Talking about inclusion without mentioning diversity and equity is almost impossible. It is hard to imagine one without the other. However, they are deeply interconnected, they are all three very distinct topics. Let’s focus on one of these three pillars of DEI (Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity). What does “inclusion in the workplace” really mean? Why is it important, and what does creating an inclusive work environment look like? Because we are all unique, this topic concerns us all. From a business point of view, DEI is a strength for your success and a key trigger for employee empowerment, satisfaction, and well-being. Promoting a working model where people from all genders, ages, cultures, backgrounds, religions, and sexual orientations feel welcome should be one of your top priorities. It creates a sense of belonging for all your staff and fosters an employee-centric approach with positive outcomes. Are you ready to make a difference and embrace inclusivity? Get a cup of tea (or anything you fancy!), sit down, and discover how to create a more inclusive workplace.
Definition and key explanations about inclusion in the workplace
What does inclusion in the workplace mean?
Inclusion in the workplace means accepting and giving equal opportunities to all minorities regardless of their background, culture, sexual orientation, religion, gender, or age. This also implies welcoming employees with disabilities. Having 50% women and 50% men in your workforce is great. But do they receive the same remuneration in similar job positions? Do minorities have equal opportunities to reach the top of the career ladder? This is the difference between diversity and inclusion. Having a diverse workforce doesn’t always mean people are treated evenly.
One of the three pillars of DEI
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are three distinct topics that are strongly correlated and often mentioned together. However, they each have their own goal. Diversity aims to develop a workforce composed of people from different minorities. Equity seeks to treat all team members fairly and give them the same chances. Inclusion involves applying diversity and equity principles, plus, making sure everybody feels welcome, accepted, and connected. It creates a sense of belonging in the workplace. These three aspects trigger employee happiness, satisfaction, and well-being. For younger generations of workers (Millennials and Gen Z), DEI initiatives are among their priorities.
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Who is concerned about inclusion in the workplace?
Inclusivity is a common matter. being inclusive with all your coworkers is fundamental at work, like in private. Professional lives shouldn't be affected by being a minority. As highlighted in our article about the benefits of diversity in the workplace, "30% of LGBTQIA+ men believe their sexual orientation will negatively impact their careers." The main goal of focusing on inclusivity is to include everybody in all departments and levels of the company without considering their gender, religion, culture, background, sexual orientation, age, or disability.
What is tokenism?
Tokenism is the concept of promoting a diverse workforce without creating an inclusive work environment. What does this really mean? It is very similar to greenwashing when we talk about the importance of sustainability in business. In appearance, organizations act on DEI initiatives, but in reality, things are different. Tokenism occurs when a company offers diverse employment opportunities but does not pay all employees equally. Companies sometimes do it to meet legal requirements or job seekers’ expectations. However, it can also be non-intentional. In this case, the best practices to foster inclusion in the workplace given at the end of this article should help them get better.
Easy ways to measure if your company is inclusive enough
Be honest with yourself and ask yourself the right questions
As an employer or an HR team member, you must evaluate if your company is inclusive and where you could improve. Prepare questions covering all types of inclusion topics such as gender equality, ethnic equity, and multigenerational diversity practices (among others). The golden rule is honesty. Ask yourself the right questions and answer truthfully. Here are three examples of key questions to measure inclusion in the workplace:
Are employees in leading positions reflecting the demographic structure of your country?
Are all workers in a similar job position earning the exact same remuneration?
Have you redesigned your physical and virtual workplaces for people with disabilities?
Understanding the level of inclusivity at work requires more questions. That being said, those examples provide an idea of what questions you might need to ask.
Get your employees’ opinions about your inclusion practices
Your point of view about inclusivity in your company compared to your staff’s vision and experience might differ. Keep in mind that the core idea of promoting DEI initiatives is mainly to become a more people-centric company, to attract talent, and to foster employee satisfaction and well-being. Therefore, asking your workers their opinions about inclusion in your workplace makes total sense. This is the best way to measure if you are as inclusive as you think and where to improve.
Don’t you have time to conduct these surveys? Would you prefer to get some help from DEI experts? Hiring a DEI specialist is a great solution to first measure inclusion in the workplace, and second, build an efficient strategy to implement more DEI initiatives and be an example for other companies. Many DEI consulting firms offer their services as diversity, equity, and inclusion become central topics for organizations. Collaborating with one of them can also change how you approach DEI matters in your company.
Best practices to create an inclusive work environment
Inform your employees and train your managers
Inclusion in the workplace is a daily process that concerns us all. Communicating with your workforce regarding your DEI policy is fundamental. You can organize specific meetings, share internal communication about it and promote it in the common areas of your office. But managers also have a significant role in creating a more inclusive work environment. Allow them to attend DEI training (online or in person) to learn more about how they can foster inclusivity. Ultimately, senior leaders should be an example and an inspiration for other employees.
Start right from the beginning with the recruitment process
Are you planning to hire new talents? Recruitment processes are a great opportunity to be inclusive right from the start! If several people are involved in selecting applications for a potential interview, ensure your HR teams implement the “zero discrimination” rule. You can also ask candidates to apply anonymously (CVs without names or pictures). Giving everybody the same chances straight from your first interaction is key to building a positive and inclusive workplace atmosphere. Of course, the goal is to keep this mindset going even after their hiring and onboarding.
Promote inclusion beyond your workplace
Sharing your vision and efforts toward DEI should go beyond your internal communication. Let the world know your organization values its workers for their skills and who they are. This could inspire other businesses to do the same, strengthen your partnerships, reinforce workplace connection and make your company even more attractive to new talents. Becoming a leader in DEI in the workplace isn’t only great for the people that work with you. It also positively impacts you, as a company, and on a much bigger scale.
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Redesign your workspace to make it more accessible for employees with disabilities
Your office layout can be inclusive too. For instance, does it meet the legal standards to welcome people with disabilities? Making the workspace accessible for all is fundamental to including everyone in your teams. Do you have a lot of parents in your workforce? You can maybe provide a nursery or a kid room so they can leave their children when they have no choice but to come with them on-site. These are classic examples of how you can support your employees and adapt to their needs.
Take advantage of flexible work to foster inclusion in the workplace
Work flexibility is now a top priority for most people. On top of answering your employees’ expectations, it also allows you to improve inclusion in the workplace in many ways. You can hire new talents no matter where they are located and their social background. People with physical disabilities can do the job they love while working from home. Parents no longer have to choose between their careers and family lives as a hybrid work model helps them have a better work-life balance. And the list of examples of how having flexible work supports inclusivity goes on and on.
So no, working with a diverse workforce doesn’t always mean promoting an inclusive work environment. Inclusion in the workplace starts right at the recruitment process and continues in every area of your business. From leadership style to office design and the working model you choose, there are plenty of ways to foster inclusivity at work. And here again, encouraging flexible work arrangements is a powerful strategy for improving employee satisfaction by making the world of work more inclusive.
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Paulyne is a hybrid work specialist, who writes about sustainability, flexible work models and employee experience.