Top tips to build an inclusive company culture

31 January 2019

Top tips to build an inclusive company culture       

Beyond the moral responsibility and legal obligation, most business leaders today recognise the bottom-line benefits of a diverse workforce. If utilising the full potential of black and minority ethnic individuals could generate £24 billion to the UK economy after a year alone, it’s no surprise to see companies prioritising D&I in 2019.

In their efforts to combat unconscious bias and encourage innovation, managers are beginning to rethink their approach the hiring process, opening their doors to candidates ranging in age, ethnicity, religion and social background.

It’s a strong start – of course, achieving workplace diversity doesn’t stop at recruitment. Rather than treating it as a tick-box exercise, organisations seeking to retain the diverse talent they have hired should actively work to foster an inclusive company culture. It won’t happen overnight, but the following steps should set your company on the right track:

Establish inclusion as a priority

In order to succeed in building an inclusive culture, you must create a clear purpose statement declaring your goals and how the business will aim to achieve them. Communicating this statement to members of staff at every level of the organisation and making a point to raise awareness of how it benefits them as individuals as well as the business on a whole is critical in setting the tone for existing employees and new recruits.

Further, creating a committee to champion D&I in the workplace will ensure it isn’t an issue that is left for a rainy day and rather one that is inextricably linked with the company’s wider objectives. However, this should by no means be a closed committee; employees should know that their input is welcome should they have suggestions for improving the company culture.

Honour a zero-tolerance policy

It’s difficult for workers who feel different to their colleagues to feel welcome when the discriminatory behaviour and unfair treatment they experience is not met with appropriate disciplinary action. If you are to improve staff retention and foster a diverse workplace culture, creating and honouring a zero-tolerance policy is non-negotiable.

In an inclusive organisation, employees feel comfortable reporting incidents to their line managers; they see their workplace as a safe space in which racist, xenophobic, sexist or homophobic comments are taken seriously. Should an employee repeatedly demonstrate behaviour of this nature, you must be prepared to sacrifice productivity to protect staff from future harassment – after all, you won’t hold on to diverse talent very long if you’re just paying lip service to diversity.

Raise awareness of implicit bias

Unconscious or implicit bias refers to the underlying attitudes that influence our decisions; they are the views we are unaware of and yet those that frequently control our everyday behaviour. According to figures from Project Implicit, 95 percent of us hold unconscious opinions  due to our background, culture and personal experiences – it is, however, these attitudes that can prevent an organisational culture from being truly inclusive by nature.

Tackling unconscious bias takes time, but the first and most critical step in the process is to raise awareness. Encouraging teams to take tests to discover what implicit biases they may have makes for a great introduction to staff-wide diversity training.

Give employees a voice

When employees from minority groups are allowed to flourish, the company benefits from their ideas, perspective and unique set of skills. Yet, in too many organisations, members of staff feel unable to contribute their thoughts or challenge the decisions of their managers for fear that their opinion is not valued or that they do not have the support of their colleagues.

Overcoming this issue demands a change in attitude from middle management as well as members of senior leadership; team leaders must actively encourage all workers to voice their ideas and make time to listen to their concerns. It’s also a good idea to rotate who runs meetings, changing the dynamic to allow new perspectives to be heard and ignite the spark of engagement throughout each department.