How to prioritize diversity and inclusion in your workforce

December 17, 2021 Christina DeBusk

A diverse range of warehouse employees talking on the warehouse floor

When companies prioritize diversity in the workplace, they gain access to a wider variety of skills and talent. It also helps connect them with employees who have had different experiences. Together, these experiences can be utilized to create the best, most efficient processes and procedures possible.

Additional benefits of creating an inclusive workforce are higher levels of creativity and greater innovation. Employees feel comfortable to be their best selves possible, which gets their cognitive juices flowing.

Feeling included can even lead to better on-the-job performance because the employee feels valued and part of the team. But how do you make this type of workplace a priority?

Start at the top

Whenever you want to create a specific work environment, it needs to start with your company’s leadership. Top executives and managers need to both accept and encourage diversity and inclusion. This creates a trickle-down effect.

Part of starting at the top involves hiring a diverse group of people to help run and manage your company. The more you can put your words into action, the easier it will be for your workforce to see that you stand behind what you say.

Develop an anti-discrimination policy

A company’s handbook tells both new and current employees what will and will not be tolerated in the workplace. Developing an anti-discrimination policy as part of this handbook discourages behavior that could divide your employees, while also providing penalties should these situations arise.

Addressing discrimination in your workplace manual also sends a message that this is an important topic for your business. It tells everyone involved that you’re willing to take action to make sure every member of your staff feels welcome and included.

Create a diversity and inclusion workgroup

Diversity can be an emotionally charged topic. It’s also a topic that, for some people, is very private and personal. That can make it difficult for them to talk about it with those in management-level positions.

One way to make this conversation easier and more comfortable is to set up a workgroup within your company that is designed to deal solely with diversity and inclusion issues. When employees know that they have someone they can go to that is on their same level, they are more likely to reach out when they have an issue. This allows you to squelch it before it becomes a major problem.

Conduct diversity training

Sometimes people don’t realize that their actions or behaviors aren’t supportive of a diverse and inclusive workplace. Others have this type of insight, yet are unsure what they can do to change.

Both groups of people would benefit from regular training. This training can help them learn how to better identify any actions they take that may inadvertently make their co-workers and colleagues uncomfortable. They will also provide insight into the knowledge needed to best correct these types of situations.

Check in regularly

The only way to know how you are measuring up in a specific area is to ask. And ask often. Check in with your employees regularly to ensure that they feel included. If they don’t, ask even more questions. Get to the heart of the issue so you can find a way to resolve it.

Regular check-ins are especially helpful if you have a fluctuating workforce. The work environment can change quickly when you increase or decrease the number of staff. Take the time to inquire about these topics during both peak and off-seasons so everyone feels like a valued and contributing member of the team.

Celebrate your diverse culture

Another way to prioritize diversity and, subsequently, inclusion is to take the time to celebrate your employee’s different backgrounds. Give them the ability to take off their holidays versus having everyone follow the same holiday schedule, for instance. This can be achieved by offering floating holidays or by letting employees swap one holiday for another.

You can also celebrate different holidays during the workday if it’s not an option for staff to take that day off. Employees will appreciate the fact that you’ve taken the time to acknowledge all of the cultures that are represented in your workforce.

About the Author

Christina M. DeBusk creates small business content for a variety of publications, some of which include Businessing Magazine, Compendent, Chiropractic Economics, and more. She is also the author behind the column, "The Successful Solopreneur.

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