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How inclusion can be more than a buzzword
These days, terms like ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ are often thrown around. As strong supporter of the ideology behind these terms, Hays wants to help improve diversity and inclusion in other companies. And that doesn’t have to be all that hard.
A reputation of inclusivity has become very important to companies because it ensures that they don’t offend any clients and that they get a constant influx of new talent. But putting their money where their mouth is, is equally important. Read here how you can improve inclusivity in your company, and how it can be more than just pretty words.
To improve inclusivity and to attract AND keep a diverse talent pool, there are three categories where change may be needed:
1. The policy
Company policy is a mostly invisible influence, but one who is not to be underestimated. The thing is, a correct company policy affects the thoughts, standards and values of the company and is therefore at the foundation of inclusivity at the workplace.
- The first step to build an inclusive policy and to stick to it, is a formal supportive policy and procedures regarding diversity. It’s important to provide a clear overview of standards and behavioural guidelines about what exactly is and isn’t acceptable and/or desirable. In other words, make sure to provide a clear code of conduct.
- Commitment from higher up in the company is vital. Employees follow your example as employer, so you have to actively show that you support inclusion and in which way you promote this.
- Avoid discrimination in your company’s language use. To improve inclusivity, an inclusive language use is a basic need. A company’s language must not be aimed at a norm or stereotype of the employee as a white, straight man between 30 and 35 in a relationship and with two children. Normativity and assumptions of evidence must be avoided and replaced with a conscious, well thought-out, sensitive and inclusive language use.
- Stop short term thoughts such as ‘money, money, money’ as soon and as effectively as possible. Take the time and make the effort to attract and keep the best people by creating a good, pleasant working atmosphere where they can be themselves. The money will follow. That way, you give your employees the feeling that they are accepted as staff member and as a person, which increases the productivity and the working atmosphere. Employees shouldn’t get the feeling that they only function as breeding hens for ‘money eggs’.
- When talking about the advantages of inclusivity, you shouldn’t limit yourself to discussing company performance. If you show that the moral reasoning behind inclusion is at least as important, employees get the feeling that you keep them as a person into account.
- Ensure that inclusion is aimed at all employees in the company and not at specific groups. The ultimate goal is that all employees can be themselves, feel like they’re a full-fledged part of the group, and aren’t seen as ‘different’.
2. The workplace
As employees spend most of their working days at the workplace, there should be sufficient visible reflections of the inclusiveness policy. In this way, employees see that you actively support and encourage inclusion.
- Provide visible symbols in the workplace that show your support for inclusion, such as:
- Staff badges, logos, pens, … with rainbow colours;
- Custom meals in the company restaurant for religious employees (halal for Muslim employees, kosher for Jewish employees, ...);
- A parking spot closer to the entrance for older employees;
- A gift for jubilees with 5, 10, 15, … years of service.
- Provide role models from different gender classes, ages, orientations, ... from all layers within the organization. This way, you show not only with words but with real people that all employees with the right skills have the same career opportunities, regardless of their background.
- It is important to provide social support by providing a confidant in whom employees find a listener and the necessary empathy where they need it. Problems such as disruptive behaviour should be mentioned among colleagues, and confrontations with, and possible sanctions of, employees who commit discriminatory behaviour are best carried out in consultation with an expert.
- Not just words, but actions: the workforce must be diverse, and that means a proper reflection of society.
- As a company, join in or pay attention to events such as Pride, and organise your own events for employees on a regular basis, for example a day activity where partners and children are also welcome. If you, as an employer, show genuine interest in the lives of your employees, they will feel appreciated.
3. Employer-employee interaction
Ultimately, direct interaction with your employees is still the best way to show that you support diversity and are committed to inclusion. After all, this is more personal and direct, and it gives your employees a glimpse into your thinking and vice versa.
- Involve employees in decision-making. This will enable you, as a manager, to better empathise with the needs, concerns and expectations of your employees.
- In each performance appraisal interview, ask about the employee's well-being and implement this as a recurring theme. If you ask your employees how they are doing, they may be more likely to make comments, ask questions or share concerns than if they had to do so on their own.
- Employees need to know how to react in case of discriminatory, derogatory or offensive remarks. So, provide a list of concrete tips for reaction or provide a course on assertiveness so that employees can more easily stand up for themselves and for their colleagues.
- Seize the opportunity in every internal communication to speak out clearly about diversity and inclusion. For example, customise your automatic signature to show how or why you are committed to promoting inclusion.
- The degree of hierarchy within an organisation influences the extent to which employees dare to be themselves, dare to stand up for their opinions or dare to address colleagues about discriminatory behaviour. A flat hierarchy also ensures that employees are more inclined to express their opinions and that they feel they can positively influence the work situation.
With the above tips you can ensure that inclusion is included as a daily agenda item and undiminished target. In this way, inclusion does not just remain a buzzword, but becomes the strongest link in your company.