At this point, you probably don’t need to be sold on the benefits of a diverse, inclusive workplace.
Forbes contributor Kim Abreu outlines a slew of positives: more creativity and innovation in the workplace, easier recruitment, lower turnover, broader and deeper market capture.
Instilling a culture of tolerance shouldn’t be a heavy lift either. But that doesn’t mean it’s not challenging to identify and implement inclusivity initiatives either. If you’re serious about attracting the best employees and establishing your bona fides across a broad swathe of the buying public, you need to do more than pay lip service to the concept of tolerance.
Follow these six best practices to foster an inclusive workplace culture that raises up your employees, draws them in, and ensures that the pressures and negativity and expectations of the wider world stay where they belong: outside your office.
- Embrace Your Workplace’s Existing Diversity
Your efforts to foster a more inclusive workforce won’t bear much fruit if you don’t embrace your team’s multifaceted identity.
Really, truly embrace that identity. Lip service isn’t enough.
If you have six people on your team, that’s six different backstories. Six different faith traditions. Six different approaches to traditional or modern fashion. Six different sets of personal priorities. Six different workstyles. Six different worldviews.
You get the idea. Once you take stock of your team’s potential, anything is possible.
- Check Your Own Biases at the Door
Listening is a whole lot harder when we let our personal biases do the talking. And achieving sustainable change is nigh impossible when we’re stuck in the same tired thought patterns.
Bias minimization isn’t solely applicable to workplace inclusivity initiatives. It’s just a good business practice. Your team will function more efficiently, and with less interpersonal friction, when you show its members that you’re open to new ideas and perspectives.
- Learn the Law
You don’t have to get a law degree to learn what is and isn’t permissible by law. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has a comprehensive list of “the various types of discrimination prohibited by the laws enforced by EEOC.”
Spend a weekend reading up on the rules that bind your HR decisions. Most of it won’t be news to you, but the exercise is still worthwhile — after all, you’re the boss, and the buck stops with you.
- Make Sure Your Employees Learn the Law (And Absorb Your Organization’s Culture)
Everyone holds unconscious biases. It’s human nature.
The laws of humankind are inherently imperfect, and most definitely works in progress. But they comprise a bulwark against our biases and baser impulses.
Huddle with your HR team and draw up a comprehensive set of guidelines and practices based on the letter of the law and your organization’s unique mission and values.
If you feel that your current value statements don’t fully capture your renewed commitment to inclusivity in the workplace, take the opportunity to draw up new ones. Don’t rush this exercise: Getting it right is more important than getting it done.
- Train & Lift Up Supervisory, Mid-Management & HR Employees
Your “people managers” are integral to any inclusivity initiatives. Without them, all the good intentions in the world won’t save you.
Guide your front-line supervisors, middle managers, and HR employees through a more rigorous set of trainings.
In larger organizations, they’re upper management’s eyes, ears, and mouths on the ground. They’re first to recognize when things aren’t going as planned, first to step in to right perceived injustices, first to redirect employees not living up to your organization’s values, and first to make difficult but necessary decisions when the status quo becomes intolerable.
- Take Team Building Seriously
Don’t laugh. Team-building is serious business. In the context of an intentional drive to establish or buttress an internal culture of tolerance, it’s all but essential.
Involve your entire team in the process of planning and executing team-building events — whether they’re two-hour volunteering stints with a local charity or weekend yoga retreats in the mountains. After all, the first step in any successful team-building event is getting everyone to agree on what to do.