5 Tips for Encouraging Inclusivity in the Workplace

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Inclusivity in the workplace requires more than inviting all the right people to your team since actions, not appearances, create true inclusivity. Inclusivity requires ensuring that every employee feels valued, needed and welcomed from walking through the door to departing from the company to pursue future aspirations. That feeling of inclusion spills into the public sphere and reinforces the idea of whether or not stakeholders view a company as being "for people like us."

1. Expand Your Applicant Pool

Employees who feel valued for all aspects of their authentic selves are 58% more likely to remain with the company past the first year. These employees also become fully engaged workers — providing 89% more customer satisfaction than disengaged staff members.

Make this a reality by expanding your applicant pool. Create an inviting inclusivity definition that appeals to everyone. Consequently, when potential staff members arrive to apply and interview, they see that you have already hired people that exemplify your stated values at every level of authority in your workforce. Other tips include:

  • Sending the inclusivity definition with your vacancy notices to area schools and colleges, and also to retirement communities and community organizations.

  • Discussing the barriers that participants face when seeking and applying for work.

  • Establishing mentorships and holding makeovers.

  • Coordinating group interviews on-site to mitigate transportation challenges.

2. Advertise Your Inclusivity

There is no point in having an inclusivity policy if people do not know about it. Advertising your policy multiplies its impact. You can do this by:

  • Creating a series of five-minute videos explaining the job duties of five company positions. 

  • Linking descriptions of essential employment tasks in the videos to the local school curriculum or community agency missions.

  • Posting casting calls to youth groups such as 4-H and YMCA/YWCA as well as to senior citizens via the American Association of Retired Persons and the Service Corps of Retired Executives.

  • Providing the videos free of charge to play during morning announcements and special events. 

3. Look for Covert Discrimination in Company Policies

Unpack covert discrimination through inclusivity training sessions. For instance, policies regulating which hairstyles employees can and cannot wear at work disproportionately affect women of color, and federal law provides little to no protection. The 11th Circuit Court ruled in 2014, in the case of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission versus Catastrophe Management Solutions that as long as employers enforce their dress code with every employee, they have the right to state which hairstyles do not meet professional standards.

Characterizing natural hairstyles as unprofessional, however, results in employees being expected to maintain appearances that oppose the physical qualities of coarse, curly hair types. If the company dress code results in employees of color having to choose between scalp damage or exposure to harsh chemicals to maintain straight, smooth hairstyles, for example, then revise it.

4. Ensure Physical Mobility in the Workplace

Every 10% improvement in making employees feel included leads to one fewer absence a year per employee. Workplaces with physical barriers might as well have an "unwelcome" mat at the door if delivery vehicles fill all the accessible parking spaces, for example, or if policy dictates keeping entrances with shorter approaches locked. Despite the inspiring memes about overcoming physical challenges, dealing with mobility issues causes exhaustion and frustration.

  • Provide widened doorways and ramps and supply assisted-opening mechanisms at all entryways leading directly to the work floor.

  • Keep entries and exits with shorter access to and from the parking area unlocked.

  • Keep all passages between workspaces, break rooms and restrooms free of obstacles at all times.

5. Refine the Company Inclusivity Statement

If your company has not yet created an inclusivity statement, pull a team together to identify the gaps where past recruiting efforts have failed. To ensure full inclusivity on the team, ask for input from everyone in the meeting, not just the loudest and most insistent team members. Having a fully inclusive team create the inclusivity statement ensures that barriers such as covert racism and classism, sexism and ableism do not prevent qualified candidates from working with the company.