We’ve all heard of the benefits of a diverse workforce – research shows that companies with a good balance of men and women are 15% more likely to outperform their competitors, and those with a good mix of ethnic background are 35% more likely to as well.

However, what is often overlooked, is that increasing workplace diversity without focusing on cultural inclusion can actually be harmful to your business. According to research, this can lead to lower employee morale and wellbeing, increased conflict, higher absenteeism and more discrimination cases.

The benefits of being inclusive and diverse are significant to business – employees are 83% more likely to innovate and more than twice as engaged at inclusive companies.

Promoting an inclusive culture in your workplace is likely to boost employees’ mental health and wellbeing, as psychological studies have shown the close relationship between practicing inclusive behaviours and personal wellbeing.

How to create an inclusive culture

When employers focus on increasing diversity statistics and protecting the company’s reputation, it’s easy for inclusion to be overlooked. Half of respondents surveyed recently said that they felt their workplace did not treat all employees with fairness and equality.

We’ve come up with 5 steps you can take to begin creating and promoting a culture of inclusion in your workplace and ultimately see positive business results…

1. Celebrate employees’ differences

Different cultures in the workforce will mean a variety of holidays, celebrations and traditions. You can embrace these as a company in a variety of ways, depending on your budget, company size and other factors.

One simple way of doing this is sharing religious and cultural celebrations or awareness days like Diwali festival and Pride Week on your company’s intranet. These could be celebrated with internal events, whether it’s a lunchtime talk or a company party!

Inviting employees to share parts of their culture with the rest of the company can help create an environment where they’re encouraged to be and embrace themselves. It also means your workers are constantly learning and expanding their knowledge about different cultural and demographic groups. 

You might also consider hosting internal events in line with certain Awareness Days, or on-site talks and workshops with experts in areas like gender identity, women in leadership, or being a working parent. This will help employees feel supported and truly valued by the company.

2. Consider their individual needs and promote flexibility

Some companies have prayer and meditation rooms in the office, where employees can practice their religious beliefs during the work day, and making slight changes to the company’s dress code can also allow workers to feel more comfortable at work.

Offering flexible working or remote working can be on way to do this. Some employees have families, care commitments, or are disabled – meaning that travelling or sitting in an office for long periods of time can be difficult. Read our employer’s guide on Supporting employees with family and caring commitments to find out why this is important for your business.  

3. Diversity training

There are different types of diversity training you could offer to your employees – either compulsory or optional. It’s often said that voluntary training is more effective than compulsory, but it you’re struggling to get employees to give up their time for training, you could offer an incentive like free lunch for those who attend!

Unconscious bias training specifically could help employees to gain awareness of their beliefs and behaviours, and to challenge any biases or prejudices they may have towards other people at work (they might not even be aware of them). Companies such as Google, Facebook and more recently Starbucks have invested in this training as part of their inclusion strategies.

4. Brainstorming

Hold regular brainstorming sessions, either small team meetings or larger company wide meetings with a range of employees from across the business. Perhaps ask employees to come with a couple of ideas and ensure everyone is given the time to present their ideas to the group if they feel comfortable doing so. Giving everyone the opportunity to contribute and share ideas will help employees feel that their contributions are just as valued as the person sitting next to them, no matter their age, gender, ethnicity or experience level.  

At the same time, employees hearing and exchanging ideas with a range of different people can facilitate solutions, innovation and creativity.

5. Mix it up

Look at the people who are leading team meetings, events and social activities. Is it usually the same few people presenting? And are they a diverse group? Try mixing it up, and asking different employees to volunteer to lead the meetings or events each week or month.

As well as making employees feel like important and valued members of the team, you also give them a chance to develop skills like leadership, communication and presenting.

There are many different ways you can encourage a culture of inclusion in your workplace, and it may involve some trial and error. Employee surveys, internal focus groups, and team meeting discussions could be great ways to understand how inclusive your employees consider your company at the moment, and what they’d like to change.

Focusing on inclusion in your workplace will not only help your workforce feel valued and comfortable at work, but it will help increase employee wellbeing, engagement, innovation, and ultimately boost company performance.

Is your company implementing inclusion initiatives? If you’ve found these tips useful, let us know how you’ve got on through LinkedIn or Twitter using #inclusionatwork!

This content originally appeared on Benenden’s Health workplace hub where employers can find a range of related articles to help with their health and wellbeing strategy.

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