feedback from employees about how the company can improve diversity and inclusivity throughout the organization, which may also spark additional ideas and simultaneously strengthen a sense of belonging among employees.
It’s also important to find meaningful ways to show workers that their diversity is a strength, not a setback. This motivates them to be their true selves and give their best at work, boosting their confidence and enhancing relationships along the way.
To get companies moving in the right direction, I’ve outlined a series of steps that leaders and organizations can take to gradually create a more inclusive and positive environment where employees feel inspired to do the best work of their lives.
A diverse organization isn’t necessarily an inclusive organization. Leaders need to be purposeful about including others who see things differently from them, which will in turn help them better identify their own unconscious bias in the workplace. The narrative should focus on continuously highlighting the different, positive experiences that people from all backgrounds, identities, faiths and orientations bring to the company.
Move Beyond Sensitivity Training
Sensitivity training is an important part of the solution, but too many organizations use it as a one-time-use silver bullet that they believe will remove all risk of conscious and unconscious bias from their organization. Without the implementation of proactive measures, including an ongoing internal discussion, sensitivity training can easily end up being no more than a time-stamped exercise or experience that likely won’t resonate among employees. A good example of sensitivity training done right is when Starbucks closed its 8,000 U.S. stores for a day to address racial bias within the company following the arrests of two African-American men who tried to use the restroom at a location in Philadelphia. It was a necessary measure, and it sent an important message, but it also underscored how this type of education needs to be part of a continuous internal effort that can help prevent this type of bias from occurring in the first place.
Remember that sensitivity training is a tool used to help educate managers and leaders about behavior that they don’t necessarily realize is inappropriate. It helps to address a lack of knowledge or skills that might seem obvious to others. It’s not designed to “fix” employees who intentionally exhibit harmful and inappropriate behavior in the workplace. In those instances, discipline or termination are the most effective solutions.
Measure “Thanks” in Real Time
A formal gratitude program that’s widely adopted across an organization and aligned directly to company values can be a powerful tool for mitigating unconscious bias. It not only amplifies appreciation across an organization, but it provides managers with hard data on who’s being most frequently recognized – and who is not.
By measuring recognition moments and analyzing the data, employers can hold a mirror to their recognition practices. For example, a company may learn that it’s not recognizing women as often as men, or that one division is being recognized more than another, which gives them an opportunity to step back, ask why and then take corrective action.
Companies that democratize recognition remove the hierarchy from performance feedback. Rather than recognition being solely a top-down practice given by one manager, democratization empowers everyone in an organization, from C-Suite executives to customer service representatives, to take an active role in recognizing their colleagues. Whether it’s sending a companywide “thank you” email for a job well done or rewarding an employee through a recognition program, companies that democratize recognition can harness positivity and empower all employees to have a voice in their colleagues’ success. This lessens the impact of unconscious bias felt by any single individual, promotes inclusion and brings a broader perspective to what good work looks like.