How to Create an Inclusive Culture at Work

Events in 2020 have highlighted more than ever the need for more of a conversation about inclusivity and diversity in the workplace, and a deeper understanding of the cultural differences that shape our respective organizations’ visions and ways of working.

Simply championing diversity is often correctly identified as hollow bandwagon sloganing rather than a properly thought out and implemented idea — action is where it counts. Few people are arguing for representation for representation’s sake, nor hires brought in simply to fill quotas and tick boxes — that doesn’t only harm the integrity of the company itself but also the deemed suitability of the hires themselves — but equality of opportunity should be a right afforded to all regardless of background.

First things first, if we want to tackle the issue of buzzwords, what exactly do ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ mean in the context of the working environment? Diversity in the workplace could best be regarded as the promotion of a varied workforce, which includes team members who represent a fair cross-section of society. A diverse team includes members from all cultures, religions, ethnicities, and both sexes, for example. Distinct from diversity, inclusion can be thought of as how that diversity is utilised so that every employee’s unique strengths are realized.

So now that we understand what the terms mean, let’s dive deeper into how to build a more inclusive workplace.

1. Recognise that diversity alone doesn’t equal inclusivity

Acknowledging that diversity doesn’t automatically equal inclusivity is key. Too many companies make the mistake of assuming that diversity and inclusion are synonymous or that one automatically implies the other — and that simply isn’t the case. A 2018 Gallup report stated, “recognising that diversity and inclusion are very different things is the first step in the journey toward creating a uniquely diverse and inclusive culture.”. But the question remains: how to create an inclusive culture at work — in practice?

To quote Gallup directly: “Inclusion has to be understood as very different from diversity because simply having a wide roster of demographic characteristics won’t make a difference to an organization’s bottom line unless the people who fall into any one demographic feel welcomed.”

Essentially, employees in inclusive workspaces feel appreciated for their unique characteristics and what they bring to the table as individuals and are more comfortable sharing their ideas which can help innovation and make a compelling business case for a diverse workforce.

2. Celebrate employee differences

One of the best ways to show employees that you respect their backgrounds and traditions is to invite them to share those in the workplace. Some organisations have a multi-faith prayer room to accommodate employees practising different religions. These spaces can double up as meditation rooms for colleagues who don’t adhere to any particular faith. Additionally, celebrating different festivals as an organisation such as Christmas, Eid, and Diwali — including respective cuisines — is a great way to boost inclusion and help your teams bond and get to know each other on a more understanding level.

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Emilien Coquard

Emilien Coquard

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