Most successful companies have embraced diversity and take this into account when putting together teams. Companies actively scout for people with a diverse background. Diverse background includes a variety of areas including culture, religion, level of education, age, language, gender, work experience, etc.Inclusive work culture is essential in capitalising on the benefits of a diverse group of employees. Only when everyone feels involved and heard, when all employees feel safe and can and dare to give their opinion everywhere and always, performance will increase.
With an inclusive company culture, you ensure a more significant binding of your staff to the company. You also show your customers and other stakeholders that you are concerned about the well-being of your employees, which increases their confidence in your company. You can read below what an inclusive work culture entails and how you achieve it.
Six conditions for inclusion
An inclusive work culture means that everyone can have their say and develop their talents, regardless of function, gender, orientation, descent, skin colour, education or whatever. Steps to achieve this include creating a working atmosphere in which everyone, irrespective of status or position, also feels free to have his or her input. And in which everyone is therefore prepared to pay serious attention to that input. You could state six conditions for a successful inclusion (Kramer, 2014):
- Everyone maters and everyone's opinion counts, regardless of status or position.
- Managers encourage openness and are themselves as open as possible.
- Everyone can express their opinion freely, in a professional manner and without jeopardising their position.
- Everyone works together towards a common goal, and mutual differences are respected.
- Differences in culture, gender, orientation or origin are recognised and embraced.
- Everyone takes the time to listen seriously to the other.
What an inclusive work culture is not
When creating an inclusive work culture, you have to be careful that the balance does not go through to anarchy or the denial of differences. Not everything can and may, and not everyone can always get their way. And although you treat everyone equally, there are, of course, differences between people, there is no point in denying them. Men differ from women, and there can also be significant differences between cultures. It is about creating a culture in which everyone, despite these differences, comes into its own. Easier said than done. How do you get everyone involved, including the sceptics?
Develop an inclusive work culture
The development of an inclusive work culture must start with the managers (Fallon, 2017). The first step should be to recruit staff from different backgrounds. The diversity of the workforce should be a policy. Managers are also the designated people to get everyone in the company involved in the process. For example, they can do that by showing genuine interest in their staff. One-on-one conversations in which they talk to employees about the state of affairs or ask for ideas are an excellent tool, just like group discussions. In this way, you, as a manager, lay the foundation for an open atmosphere of sharing. An atmosphere in which everyone feels heard and their opinion counts. There are targeted training courses for managers to develop their skills in this area.
Make sure you formulate clear and measurable objectives and monitor those objectives as well. For companies with a limited size, this can quickly be done by motivated managers under management level. Large companies could consider setting up a separate working group for this. A working group should consist of managers at lower levels, who support the objectives of the policy and are motivated to achieve those objectives. Such a working group reports directly to the management, which can then take measures, for example, to bring the diversity of the workforce up to standard.
A diverse workforce is essential, but only if all groups feel at home and welcome in your company. It is particularly important for minority groups to feel valued and included. You can ensure this in many ways, for example:
If women come to work for the first time in a traditionally male place, such as the factory hall of a concrete factory, then provide them with a separate dressing and toilet room.
Reserve a room where Muslims can pray. Outside of prayer times, you could use that space for one-to-one conversations.
Make sure your staff know in advance the topic of discussion in a department meeting. This way, they can prepare, and they will attend the meetings more involved. Especially if not everyone has the same mother tongue, such preparation time can be helpful.
Team building activities are an excellent tool to stimulate engagement. It would be great if there were also regular glimpses into the culture or lifestyle of minorities.
For example, there are many other practical measures. If there is already an inclusive work culture in your company, then the needs will naturally be put forward by the employees. If the corporate culture is not yet perfect in this area, it is essential to identify and solve problems proactively.
Six steps to a 'culture of inclusion.'
In summary, you could formulate six steps (Gurchiek, 2018) that your company must go through to arrive at a "culture of inclusion", an inclusive work culture:
- Instruct managers and possibly provide training.
- Communicate the objectives not only to management but also to all other employees.
- Ensure that the goals are monitored, perhaps by setting up a working group.
- Embrace and respect the differences between your employees.
- Listen to the input of your employees.
- Ensure productive department meetings with good involvement of all participants.
Culture is the total of behaviour and the norms and values in an organisation. It's about how you deal with each other every day. To take advantage of all the benefits of diversity, you need an inclusive culture where everyone feels respected and valued and where employees have the confidence that they can express their opinion. With an inclusive culture, great diversity will have a positive effect on the image, the result and the overall impact of the company.