As an employer, you can put in place huge numbers of policies to promote equality and diversity in your business, but unless you work to achieve inclusion in the workplace, your efforts may be in vain.
Creating an inclusive working environment is about more than just giving everyone equal opportunities. It is about allowing people to be themselves at work, valuing difference and letting them know that their contribution is valued.
At its most basic level it is about ensuring that no one feels left out because of their age, gender, race, nationality, religion or belief, sexual orientation, physical or mental disabilities or social background.
But to achieve inclusion in the workplace, you need to consider the needs of the unique individuals who make up your organisation – not put them into boxes based on a certain characteristic, particularly if you have succeeded in employing a diverse group of individuals who possess different skills.
As an employer, you have a legal obligation to comply with the Equality Act and to stamp out discrimination from your workplace. This means developing policies and practices that guarantee equal treatment for all.
Are your training sessions structured in a way that lets everyone get involved? Are the benefits and perks you are offering accessible to all of your employees, or just a select few? Do your employees feel comfortable expressing their needs and do you work together to create solutions that benefit you both?
Failure to address these issues could have damaging consequences and the diverse mix of employees you have worked so hard to attract may end up feeling de-valued and de-motivated.
Perhaps in your efforts to improve teamwork you are organising a monthly seminar for your staff to encourage effective collaboration and better communication.
As an inclusive employer, you will think carefully about where and when you run these sessions.
Do they clash with prayer times for religious members of your workforce? By holding them later in the day, are they excluding parents working flexible hours who leave early to pick up children from school?
Similarly, you may be building a brand-new staff canteen in your office where employees can eat and socialise on their lunch breaks.
As an inclusive employer, you'll ensure that the area is fully accessible to disabled workers and that the menu choices you provide do not exclude those with specific beliefs or dietary requirements.
Of course there are numerous other examples of inclusion in the workplace, but by considering the impact of your decisions on your entire workforce, you can make a good start in achieving it. Having an open and honest dialogue with your employees about everyone’s needs and the organisation’s goals will put you on track to creating an engaging, inclusive environment that produces real results.
An inclusive culture can have a number of benefits for you and your staff. If individuals feel valued, they are more likely to add value in return, boosting your overall productivity and your bottom line.
Moreover, working effectively in teams depends on getting everyone involved so that individual competencies can shine through. If your workplace is an inclusive one, your employees will work more effectively together and you will reap the rewards.
Inclusion can also reduce the risk of disputes and tribunals, which can have a damaging financial impact and deal a blow to your reputation as an employer. By creating an inclusive workplace, you can establish a working environment where discrimination is a non-issue and any challenges that may arise can be resolved effectively.
Inclusion in the workplace can take time to achieve and your efforts need to run alongside your equality and diversity strategies if they are to really make an impact, so it’s important to take things in stride and have expert guidance along the way.
At Inclusive Employers, we can show you where to start, no matter where you are on the journey, offering best practice guidance on everything from nurturing talent to developing pay structures and creating the right office environment.
We also organise a programme of events that allow to you as a member to meet and learn from other employers, and our expert helpline will be available to answer all your questions.
For more information, call us now on 020 7803 0689 or email us at email@example.com.