While workplace diversity and inclusion continue to be among the top core values in several organizations, its benefits are now being recognized from greater employee engagement to better business performance. However, challenges remain on implementing companywide initiatives to prevent bias and encourage diversity, appreciation, recognition, and an inclusive work culture.
Some recent examples of impactful ways to foster inclusivity include hiring neurodivergent talent, adding nursing room for mothers, having gender-neutral restrooms and acknowledging religious diversity. That aside, here is what an organization can do to be more inclusive.
Purposeful leadership. A diverse organization may not always be inclusive. To build an inclusive workplace, it is important that company leaders are purposeful about including staff members who think differently. This helps leaders in identifying the biases that they have been following unknowingly. According to Marcos Roberto da Costa, executive sponsor of the capAbility Network EBRG at Merck, “Nothing can be more rewarding for a leader when they get the opportunity to experience the outcome of a diverse and inclusive environment.”
Sensitivity training and beyond. Many organizations consider sensitivity training as a one-time exercise for removing all conscious and unconscious biases. Sensitivity training can end up being time-stamped if the human resource leaders consider it as a routine exercise. Being sensitive is what matters. To that end, company leaders must be good listeners. Sensitivity training helps in addressing a lack of skills or knowledge that may seem obvious to others. It is not designed to ‘fix’ employees who demonstrate certain biases.
Shared recognition or team recognition. Companies that have shared recognition eliminate hierarchy from performance feedback. Recognition should not only be top-down, given by a single manage or an HR leader. Openness to sharing recognition empowers each person in the company from C-level executives to client service representatives. Involvement in giving and receiving recognitions helps actively engage with peers. Organizations that embrace a more equal approach, even if that involves sending a simple email of gratitude, can harness positivity and empower its workers to celebrate the success of their colleagues and have a truly inclusive workplace culture.
Measuring ‘thanks’ in real time. A gratitude program which is widely accepted across an organization and aligned with the company values can be a great tool to mitigate unconscious bias and promote inclusion. Such programs give HR leaders hard data of individuals who are more frequently recognized versus those who are not. According to Ram Rahul, associate director at Accenture, “Onboarding a professional is a journey. It doesn’t matter if the person is neuro typical or neurodiverse, it’s all about making sure they feel included and a sense of belonging.”
To summarize, creating an inclusive mindset at the workplace is no linear process. It takes time and involves constantly moving targets. It takes teamwork and collaboration to build a path towards achieving an inclusive culture.