Three quick wins to start promoting inclusion in the workplace

Sam Wilson  |  September 30, 2020

This week (28th September – 4th October 2020) marks National Inclusion Week. Now, like so many of these events, it shouldn’t require an ‘official’ week (or day or month etc) to get us thinking about a particular subject. However, inclusion in the workplace remains an issue. Something many organisations still struggle with and, therefore, any extra promotion and awareness has to be a good thing.

The facts are that inclusion isn’t something that can be ‘hacked’ or fluked. True inclusion and, ultimately, belonging takes careful thought and time to foster. There are no magic tricks. It needs to be part of an ongoing strategy rather than a flash in the pan. It should be a proactive initiative, rather than a reaction to a problem.

That being said…

We talk to a lot of employers who struggle to maintain momentum or justify their ongoing efforts when it comes to inclusion. Normally because they’re not yielding the expected results. With this in mind, we wanted to mark National Inclusion Week with our tips on ‘quick inclusion wins’. Just to reiterate, this shouldn’t replace your inclusion strategy, it’s just a little kickstart to get you going.

Find out why people don’t currently feel included

If this wasn’t already the starting point for your inclusion strategy, I would most definitely recommend a revision. If you don’t currently know where the biggest issues are within your organisation then any strategy will lack direction – or at least the right direction. Taking the time to talk to your people about the biggest problems that exist will give you a strong starting point.

This step also provides you with the opportunity to give your people a voice in your strategy moving forward. This is something that is likely to be extremely valuable. As you move forward with your action plan, you will need your people onside to help make any strategy a success. They’ll be more inclined to do so if they feel they’ve played a part in shaping your ambitions.

Put together a calendar of all religious and cultural holidays/events… and actually do something with it

This is likely to appear on most articles of this ilk. For many it comes across as a wildly superficial move but there is some real merit to it, providing it’s done with the right intent and follow up.

For many, particularly those from ethnic or cultural minorities, the reason they don’t feel included is due to a lack of understanding amongst their colleagues and managers. Religious and cultural events are a fantastic opportunity to celebrate that group. They also offer the chance for others to understand more about them.

If you’re going to take this approach then it’s important that you’re consistent. All events should be treated with equal attention and ceremony. This is true whether it’s relevant to all of your people, or just one.  

It’s also important that you understand exactly what that particular event or holiday represents and consists of. There is obviously no point in putting on a lunch for a holiday in which participants will all be fasting. The best way to do this is to give ownership to the relevant community members on how best to mark the occasion.

Provide different opportunities for input

Something that is often overlooked is the way that different people might behave or respond in different situations.

This is especially true in situations when it can often be the person who talks loudest or with the most confidence that gets listened to or has the most input. Yes, that person has as much right to be heard as anyone else. But, it’s important that they’re not the only person who gets heard.

This isn’t just a case of asking for everyone’s opinion around a table (or Zoom table). This doesn’t necessarily counteract natural inclinations towards introversion – whether cultural or otherwise. In fact, the feeling of being put in the spotlight or having everyone’s attention on them will make things worse.

The solution can be as simple as offering the opportunity to email in ideas. You could also have a digital ‘suggestions box’ which could even offer complete anonymity. This provides an avenue for everyone to have an input whilst not having to compete with the louder voices in the room. This feeling of involvement will provide a massive boost when it comes to their sense of inclusion.

These might seem like simple steps. However, if properly implemented then you will likely see a shift in the feelings of inclusion within your organisation. As I said at the start, when then coupled with a comprehensive ongoing strategy you’ll see this shift continue. You’ll then begin to genuinely experience the significant benefits on offer from true inclusion.

If you’re looking to start your inclusion journey or simply keep it on track, get in touch.

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