How to Create an Inclusive Workplace

Danielle Beatty
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Diversity may be measured as hiring teams find ideal candidates to create a team that fits the bill. But inclusion, that’s a little more challenging to gauge. Inclusion is more than hoping it “will simply just happen, because managers built workforces with inherently good people.” Inclusion “is something you have to work to create.” Here are five tips to create an inclusive workplace in your company.


1. Make inclusion everyone’s responsibility: Anyone who walks through the door and works for your company is responsible for inclusion, starting with leadership. “Leaders—especially middle managers—must be held accountable for results. That means structuring meetings, allocating resources and using language that advances inclusion,” says Erin L. Thomas, a diversity researcher and a partner at Paradigm, a D&I consulting firm based in San Francisco. One way to do this is create a list of inclusive behaviors that align with your organization’s core values, so your employees know what being inclusive looks like. Whatever your company’s inclusive behaviors are, ensure that everyone is on board, especially leadership. “At the end of the day, it’s the leader on the front line with employees. It’s the experience that the leader is creating that makes or break your diversity and inclusion initiatives,” says Dianne Campbell, vice president of global diversity and inclusion at American Express in Washington, D.C.


Consider running a mentoring program for inclusion training between leadership and employees. Harvard Business Research shows that a mentor’s meaningful advocacy makes all the difference reporting that “women of color who say they have sponsors are 81% more likely to be satisfied with their career progression than those without sponsors.” Providing employees with a mentor to demonstrate how the company practices inclusion not only teaches the concepts, but also builds community.

2. Change up meetings: Try rotating who runs meetings. Those who might not regularly speak up may feel more open to having their voice heard by someone new. If your company has remote employees, schedule the meeting for a time when they can be on the call. Be sure to pause and give those remote folks time to respond with questions or comments as if they were in the room. Also, distribute materials, such as meeting agendas or handouts, early. This helps employees who are more introverted or those whose first language is not English process the information to feel comfortable and prepared. Practicing these meeting tips makes gatherings more productive and interesting, by keeping employees engaged and included.

3. Allow the discussion of non-work topics at work: Employees generally spend 40+ hours a week at work with most people spending more time at work than with family or friends. By allowing employees to discuss and engage in non-work place topics lets them bring their whole selves to work and feel involved and accepted.

The company JustWork, for example, held an “employee panel featuring four members of the Black Leadership Alliance, JustWorks’ black employee group. The theme was imposter syndrome and the struggles of code switching as a black employee in a majority white workplace. [They’ve] since held similar panels for International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, the Latino/Hispanic experience, and even a panel of employees that have lived outside the U.S. These discussions are a great venue for teammates to learn about each other’s backgrounds.” Opening the door to organizing and hosting non-work conversations demonstrates inclusion.

4. Involve employees in the discussion: Incorporating your employees in inclusion related discussions is vital. People need to feel like they are a part of changes and ideas. Allow discussions on inclusion to be ongoing as your company collaborates with employees to lead changes that create an inclusive workplace.

5. Change times of company events: Try scheduling events at different times. Sometimes events scheduled after work excludes those who have kids or employees who work non-traditional hours. Making a time change to have an event say during lunch or a scheduled break ensures everyone can attend and no one has to miss out!

As you try these tips “recognize that there is no one-time strategy,” as Trevon Mayers, Director of Policy & Community Outreach at The Center, says. “It is a continuous process that will involve seeking feedback from staff and then incorporating those ideas to develop” the inclusive workplace that is right for your company.




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