Company culture is a significant factor in what attracts top talent and keeps current employees happy and satisfied. Many employers know that diversity is a critical aspect of culture in the modern workplace. However, fostering an inclusive culture that encourages individualism, respect, and appreciation can be even more important than basic diversity metrics in hiring.
These days, it’s not enough to just create a business composed of diverse employees. You must also promote an inclusive work environment that makes every team member feel welcome and safe, where their unique perspectives and experiences are embraced.
But how can you increase the impact of inclusion efforts at your company? Below we’ll discuss why inclusive culture is essential, along with five tips that will help you strengthen your inclusivity and improve the employee experience.
Why is an inclusive workplace culture important?
An inclusive workplace culture respects and celebrates all its employees regardless of their socioeconomic background or who they are. Companies with an inclusive workplace have employees that feel praised for their differences because it’s what makes them unique individuals.
Besides being a moral obligation to your staff, building an inclusive workplace culture has many advantages.
A study from Deloitte1 found that companies with an inclusive workforce are:
- Two times more likely to exceed financial performance goals.
- Three times more likely to be high-performing.
- Six times more likely to be innovative and agile.
- Eight times more likely to achieve positive business outcomes.
Employees working for an inclusive company are also less likely to seek other job opportunities if they feel their employer appreciates them. This helps your staff become long-lasting employees at your company, contributing to business success.
Also, the more inclusive your workplace, the more likely your employees will stay engaged. Employees who are loyal to your organization due to the work culture will stick around. This may reduce turnover, so you won’t have to go through the hiring process as often.
Lastly, an inclusive work culture encourages employees to communicate their ideas and feedback without fear of embarrassment or reprisal. If employees feel accepted for who they are, they’ll feel more encouraged to contribute during meetings and conversations with team members without worrying about how others will perceive them.
While it may be challenging at first, beginning inclusion initiatives can result in increased retention, greater commitment, and input from your workforce in the long run.
Five steps for creating an inclusive workplace culture
To facilitate inclusion in the workplace, you need to understand the building blocks. The following five steps provide the starting foundation of inclusion at your company.
1. Get buy-in from leadership
You and your leadership team lead the way when designing an inclusive environment. Promoting inclusivity will be challenging if senior company leaders don’t prioritize it.
You can start by educating your fellow leaders about the importance of inclusivity with diversity and inclusivity (D&I) training. Your founders and executive team must desire to build a diverse organizational culture and work with people of different nationalities, skin colors, genders, religions, and sexual orientations and identities.
You must create a safe space for your leaders to ask tough questions and express feedback before introducing an inclusion program to your employees. Once leadership is on board, they can be a beneficial employee resource for setting an inclusive tone in the office.
2. Create opportunities for conversation
Your workplace culture should evolve as your company grows. To ensure the culture is continually supported by embracing D&I, an open communication channel between your senior leaders and all employees is crucial.
Remember that it’s okay to be comfortable feeling uncomfortable. Having opinions heard and challenged create an environment that supports, promotes, and hears all voices.
Another way to encourage conversation is with inclusive employee engagement events to mingle and chat. This could be in a formal setting, like a town hall meeting, but could also include more casual situations like company-wide lunches, happy hours, or volunteer events.
This is a good time to prioritize team-building activities and improve overall employee satisfaction by recognizing your employees' diversity and highlighting what makes them unique.
3. Recognize performance
Employee recognition is a powerful tool to build inclusion for all workers. Consistently appreciating your employees boosts satisfaction and productivity. However, it also showcases your values and makes you an employer of choice.
Recognition doesn’t come in the same form for everyone. While some employees may respond to your organization’s current recognition efforts, it’s important to understand whether or not underrepresented employees also feel the impact of those efforts.
For example, an O.C. Tanner report2 found that minority employees were 39% less likely to feel that recognition was part of the culture, while female employees were 34% less likely to feel that way.
To improve your recognition initiatives, leadership can review which groups are being recognized and which aren’t and then make the necessary adjustments.
Only rewarding large-scale achievements shows your employees that you only care about them when they perform extraordinarily. Consider highlighting a wide range of successes—both big and small—and think about ways to celebrate them informally and formally.
4. Create safe spaces
Inclusive companies prioritize safety and comfort for all employees, especially marginalized groups. You can do this by creating various safe spaces throughout your organization to meet your employees’ needs.
For example, many companies with physical locations now promote non-binary and genderqueer inclusion with gender-neutral restrooms. Other companies have private, safe spaces, such as lactation rooms for new mothers, prayer spaces, and quiet workspaces for more introverted individuals who may become overstimulated by open floor plans.
This practice extends to remote companies as well. For example, you can create virtual safe spaces for employees by creating a channel to submit anonymous feedback and encouraging the use of preferred pronouns.
You can also encourage employees to reserve time on their calendars for prayer, meditation, mental health breaks, and other personal needs.
5. Make inclusivity part of your company values
If your company's values have been the same since your organization was founded, it's likely time for a refresh. If your values and company policies don’t include your commitment to an inclusive culture, it’s also time to draft an update. This addition will show your company-wide commitment to a positive work environment and holds you accountable for inclusive behaviors.
To get buy-in, ask for suggestions and feedback from your employees, especially if your senior leaders and human resources teams aren’t very diverse. The different perspectives can help fill in any blanks you may have missed when drafting your new inclusion strategies.
Though D&I are interconnected, emphasizing inclusion as a core value makes introducing practices that encourage a diverse culture easier. Building an inclusive culture from the inside and allowing employees to be who they are attracts strong leaders and employees with a sense of belonging.
How offering personalized benefits can make your workplace more inclusive
The importance of fostering a welcoming, inclusive company culture may cause some benefits specialists to reevaluate their compensation packages. Offering an inclusive benefits package shows your employees that your company is interested in creating more than a perception of inclusion—you’re taking action and making changes.
Many traditional benefits options have limitations on the support they offer. For example, one of the most common limitations is geography. Benefits based on a company’s physical location have a narrow focus that won’t meet the needs of any remote employees you may have.
Additionally, many benefits can exclude some employees by design. Fertility benefits, for example, often restrict coverage to those meeting a limited definition of infertility, thus excluding LGBTQ+ people and single parents. Your benefits should account for all employees, locations, and work settings to be genuinely inclusive.
An excellent way to ensure your benefits package is inclusive is by offering personalized benefits like a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) or employee stipend. These health benefits allow employees to purchase the healthcare items that matter most to them, regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, location, or age.
An HRA allows you to reimburse your employees tax-free for qualifying medical expenses, such as insurance premiums and out-of-pocket medical costs. Employee stipends, sometimes called fringe benefits or lifestyle benefits, are a fixed amount of money offered to employees to help them pay for lifestyle benefits like home office, wellness, living expenses, and much more.
The good news is that you don’t have to administer these personalized benefits alone. PeopleKeep’s HRA and employee stipend administration software helps employers create and administer their benefits packages to improve employee engagement, promote inclusion, and strengthen workplace culture, all at your fingertips.
These days, hiring a diverse workforce isn’t enough on its own. To create a fully inclusive and positive culture, you must ensure employees feel included and appreciated at your company. Daily commitment to inclusion from everyone at your organization is the only way to reach your inclusion goals.
If you want your benefits package to better reflect an inclusive culture, PeopleKeep can help. With Peoplekeep, employers can implement personalized benefits that increase job satisfaction, aid in employee retention and recruitment, and promote inclusion. Schedule a call with our sales team, and we’ll set you up with customized benefits for your employees.
This article was originally published on July 13, 2022. It was last updated on May 9, 2023.