Workplaces with inclusive cultures and what we can learn
When you think of an inclusive work environment, what comes to mind? Perhaps you envision a conference table with workers of various ages, ethnicities, and genders engaging in flowing conversation. Or, maybe you imagine a building with wheel-chair accessible bathrooms and door signs that include Braille. Some may picture neuro-diverse colleagues, holiday celebrations with food from various cultures, customizable benefit plans, or the freedom to put a same-sex wedding photo on your desk.
All of these things definitely could be part of an inclusive company culture. At the heart of the matter, though, is a sense of belonging and freedom for people to be their authentic selves. Inclusion aims to strike down barriers that keep individuals from reaching their full potential or make them feel “different.” It provides a feeling that you are welcome here and valued just the way you are.
To further grasp the idea of inclusion, let us look at some real-life examples:
Inclusion at Accenture
Do an Internet search of businesses known for their culture of inclusion and you will likely come across this global professional services company that has been named to various lists recognizing DEI efforts. Embedding diversity and inclusion in everything they do is a way of life for this company of 733,000 workers in 120 countries.
An excellent video called “Inclusion Starts with I” on Accenture’s website drives the point home that a multitude of ways exist in which workers can feel excluded. Some examples presented include a middle-aged lady expressing “exasperation when people assume I don’t have relevant skills or ambition anymore,” a black woman recalling “the awkwardness when my client assumes that my white male colleague is in charge,” a young man conveying “the strain of feeling I am expected to do more, simply because I don’t have children,” and a millennial expressing “the anxiety of sharing my personal life, because most people around me are heterosexual.”
The video goes on share Accenture’s mindset:
“Inclusion & Diversity is not just about . . . Gender. Ethnicity. Sexual Orientation. Background. Disability. Culture. Age. Mental Health. It’s about you. It’s about me. It’s about all of us. We are all human. We are all unique. And we all just want a chance. A chance to feel valued and respected for who we are – and for our differences to be embraced as strengths.”
To aid in promoting an inclusive work environment where all have a chance to thrive, Accenture has done things such as:
Making DEI goals public so that the company is held accountable for them and establishing metrics to measure progress
Establishing the Allies in Action program – a global experience that brings Accenture workers together to learn what it means to be an ally, practice inclusive behaviors, and be role models for others
Offering unconscious bias training, flexible work arrangements, mental health resources, and equal benefits to same-sex couples
Investing in advanced technology that provides greater accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities
Annually reviewing pay equity to ensure fairness and consistency
Setting up employee networks based on disability, faith, gender, race and ethnicity, LGBTIQ+, and more to help create a sense of belonging and community
Microsoft: Inclusion is innovation
Challenging the status quo with revolutionary ideas allowed this tech giant to excel. Realizing the next great advancement can originate from anyone, Microsoft views inclusion as essential to business outcomes. As stated on its website, “You can’t make a breakthrough without breaking something: systems that don’t support us all, barriers that prevent access, mindsets that no longer serve us.”
A highlight of Microsoft’s efforts to make all feel included are its nine Employee Resource Groups (ERGs): LGBTQIA+, disability, military, Black, Asian, Indigenous, families, women, and Hispanic/Latinx. Such communities serve as a resource, support system, and space to share stories. Many members do outreach to help others better understand their group’s challenges, and some mentor students interested in STEM careers.
A great resource Microsoft provides not just to its employees but to anyone interested is its inclusion journey library. This collection of knowledge offers expert-led courses in a range of specialized and general areas, such as inclusion and privilege, barriers to allyship, micro-messages and bias, generational inclusion, and ideal affect and the Asian community. Plus, many workers talk about their own experiences – providing further insight on inclusive behaviors that promote a better employee experience.
Other inclusive companies
Do not for a moment think only large, global companies should concern themselves with building an inclusive workplace culture. Organizations of any size reap benefits from developing an atmosphere in which their workers feel a sense of belonging. Better innovation, retention rates, decision-making, employee engagement, and worker well-being are goals to which every company should aspire.
Let’s close our look at inclusion in the workplace with a few of the inclusionary efforts other businesses are taking:
JB Motor Works
“At JB Motor Works, we don’t just pay lip service to inclusivity; we live and breathe it,” says owner John Lin. “For starters, we’ve established a diverse hiring policy. But it doesn’t end at the hiring stage. We continue our inclusivity by providing an equal platform for everyone to voice out their ideas, opinions, and suggestions – regardless of their roles in the firm.
“For example, we have monthly ‘Under the Hood’ meetings, where every team member, from the apprentice mechanic to the office assistant, is encouraged to share their views about the business. We’ve had rookie mechanics suggest changes to servicing methods that have drastically reduced our service time, showcasing that a good idea can come from anywhere.
“Why is inclusion important for us? Firstly, a diverse workforce brings in a variety of perspectives, which can be game-changing for problem solving and innovation. Secondly, when people feel included and heard, they have a sense of belonging. This not only enhances employee satisfaction, but it also translates into improved work quality and customer satisfaction.”
