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Five steps for creating an inclusive workplace culture

Written by: Elizabeth Walker
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Published on July 13, 2022.

Your organization's culture can be 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 is 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 diverse 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.

Find out what inclusive benefits you can offer with our fringe benefits guide

Why is an inclusive workplace culture important?

An inclusive workplace culture is an environment that values, appreciates, and accepts employees of all cultural backgrounds and diverse characteristics. Companies with an inclusive workplace have employees that feel respected and praised for their differences because it’s what makes them unique individuals.

Besides being the moral and ethical choice, having an inclusive workplace culture can benefit your organization and employees in several ways.

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 who work for an inclusive company are also less likely to seek out other employment opportunities if they feel their employer appreciates them. This helps your staff become long-lasting employees at your company, which contributes to business success.

Also, the more inclusive your workplace, the more likely your employees will stay engaged. When employees are loyal to your organization due to the work culture, you may experience reduced turnover, so you won’t have to go through the hiring process as often.

Lastly, an inclusive culture helps employees feel comfortable expressing their ideas and opinions in the workplace among their teammates and managers. 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

In order to facilitate inclusion in the workplace, you need to understand the building blocks. The following five steps can help provide the starting foundation of inclusion at your company.

1. Get buy-in from leadership

When designing inclusive workplace practices, your best allies will be you and your leadership team. Promoting inclusivity will be challenging if the C-suite senior 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 culture and work with people of different nationalities, skin colors, genders, and sexual orientations.

This process also means creating a safe space for your leaders to ask potentially tough questions before leading inclusion programs company-wide. 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 being 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.

These are all opportunities to encourage team-building and improve employee morale as you celebrate your employees and their diversity.

3. Recognize performance

Employee appreciation is a powerful tool to build inclusion for all employees at your organization. Not only does recognition drive engagement and boost morale, but rewarding specific behavior also signals your company’s values.

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.

If you’re rewarding the same behaviors consistently, consider what this tells your employees about the specific skills and talents your company values. Think about other, less visible contributions, how they help your company and culture grow, and recognize them in the next month or quarter.

4. Create safe spaces

Inclusive companies go the extra mile to prioritize safety and comfort for all employees, especially marginalized groups. This can be done 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. You can create digital safe “spaces” by encouraging employees to add their preferred pronouns to their email signatures and usernames.

You can also encourage employees to reserve time on their calendar for prayer, meditation, mental health breaks, and other personal needs.

5. Integrate inclusivity into your core values

If your company's core values have been the same since your organization was founded, it's likely time for a refresh. If your core values don’t include a statement on inclusive culture, draft an update and implement it. This addition will show your company-wide commitment to an inclusive 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 HR teams aren’t very diverse. The different perspectives can help fill in any blanks you may have missed when drafting your new inclusion policies.

Though D&I are interconnected, emphasizing inclusion as a core value makes it easier to introduce practices that encourage a diverse culture. Building an inclusive culture from inside and allowing employees to freely be who they are attracts strong leaders and employees with a feeling of belonging.

How offering personalized benefits can make your workplace more inclusive

The importance of fostering a welcoming, inclusive workplace has benefits specialists looking over their compensation packages with a critical eye. An inclusive benefits package shows your employees that your company isn’t just about giving perceptions of inclusion—you’re taking action and making changes.

Many traditional benefits programs have limitations on the support they offer. For example, one of the most common limitations is geography. Benefits based at 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 be exclusive of 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 place to start being more inclusive is by offering personalized health 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 their qualifying medical expenses, such as insurance premiums and out-of-pocket medical expenses. Employee stipends, sometimes called fringe benefits, are a fixed amount of money offered to employees to help them pay for work, 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.

Conclusion

For employers, hiring a diverse workforce is only part of the equation. In order to create a fully inclusive workplace culture, you need to ensure thatemployees feel included and appreciated at your company. Commitment from everyone on a daily basis at your organization is the only way to reach your inclusion goals.

If you want to build better inclusion in your benefits package, then 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.

1https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/deloitte-review/issue-22/diversity-and-inclusion-at-work-eight-powerful-truths.html

2https://www.octanner.com/global-culture-report/2021/recognition.html

Originally published on July 13, 2022. Last updated July 13, 2022.
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