Diversity and inclusion are integral to the success of any business. You can’t have one without the other. We're the sum of all of our experiences and countless research (as well as our lived experiences) shows us that diverse teams perform much better than teams of clones.
Diversity showcases our differences and inclusion ensures that we feel as though we’re part of a group and are given the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. And to have a healthy and thriving workplace, you need to understand and appreciate all of your employees' experiences.
A one-size-fits-all approach is the antithesis of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Recognize that what works for other businesses might not work for yours. It’s easy to compare yourself to others, but remember you’re on your own DE&I journey. Diversity and inclusion don’t happen naturally — they have to be intentional and designed.
No matter your company size or budget, here are some things you can do to make your workplace more inclusive.
1. Connect DE&I to your mission
It’s easy for diversity, equity, and inclusion to become meaningless buzzwords. People will get sick of hearing them if your talk isn’t backed up by action. One of the most important things your company can do is integrate DE&I into your mission and values. Find your "why" and what these terms mean to you in your business.
2. Eliminate biased language from job descriptions
Language is important and moves people either towards or away from your business. Is the language that you use (both internally and externally) gender-neutral?
Research has shown that men will apply for a job when they meet 60 percent of the qualifications, but women will only apply when they meet 100 percent of them. It’s more critical to ensure that you're not attracting the same kinds of candidates over and over.
3. Be conscious of identity
Pronouns validate a person's identity, so it's critical that you do everything in your power to get things right.
Gender isn’t binary. You will have employees that don’t use either "he" or "she" when referring to themselves. And your language, systems, and documents need to reflect that variety. Go one step beyond making it part of your employees’ induction process and discover which pronouns your candidates use at the recruitment stage. This will show all applicants that you are serious about inclusion and will in turn get you a more diverse range of people applying.
Do you also give your applicants and employees the opportunity to provide their preferred name alongside their legal name? Many people distinguish between the two and this is a very easy way to make them feel as though they belong from their first interaction with you.
4. Practice active listening
A big part of providing an inclusive work environment involves practicing active listening. It’s not just about listening to people, but truly hearing what they have to say, no matter their age, race, gender, socio-economic status, or role in your workplace. Do the people at your organization feel as though they can be heard regardless of these factors?
5. Include everyone in the conversation
What does a typical meeting look like at your workplace? Does everyone in the room have an equal opportunity to speak or are only the loudest voices recognized? Do you give people the time to process information and collect their thoughts while in the meeting so they don’t feel pressured to raise thinking on the spot? These are the questions you should be asking yourself and if you’re seeing more "no" than "yes," you need to make some changes.
6. Continue to educate yourself
DE&I will never be "completed" or "finished," so it's important that it's an ongoing focus and you apply a continuous learning approach. Remember that everyone brings unique perspectives and as managers, you have a lot to learn.
Don't depend on just one or two colleagues in your business. Look for online resources, focus groups, and other forums for additional help.