3 steps toward a more inclusive workplace
As employers, we have a responsibility to ensure that all of our employees feel safe, respected, and valued at work—in other words, included. Inclusion goes hand in hand with diversity; however, each addresses a distinct challenge (and opportunity) for your company. Diversity is about building an organization that reflects different ages, gender identities, races, nationalities, abilities, and more. Inclusion ensures that these individuals have a voice and an equal opportunity to advance within your organization.
Good for employees, good for your business
When employees feel respected and believe their ideas and contributions are valued, they are more willing to take on new responsibilities, more effective as team members, and more likely to remain with your company—all of which supports more favorable business outcomes.
According to research from Artemis Connection and the Limeade Institute, employees who feel included:
- Are 28% more engaged at work
- Are 43% more committed to their company
- Are 51% more likely to recommend their company as a great place to work
Plus, when employees represent diverse backgrounds and experience, they will naturally approach problems from more varied points of view—which can lead to more creative thinking, more innovative solutions, and a more enriching work experience for all.
So, what does it take to make your company more inclusive?
Here are some suggestions based on our experiences at Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI).
Make a commitment.
- Secure buy-in from your senior leadership team to set the right tone and signal your commitment.
- Make diversity and inclusion part of your company’s core values. Establish and communicate clear goals for advancement in both areas.
- Revisit your company policies. Remember, inclusivity covers a wide range of employees and personal situations; for example:
- Flexible hours and remote work opportunities (where possible) help employees balance professional and personal responsibilities.
- Floating holidays encourage employees to observe days of religious or cultural significance.
- Accommodations for employees with physical impairments and multi-lingual communications for non-English-speaking employees enable greater participation in company programs and activities.
- Create employee business resource groups (EBRGs). At BCBSRI, these employee-developed networks are structured around under-represented dimensions of diversity and work to support their peers, the business, and our external community.
You don’t know what you don’t know—that often proves true when it comes to inclusion. Training on topics such as unconscious bias, inclusive language, and team dynamics can prove very enlightening and support more cohesive and effective work groups. And of course, this training applies to everyone—from your newest intern to your most senior managers.
Give it time.
Building a more inclusive organization takes time, and there are likely to be missteps along the way. You may want to consider periodic, anonymous employee surveys to gauge your progress—use an outside vendor (if at all possible) to encourage honest feedback. Then, share results with your employees and seek their input on ways to improve. It can go a long way in building trust and improving engagement.
The time, energy, and effort you put into your inclusion efforts will pay dividends for your employees and your organization.