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Diversity and inclusion should be a priority for any business wanting to thrive, but it is not enough to hire people with different protected characteristics (race, age, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief) – everyone needs to feel and know that they are truly welcome, safe and free to be themselves in an inclusive workplace.
Inclusive behaviours in the workplace should be a big focus for employers because it ensures that all employees, regardless of their background and experiences, can be connected with equal opportunities. Not only that, but adopting an inclusive workplace culture will create a healthier, more successful future for your business.
In this guide we offer our advice on how you can build and reap the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace. Alternatively, get in touch with us for a copy of our Recruitment Inclusion Checklist.
When you promote inclusivity and staff members are comfortable and feel able to express themselves, they are more likely to perform better, which increases engagement and contributes to the organisation as a whole.
It is a well-known fact that diverse companies are more profitable, because decisions are being made from people with a variety of experiences, circumstances and backgrounds who are able to represent a wider audience - appealing to customers, clients and colleagues alike.
Below we discuss a number of inclusive workplace practices and examples of inclusive behaviours in the workplace that you can adopt to ensure you are building a culture in your organisation that will attract and retain a diverse workforce.
Inclusion needs to start from the top
As with any part of company culture, creating and encouraging a sense of belonging in your workplace begins at leadership level. The founders and senior leadership team must have a desire to build a diverse culture and hire people based on merit alone.
If having a business made up of diverse employees is not a company goal, or the leadership team do not understand the benefits, this will not work. Organisations tend to hire the 'same' people and are rarely challenged. Therefore inclusive recruitment must be a priority that is promoted from the top.
Once your company's leadership sets the tone, it is easy to extend that attitude throughout the organisation. Take a close look at your company's recruitment process to make sure your approach to hiring considers diversity and inclusion.
If necessary you should train employees to think outside the box, and work towards eliminating unconscious bias, this will help in building and nurturing an inclusive workplace culture.
Inclusivity begins with the job advert
Whether it's ensuring there are no gender-coded words littered within your advertisement (e.g. 'nurturing' or 'leader') or asking for 2 years' experience for an entry level position, you might be discarding great candidates before the process has even begun.
This could also be as simple as adding a few sentences to your job advertisement, letting potential applicants know they can get in touch with you if they require any additional adjustments. This could be to let you know that they are neurodiverse and would benefit from checking what reasonable adjustments can be offered, or they're a wheelchair user so they'd like to make sure there's a lift and the building is fully accessible.
Invest in diversity training
Most biases are subconscious, which means we are not aware of them, for example, your Hiring Manager might consistently place people of the same age range, ethnicity and sexual orientation as themselves. They believe this is because these people are the best for the role, whereas in reality they're the candidates the Hiring Manager can associate with most and is able to get on with, on a social level.
If diversity training is not delivered, bias within your workforce will continue. People can overcome subconscious actions, despite not being fully aware of them, because they are able to question themselves on decisions being made. That makes diversity training essential to having an inclusive workplace.
It is also important to make your diversity policies transparent and readily available to all staff in the business.
Organisations should provide a safe space for employees
Inclusive workplaces go the extra mile to consider the safety and happiness of all employees, especially those from marginalised groups. For example, safe prayer spaces for Muslim employees with instructions on the direction to pray. Something as simple as this will allow these employees to go about their day as normal, completely aligned with their beliefs.
On a broader level, inclusive spaces can be created simply by spending time with one another, so you could think about creating an area where your team can have lunch together.
If your company is larger, create an in-office support group or network for employees to help them connect with others who may share similar experiences or beliefs. For example, you could build a network for LGBTQ+ employees and allies, to share experiences and work to ensure discrimination is not prevalent at any level within the organisation.
At Sellick Partnership we have appointed a group of Diversity Champions that work to ensure we are both an inclusive place to work and a recruiter that is committee to equity, diversity and inclusion.
You need to try and connect with your employees
One of the best ways to encourage your employees to be themselves is to connect with them on a personal level. Be transparent with them about your own life – more often than not if you are open with them the chances are you will get the same in return. Simple gestures like asking about 'spouses' or 'partners' (rather than assuming someone's sexual orientation and using gendered terms) can encourage LGBTQ+ employees to open up about their personal lives and feel included in non-work discussions.
If you would like more advice on connecting with your employees, please feel free to contact our Diversity Champions who will be able to help by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Think about identifying new talent pools to recruit from
A huge step toward a more diverse and inclusive workplace is a creative recruitment strategy. Look beyond traditional hiring sources such as university programmes, specific job boards and industry organisations, and search for more unique talent pools.
Having a diverse workforce is no good if you do not have an inclusive culture. If people of different groups do not feel comfortable in the workplace, then they are not going to share their ideas and contribute in the way that will most help your organisation.
By taking on board this advice you can work towards building a workplace where more people believe they can be their true selves which, in turn, will lead to a diverse and inclusive workforce that will give your organisation a major competitive advantage.
As an APSCo member committed to diversity and inclusion we are constantly advising our clients on how they can be more inclusive and attract a more diverse workforce. For more information on hiring a diverse workforce, or if you would like some bespoke advice contact us today by emailing email@example.com.
Alternatively you can head over to our Employers section where you will find plenty more tips on everything from creating the perfect job description to getting your interview process right. Or just contact us!