The need for an inclusive culture in the workplace has become all the buzz in the business world. The most significant barrier to inclusion, however, is bias.
In Deloitte's 2019 State of Inclusion Study, they surveyed 3,000 U.S. adults employed at companies of 1,000 people or more. In that study, 63 percent of respondents said they witness bias frequently at their workplace. Another 61 percent said they experience bias at least once a month.
What do those figures mean for your business?
In that same study, 68 percent of respondents said that bias negatively impacts their work performance. This means that bias, more likely than not, is affecting how employees perform in your workplace. It's also a solid reason to look at the efforts your company has in place to inspire an inclusive culture.
Mike Ganino is the author of Company Culture for Dummies and a frequent keynote speaker and trainer on the topics of inclusive culture and workplace diversity. Risha Grant is a diversity and inclusion expert, and consults with companies to infuse inclusive culture principles throughout their organizations. Here they share seven actionable steps companies can take to create inclusive cultures.
1. Stop talking and get it done.
"I've worked with many companies that take years to compile research," says Grant. "Remember that diversity and inclusion are about people, humanity and total acceptance."
Grant suggest companies start their inclusive culture efforts by surveying employees.
"They'll provide a good indication of where your efforts need to start," she says.
To get the clearest picture on where you might need to start your diversity and inclusion efforts, try creating anonymous surveys so employees can freely respond.
2. Offer unconscious bias awareness resources.
"While it isn't a one-size-fits-all solution, unconscious bias training can help employees understand that we all have unconscious biases," Ganino says. “The only way to recognize the impact of those biases is to become more aware of them."
First, invite employees to take Harvard's implicit bias survey. The results aren't reported to your company. Instead, the survey shares insights about biases with those who take the survey in a confidential setting.
After employees take this survey, consider following up with an in-house training session. Google offers a resource on how your company can learn how to conduct its own unconscious bias training.
3. Offer foundational training.
Inclusive culture begins with ownership at the highest levels of your company.
“Start your inclusion training with leadership so they understand exactly what an inclusive culture looks like and how to assist employees through the process," says Grant.
Managers come next. According to Grant, most initiatives stall with managers who are unsure of how to implement inclusive policies and processes.
"Training managers after leadership will help managers grasp concepts before they are hit with questions and don't understand how to respond," she explains.
After leadership and managers have foundational inclusion training, bring that same training to your employees. This can help everyone throughout your organization understand what diversity and inclusion means for the company. It also allows everyone to share both positive thoughts and any challenges they're having with new policies and procedures.
4. Use inclusive language.
Language changes can pose difficulties for some people while others adapt quickly. An essential part of inclusivity is ensuring that no one feels marginalized by the everyday language your company and its employees use.
“Make sure the language you use is gender-neutral," says Grant.
This can mean replacing commonly used gender-specific terms like “you guys" with “everyone" or even the more colloquial “folks." If your company has single-stall bathrooms, transforming signage on those bathrooms to all-gender can be an important step. If your company has more traditional multi-stall bathrooms, explore adding a gender-neutral bathroom on each floor.
Understanding your bias and how it affects others, especially those in your workplace, is the first step to building an inclusive culture.
—Risha Grant, diversity and inclusion expert
Pronouns are also important. A person's pronouns can be subtly introduced in an email signature line with the simple addition of "Pronouns:
5. Create an inclusive meeting culture.
“Meetings are a given in most modern workplaces," says Ganino. “We see little training on how to design meetings to be more inclusive."
Ganino suggests that leaders look at their existing meetings. Keep an eye on who talks the most, who's silent and if there are people who have difficulty being heard because of louder voices taking control or cross-talk that minimizes someone's contributions.
"Simple changes like dealing out a deck of cards and having people share in order of face value—Ace is first, King is last—can bring more inclusion to the table," Ganino says.
He also adds that a rotating roster of meeting leaders can quickly ensure more significant levels of inclusion.
6. Rethink your recruiting practices.
There's a long-tolerated excuse in hiring circles that goes the way of, "Well, we just didn't have any
“As an organization, look at the way decisions around hiring are made," Ganino says. “Typically, these involve a lot of room for unconscious bias to seep in. It's natural that this happens and doesn't make anyone a bad person."
To counter these natural biases, companies have to do some rethinking.
“You don't have to do more work. You just have to do different work," says Grant.
Here are a few ways to expand inclusivity in your hiring efforts alone:
- Post job notices on outlets geared toward diverse communities, such as those focusing on people of color and members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
- Expand job postings to sites that also cater to the d/Disabled community. These sites have built-in features that work with how people who are deaf and/or blind use the internet and look for work.
- Improve your company's networking with diverse organizations. Make an effort to establish relationships with HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities) and other organizations that lift historically marginalized communities.
As Grant said, it's the same work your organization has done, yet in different directions and with an eye towards inclusion.
Now you have six actionable tools in your toolbox to help your company work towards a more inclusive culture. Don't forget, however, that unconscious bias is the real hindrance to the inclusive workplace of the future.
"Understanding your bias and how it affects others, especially those in your workplace, is the first step to building an inclusive culture," says Grant.
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