What is inclusion in the workplace?
Diversity and inclusion are hot topics in the workplace at the moment, but let's take a look at what it means. What does inclusion mean? Per definition, inclusion means "The practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those who have physical or intellectual disabilities and members of other minority groups." So the definition of inclusion in the workplace is quite simple then. It is the practice or policy of creating a work environment and initiatives that provide an equal playing field for all, especially for those who may have otherwise faced exclusion.
Why is inclusion important in the workplace?
Creating a diverse team has multiple benefits. High on that list is employee retention, and having a diverse group of thinking that comes up with new and creative ways to solve problems. Why is inclusivity important, as opposed to diversity? Why inclusion is important in the workplace is quite simple. Would you want to work in an environment where you don't feel included, seen, or valued? Most likely not.
The benefits of an inclusive environment at work
What does an inclusive workplace look like? An inclusive workplace is one where people with all kinds of differences and disabilities feel welcome and valued for their contributions. It’s a place where people with disadvantages and disabilities — both visible and invisible disabilities — have the same opportunities for advancement as their co-workers. And it’s a workplace where people feel safe disclosing their disabilities that aren’t visible.
Inclusivity in the workplace has many benefits. Here are some:
- Workplace inclusion encourages good work from all
- Inclusive culture provides growth opportunities for all
- Inclusive workplace model rewards talent and hard work
- Inclusive company culture invites contributions from all
- Inclusive workforce has better creative solutions
- Building inclusive teams has much higher employee retention
Encouraging good work
Regardless of ethnicity, background, or any other trait for that matter, an employee in a workplace that is inclusive is encouraged to do their best work. Inclusion is about matching the right candidate to the right job, no matter what they look like, or what sexual orientation is, or any other number of unconscious biases that might cause an employee to feel prejudice in the workplace. Once that person is hired, it’s important for that employee to be treated like they have the core skills to do the job -- because they do, and that's why they were hired in the first place. Encouraging the best out of people is a leadership technique that is common amongst the best CEOs and managers out there, and it applies to all employees, not just the "normals".
Every employee wants professional development opportunities. This includes conferences and training, as well as mentoring programs. Some companies offer tuition reimbursement for continued study and job skill training. It should be made clear and available to anyone who wants to advance their career. Some employees’ participation in these programs may require accommodations, but 58 percent of accommodations cost nothing, and nearly all the rest involve a one-time cost that averages about $500. Not to mention, tax incentives such as the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) and On-the-Job Training (OJT) dollars can also help employers cover the costs of accommodations.
Rewards talent and hard work
In a meritocracy, one is hired and promoted for good work and results, and not for any other reason. Productivity and statistics are focused on. Talent is rewarded. But talent can only be seen through results. Potential can hardly be quantified. Results over time can easily be seen. How many sales did this person make? How many dollars did they earn for the company? Was it higher than last month, last year? etc. Those who produce well for the organization are rewarded with bonuses, promotions and raises. What they look like, where they worship, or where they come from is irrelevant.
Invites contributions from all
One of the benefits of diversity in the workplace is that it invites creative solutions and ideas from all employees, rather than just favoring the inner clique. It also carries the benefit of stretching the thinking of the company as a whole outside of the box. More of the same will only ever result in more of the same. Its a little like comparing the thinking of a company and the approach to solutions to the DNA of a species. Inbreeding (more of the same) eventually results in problems. Whereas sprinkling in some variation brings about a healthy and strong breed.
Going right in line with the previous benefit, more creative solutions to issues facing the company are the the result. A diverse and inclusive group that values contribution from all and rewards those contributions will inevitably come up with more creative ways to solve things.
Most organizations offer typical things in an effort to increase employee retention: free coffee and tea in the break room, competitive benefits, generous raises and bonuses, and employee recognition programs. But none of that counts for a thing with an employee who doesn’t feel comfortable in his or her work environment. Employees who are different from most of their colleagues in religion, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic background, and generation often hide important parts of themselves at work for fear of negative consequences. This "identity cover" causes difficulty in understanding employee experience.
Most businesses understand the first part of diversity and inclusion. Having a diverse workforce is important to customers and essential to succeeding in a cosmopolitan market. It’s the inclusion part that is often forgotten or ignored — creating an environment where people can be who they are, that values their unique talents and perspectives, and makes them want to stay.
Tips to help build a diverse and inclusive workplace culture
Inclusive culture in the workplace is vital for a healthy company. Here are some tips for creating a diverse, inclusive and healthy workplace.
One of the most important aspects of an amazing workplace that values inclusivity is an emphasis on open and honest communication. A free flow of communication, transparency, and honesty builds trust and lets people feel part of the company.
Most employees want to feel they’re making a difference and doing good while earning a living, rather than just punching in to pay the rent. Does your company have a statement of values, mission, and purpose? And do you share that with the employees? If employees can relate to and identify with your values, it’s likely they'd be comfortable working there.
Care for Employees
A company with an inclusive outlook has employees who have been there for many years. They’re quite content where they are and have no plans to look elsewhere for other employment. Achieving this takes good job descriptions, training, and mentoring. Finding out what people need to work well without distraction and providing those perks goes a long way, and it shows that the employees are cared for.
Focus on Productivity
A workplace with happy employees are 13 percent more productive. And productive employees are happier. Not because they work longer hours though. Happy employees work faster and produce better outcomes, which has a positive effect on the bottom line. Rewarding productivity is a big part of encouraging good work as well. When you focus on positive results rather than other trivial aspects of an employee's personal life, those other things fade into obscurity and become far less important that the job at hand. Because after all, isn't that what we're all trying to do at work -- WORK?