5 Steps That'll Make Your Organization More Inclusive

November 21, 2016

A diverse workforce is useless unless your culture is an inclusive one.

Diversity isn’t something you should do just because it’s a good thing to do or because the law requires it. The most successful organizations in the world celebrate diversity because it fosters creativity, allows them to reach more markets and helps make their organization a great place to work.

So how do you build a diverse organization? That requires a full-fledged strategy that touches all departments within your organization, which LinkedIn Learning instructor and diversity consultant Catherine Mattice Zundel outlines in her free course, Managing Diversity.

But a big part of having a diverse workforce is building an inclusive culture, where people of all races, creed and gender feel comfortable sharing their ideas and bringing their “full self” to work. In her course, Zundel outlines five action items any leader can take, which will make their organization more inclusive:

1. Create diversity networks.

Diversity networks are informal groups that provide an opportunity for individuals from similar backgrounds to come together and share ideas. A few examples of diversity groups are:

  • A Bible study group.
  • An LGBT group.
  • A working moms group.
  • An Asian American group.

“By providing these groups some office space to meet, you are communicating to your employees that you are interested in supporting their needs and desire to connect with people who are similar to them,” Zundel said.

2. Take these networks one step further with employee resource groups.

Employee resource groups, or ERGs, go beyond creating diversity networks. An ERG works with HR to institute policies that make the organization more inclusive.

For example, say you have an ERG for moms in the workplace. That ERG could recommend new policies that the organization could employ, such as designating certain rooms in the office as breast feeding rooms or pushing for more flexible hours.

This gives more teeth to diversity networks while also helping your organization become more accommodating.

3. Invest in diversity training.

Most biases are subconscious, which means we aren’t aware of them. Therefore, if no diversity training is delivered, they’ll persist within your workforce, because it’s impossible for someone to overcome something they aren’t aware they are even doing.

That makes diversity training essential to having an inclusive workplace. Zundel said some key topics to cover in this training are:

  • How we interpret the world through our own lens of experience.
  • How to overcome stereotypes.
  • How to overcome cultural barriers.
  • How to respect differences.

4. Evaluate your conflict resolution processes.

How an organization handles conflict goes a long way to how inclusive it’ll be perceived. Zundel recommends training certain employees and managers on conflict resolution, and then have those people serve as mediators when conflict arises.

“A mediator must have ability to inspire change in deeply rooted beliefs in order to help opposing parties reach resolution,” Zundel said.

5. Have an open-door policy, and really mean it.

Many companies say they have open-door policy, but their employees don’t feel that way. The organizations that have the most inclusive cultures have an open-door policy where all employees believe they can talk to their manager about issues like race, discrimination and gender.

How do you do that?

It means managers proactively talking with their employees one-on-one and asking them if they feel comfortable. It means listening – instead of rushing to action – when an employee does raise an issue. And it means managers literally keeping their door open and giving employees the opportunity to talk with them when an issue arises.

The takeaway

Having a diverse workforce is useless if you don’t have an inclusive culture. If people of different groups don’t feel comfortable at your office, then they aren’t going to share their ideas and contribute in the way that’ll most help your organization.

These five steps help counter that and allow you build a workplace where more people believe they can be their true self. And that will lead to a diversity of ideas that can give your organization a major competitive advantage.

*Image by eLKayPics / Out

Click here to watch Catherine Mattice Zundel’s free LinkedIn Learning course Managing Diversity to learn how to create a strategic plan to support diversity and inclusion in your workplace.