Inclusion in the workplace has gained popularity in recent years, and it’s more than a passing trend – it’s a crucial factor for a business’s success. Moreover, with the recent release of the Australian government’s “The Working Future” white paper, inclusion has been identified as one of the foundational pillars for a thriving labour market in Australia.

To be more precise, the government envisions “a dynamic and inclusive labour market where everyone has the opportunity for secure, fairly compensated work”, and businesses have a chance to benefit from this transformative change.

So, creating a more inclusive workplace isn’t just a matter of ethics and our nation’s welfare. It also yields numerous advantages for your organization, including boosting employee engagement, fostering innovation, and more.

Here, we explore strategies you can apply to promote inclusivity, harness its advantages, and tap into your organization’s full potential.

What is inclusivity in the workplace, and why does it matter?

An inclusive workplace is one that openly embraces employees from diverse backgrounds. That’s why, when discussing inclusivity, it’s essential to address diversity, as these two terms are closely related and should go hand in hand in every workplace.

Let’s clarify them further: 

Diversity refers to the hiring and representing individuals from various nationalities, races, genders, and sexual orientations. Inclusivity, on the other hand, revolves around meeting the needs of your employees to ensure they feel secure, valued, and able to express themselves freely. 

When appropriately implemented, diversity and inclusion increase profitability and drive a host of other benefits for your business:

  • Improved talent attraction: Opening yourself to a diverse pool of candidates increases the chances of finding individuals with the most suitable skills and experience for your organization.
  • Innovative solutions: When employees from diverse backgrounds and cultures feel welcomed and valued, they bring a broad spectrum of perspectives and ideas, leading to more creative solutions.
  • Elevated productivity: Inclusive teams promote collaboration and, thus, improve productivity, as they encourage individuals to actively contribute, share their thoughts, and engage with one another.
  • Better reputation: Workplace inclusion showcases your dedication to social responsibility, bolstering your company’s reputation with partners, customers or clients, and the community.
  • Higher employee retention: Employees who feel appreciated and included are more inclined to remain with the organization over the long term and actively contribute to its success.

How do you create an inclusive workplace?

Let’s explore some practical strategies that can help your organization achieve inclusivity and its numerous benefits.

Implement inclusive policies and practices

Your initial step in establishing a more inclusive and diverse work environment should involve evaluating your existing policies and procedures. During this assessment, you may identify potential biases that could necessitate the development of new policies or revisions to current ones across the organization.

For instance, you can grant additional paid time off for parental leave to promote flexibility and work-life balance. You can also dedicate funds for building ramps and tactile indicators to establish accessible spaces for employees with disabilities.

Some additional inclusive policies and practices you can consider:

  • Implementing guidelines for diverse hiring practices and establishing various interview panels to minimize bias.
  • Detailing the company’s stance against discrimination and harassment and providing efficient reporting procedures.
  • Building gender-neutral restrooms to accommodate transgender employees.
  • Organizing team-building activities or networking events to encourage employee bonding and facilitate shared experiences.

Provide regular inclusivity training

The relationship between managers and employees is among the most vital aspects of the work environment. Therefore, your managers must embody your company’s inclusivity. You can ensure this by providing regular training and education to equip them with the essential skills to nurture diverse teams, mitigate unconscious bias, and demonstrate cultural sensitivities.

Of course, all your employees should undergo inclusivity training programs that may involve case studies, interactive exercises, or addressing specific topics such as disability awareness or LGBTQ+ inclusion.

 

Use inclusive language

Inclusive language is one of the most effective ways to establish an inclusive company culture. To incorporate it into your company culture, advise employees to inquire about each other’s preferred pronouns. Additionally, provide guidelines on how to avoid discriminatory expressions and suggest using terms such as “parental leave” instead of “maternity leave”, “diverse backgrounds” instead of “foreign backgrounds”, “partner” instead of gender-specific terms like “husband” or “wife”, etc.

Inclusive language is especially crucial during recruitment processes. Often unintentionally, job ads contain language that excludes individuals based on a particular characteristic, such as gender or disability. Not only does this harm your company’s reputation, but it can also result in legal consequences as it may be construed as an act of discrimination.

Thus, always review job descriptions to prevent discouraging specific groups from applying. It’s also advisable to seek professional guidance to confirm that your hiring practices foster diversity and inclusion in your organization.

Seek employees’ feedback

You’ve probably heard this a million times, but it’s worth repeating: people are the lifeblood of any company. That’s why it’s crucial to listen closely to your employees’ thoughts and ideas, understand their perspectives, and create an environment where they can truly thrive.

To collect feedback from your employees about your company’s inclusivity initiatives, it’s a good practice to conduct regular surveys. The key is not just gathering responses but also analyzing them and making improvements based on their input.

Bonus advice: Not everyone may feel comfortable speaking up openly, so it’s essential to offer anonymous channels for survey responses and reporting incidents of discrimination or bias.

Start creating a more inclusive workplace today

Establishing diversity and inclusion takes time. This holds for both individual businesses and the Australian workforce as a whole.

The thing is that although the Australian workforce is steadily becoming more diverse, there continue to be significant differences in employment rates across different groups of people in our society. Women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, individuals with disabilities, single mothers, migrants from specific regions, and members of the LGBTIQA+ community still face lower employment rates and a range of labour market challenges.

The good news is that your business can implement the strategies we discussed to support underrepresented groups and contribute to both the government’s goals of a more inclusive workforce and the overall success of your business.

To ensure you establish a thriving, diverse work environment, reach out to our team of employment and HR experts and start creating a more inclusive workplace today.