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How to foster inclusivity in your workplace

Office & Culture

It’s the word that seems to be on every entrepreneur’s lips these days: inclusivity. Whether you run a multinational company or a fledgling startup, inclusivity should be a top priority for your business. But what does this entail, exactly?

Inclusivity applies to many different aspects of a person’s identity: their race, religion, nationality, ability, age and sexuality are just a few examples. An inclusive company ensures that each employee is given an equal opportunity to work and contribute to the company regardless of the aspects outlined above. This does not mean treating each employee the same, however – different people have different needs, and it is important to ensure that your business is flexible enough to cater to these needs.
If implemented properly, inclusivity in the workplace ultimately leads to a happier, more productive team and a therefore more successful company. It may initially sound like a big undertaking to make your workplace fully inclusive, but there are many relatively small changes that you can make right now to foster inclusivity in your workplace.

Get to know your employees as individuals

Let’s start with an easy one, shall we? To understand what your team needs when it comes to inclusivity, you’ll need to have a comprehensive understanding of your team. Set aside time each week to grab a coffee with your team, take them out for monthly lunches, or organise social outlets for them like a pub quiz team or a running club. The most important thing to is ensure that you’re talking with your team about more than just work! Getting to know each member of your team on a more personal level will make a huge difference in fostering a healthy level of communication between you and your employees while allowing you to keep your finger on the pulse of how your team works, what they need and why they need it.

Education is key

Don’t just talk the talk! Demonstrate to your employees that inclusivity matters to your company by introducing meaningful education initiatives around the themes of diversity and inclusion. This can be as simple as a weekly group discussion or as comprehensive as an external course. The important thing is that you foster an ongoing discussion around the topic of inclusivity – learning is a process, and you want to make sure inclusivity is on everyone’s mind.

Enable your employees to express themselves

If you are trying to foster an inclusive workplace, you should make it a priority to ensure that each employee’s needs are being met. Put structures in place that allow your employees to give feedback on their experiences, and make sure that they are involved in the decisions that effect their work. This exchange of information can take the form of monthly or weekly meetings, but you should be sure to include an option for your employees to submit feedback non-verbally in case they are uncomfortable expressing themselves in front of a group. A separate email address or a physical feedback box would be an excellent option in this case.

 Appoint a ‘Diversity and Inclusion Champion’

Another way in which to ensure that diversity and inclusion are a top priority in your workplace is to appoint an individual employee to serve as the ‘champion’, whose job is to ensure that there are structures put in place to make your work environment as inclusive as possible. This person can also serve as an additional point of contact to whom other employees can reach out with input, feedback and constructive criticism. To get more advice on this subject from Olivia McEvoy, Director of Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Services at EY, click here.

Make your office space suit each employee’s needs

It’s a fact that everyone works differently. Therefore, it’s important that every workplace is tailored to best suit the needs of each employee. For example, you could establish a few designated ‘quiet areas’ for people who prefer to work in silence, or for people who may be differently abled and need a lower level of sensory stimulation to work comfortably (check out AsIAm.ie’s Sensory Checklist Tool for more information on this). On the other hand, you should also be sure to establish areas where employees can mingle with one another and work in a more open, collaborative environment.

Cultivate a sense of belonging and mutual respect

In addition to making your employees feel heard, it is important to make them feel as though they belong on your team. Determine the values of your business and communicate them to your employees. Be sure to keep these values in mind when hiring new recruits, and only hire people who will contribute to your office environment with understanding and respect. If your workplace culture is one of positivity and support, then not only will the members of your team be able to better relate to one another – and therefore combat their biases – but they will also feel more comfortable expressing themselves to one another and making productive suggestions for improvement.

Determine a meaningful method of measuring success

There’s no sense in prioritising diversity and inclusion if you have no tools with which to measure your progress! However you define success – whether it be increased communication between staff and management, increased representation of diverse groups in your workforce, or increased productivity as a result of a more varied and inclusive work environment – ensure that you can track this success. And once you’ve measured your success, be sure to communicate it to your team!

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