“Fostering an inclusive culture goes beyond ticking boxes; it’s about embodying values and a mission that resonates with diversity,” says Kimberley Tyler-Smith, executive at the career tech platform Resume Worded.
“To make it tangible, start with the recruitment process. It’s not just about finding diverse candidates but actively reshaping your approach. We scrutinize our job postings, infusing them with inclusive language, and ensuring they resonate with a broad spectrum of talents. We extend our reach to diverse platforms, ensuring our job openings are seen by a wide audience. We proactively seek out potential candidates from varied backgrounds, making them feel not just welcome but excited to be a part of our team. It’s not about being a diversity hire; it’s about joining a workplace that genuinely values and celebrates differences.
“And why does all of this matter? Because inclusion is not just a Buzzword – it is the backbone of innovation. A diverse team brings a multitude of perspectives, ideas, and approaches, fostering an environment where creativity thrives. Inclusion isn’t an accessory to a company’s success; it’s a cornerstone, driving growth, and ensuring a workplace that reflects the rich tapestry of the world we live in.”
“At our company, promoting an inclusive culture is integral to our ethos,” says Eric Sornoso, CEO of Mealfan. “We actively foster an environment where diversity isn’t just recognized but celebrated. Here are some concrete steps we take:
- Diversity in Hiring: We’ve instituted diverse hiring practices, using blind recruitment methods to reduce bias and ensure a diverse pool of candidates. Our hiring panels are various to encourage balanced decision-making.
- Inclusive Policies: We have policies ensuring equal opportunities, fair treatment, and anti-discrimination measures. These policies are regularly reviewed and updated to align with best practices.
- Training and Education: We conduct regular diversity and inclusion training sessions for all employees. These workshops focus on bias recognition, cultural sensitivity, and fostering an inclusive workplace.
- Employee Resource Groups (ERGs): We have established ERGs that provide safe spaces for employees to discuss issues, share experiences, and drive positive change. These groups represent various backgrounds and identities within the company.
- Leadership Commitment: Our leadership is committed to fostering inclusivity and lead by example. Executives actively participate in diversity initiatives, mentorship programs, and open forums.
- Feedback and Surveys: Regular employee surveys and feedback mechanisms allow us to gauge the effectiveness of our initiatives and make necessary improvements.”
“As a team building company, our mission is to help other companies be more inclusive and promote a sense of belonging among team members,” says Michael Alexis, CEO of teambuilding.com. “If our team was not inclusive to each other, we would not be able to meet this goal.
“As a fully remote workforce, we understand that the majority of employee interactions will occur in channels like Slack, email, and Zoom meetings. Thus, the majority of our inclusivity efforts are communication-based. For example, we encourage team members to put preferred pronouns in their Slack profiles and Zoom display names. We coach employees to be mindful about language in meetings and avoid gendered phrases like ‘Hey guys’ for alternates like ‘Hey friends.’ When celebrating the holidays, we don’t default to mainstream holidays. While it seems inconsequential, calling something a holiday party vs. a Christmas party can make a big difference in terms of employee sentiment and participation. Similarly, instead of defaulting to culture-specific traditions (example, singing carols or decorating trees) we would rather create new, fun, company-specific traditions like captioning memes or guessing coworkers’ celebrity doppelgangers.
“Most importantly, we model these behaviors as leaders. We make sure that when we’re addressing staff we avoid exclusionary language, and that we proactively champion our team members’ differences and unique identities so that the rest of our workforce does the same. In remote offices, what you say is how your coworkers see you and see the company. Vocabulary swaps or proactive messages are so simple, yet make a big difference.”
“In my opinion, one of the most effective yet often overlooked strategies for promoting an inclusive culture is to cultivate a sense of psychological safety,” says Kurt Roswell, founder of DateLoveWed. “This means creating an environment where employees feel safe to express their opinions, ask questions, and make mistakes without fear of judgment or reprisal. By fostering psychological safety, we empower our employees to bring their authentic selves to work, contribute their unique perspectives, and feel valued and respected. This, in turn, leads to a more engaged, innovative, and productive workforce. We believe that by fostering a truly inclusive environment, we can create a workplace where everyone feels welcome, valued, and empowered to thrive.”
“At VEM Tools, we’re all about fostering a vibe where everyone feels valued,” says human resources professional Melissa Terry. “One cool move is our buddy system. New people get a seasoned buddy to help them navigate and feel at home. Plus, we spice up meetings with a spotlight on different team members each time. It’s a chance for them to share their story and interests — builds a real sense of connection, you know? Also, we run workshops to check our biases at the door. Keeps things fair and square. Little things count, like flexible schedules for personal needs. It’s the daily stuff that adds up to a rock-solid inclusive culture!
“Inclusion is vital because it is the secret sauce for a thriving workplace. When everyone brings their A-game, diverse talents shine, and that’s where the magic happens. Inclusion sparks creativity, innovation, and killer problem-solving. Plus, let’s face it, work is way more enjoyable when everyone feels like they belong.”