Building an Inclusive Workplace

7 min. read

Creating an inclusive workplace takes more than just policies

An "inclusive" workplace is one where all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization’s success. Creating an inclusive workplace sets the conditions for a diverse workforce. A diverse workforce has many business benefits: a deeper talent pool, more innovation, increased team productivity, and overall higher financial performance.

There is a perception that inclusion is created through inclusion-focused company policies and training initiatives. While policies play a role, there are many ways to take actions that demonstrate the workplace is inclusive. Let's look at things we can do in 4 areas to promote inclusion.

Leadership: Set an Example of Acceptance

The most effective way to ensure inclusion is for leaders to act and speak in ways that include and support everyone.

  • Don't make fun. This is a powerful leadership rule. Never make fun of what employees like, who they are, or anything else about them. It sounds restrictive, but it is not. There is never a good reason to make fun of people. Leaders can be a role model of this, and share with employees that in this workplace, nobody makes fun of each other.
  • Reject labels. It can destroy inclusion when leaders talk about people using labels based on their culture, interests, age, gender, race, nationalities, background, or characteristics. Avoid using these labels unless there is a very clear and good reason to use them. For example, talking about the "Generation Z" and "Baby Boomers" in your workplace is a way of dividing people with labels that are really about their age. It's unhelpful and divisive. But it may be appropriate and necessary to discuss employees of different age groups when referring to retirement policies.
  • Appreciate people's differences. When a leader sees employees sharing their uniqueness, they have an opportunity to appreciate and celebrate it. Have an employee who performed in a cultural event? Find out if you can share video with the workplace. Do you have an employee who cooks traditional recipes that are special to them? See if they want to share them at work or just tell the workplace about them. Lift up all of the interesting things about your employees.

Hiring: Think Outside the box

Hiring is the first contact an employee has with a workplace, and it's the step where the workplace first makes decisions about who is included and how they are treated. The most common missed opportunity at hiring is setting overly narrow standards for candidates. Having many pre-requisites for a position tends to attract candidates who are similar to people who already work there. That's not an inclusive approach because it's not providing opportunities to more kinds of people.

In many cases requirements can be relaxed. This gives an opportunity to interview and learn about candidates who may not have the obvious education or experience for a position, but nonetheless have talents, passion, and ability that can quickly adapt to suit the role. They will also bring new cultures, backgrounds, interests, and personalities with them.

With a hiring that does not focus on pre-requisites, more effort and attention can be placed on finding candidates who are passionate, motivated, and like the workplace's unique values and culture. That's good for finding employees who will be happy and stay.

Benefits: Create Opportunities

Benefits are more than just part of your compensation for employees. Inclusive benefits can help some candidates and employees to join your team or grow in their career. Inclusive benefits include:

  • Childcare benefits. People with children, especially in single parent families, represent a great pool of potential employees with diverse backgrounds. For some of these employees, juggling their family needs alongside work makes it difficult or impossible to start a new role. Childcare benefits that can help include a regular stipend, a flexible spending account contribution, or on-site childcare. Another helpful option is "emergency childcare," a benefit that can provide or pay for a few instances of childcare per year when employees' usual childcare falls through for any reason.
  • Educational benefits. Many people have all the potential talent and drive for a career, but they have been unable or hesitant to pursue the education that would help them progress to new roles and responsibilities. In many cases, people come from families or places where higher education is not common or accessible. Going to college or finishing a high school diploma may be daunting to these employees. Educational benefits can help. They include employer tuition contributions, educational counseling benefits, in-house training, or paid time to go to school.
  • Transportation. It can be hard for some people to get to work or worksites. Transportation can be expensive and time-consuming, whether because the office is far away, or because parking or transit to urban centers is costly. Appropriate transportation benefits for a workplace vary, but they include transit passes, fuel expense reimbursement, on-site parking, parking reimbursement, on-site electric vehicle charging, toll passes, bike racks and loaner bikes, or carpool programs. Help people get to work and you'll be drawing from a wider geographic area.
  • Remote work. Where appropriate, remote work creates even more opportunity. Employees who work remote can be anywhere in the world, allowing people who are not near worksites or offices to get things done. Workplaces do this best by having a well-developed remote work program that provides equipment, orientation, and mentorship when getting started in a remote role.

Culture: Empower Employee Passions

Peoples' interests are one of the greatest sources of variety and differences in the workplace. They range across sports, music, cultural appreciation, arts, literature, pop culture, outdoor recreation, collectibles, games, and thousands of other things. People who pursue their interests with passion make great employees. They "get into" things and enjoy success at new pursuits. The best way to foster an array of passionate people in the workplace is to empower people to be themselves in all the things they like. Here are some easy ways to support that:

  • Encourage employees to have items related to their passions in their workspaces. Whether it's comic books, art, instruments, or shiny rocks—people love to show off their interests!
  • Bring people together. Have onsite mixers or remote hangouts with open invites for people to just meet up and socialize. This lets them share what they are into, and find people who like some of the same things.
  • Fund clubs. Provide resources and time for people with shared interests to meet up and spend time together.
  • Have a variety of workplace resources for downtime. Provide games, books, art supplies, and more. Consider implementing a system where people can request equipment and supplies for their favorite interests.

Through these actions in hiring, benefits, culture, and leadership, a workplace can create a clear sense of inclusion in the workplace. This leaves employees feeling like the workplace likes them the way they are and they can be their genuine selves at work.

Building an inclusive culture is an important step in creating a great workplace. Amazing Workplace can help on the path with our Employee Happiness Survey. Our survey provides important, accurate, actionable measurements of inclusion, recognition, equity, safety, and leadership. Learn more! Send us an email at