Employee Engagement

5 best practices for creating a more inclusive workplace

We’re living in an unprecedented world. Not only are we in the middle of a global pandemic, but we’ve also been witnesses to a series of events that have exposed the deeply rooted racism of our society. While this has been the most challenging year of our lives, it has also created a unique opportunity for organizations to rise up, champion a more inclusive workspace, and demonstrate that they’re on the right side of history.

To further explore the topic of inclusion and how it impacts employee engagement, we co-hosted a webinar with our friends at ThinkHuman. We were fortunate to have an incredibly knowledgeable and compassionate group of panelists, which included: 

This conversation is full of energy, passion and love - if you need a pick me up or escape from our crazy world (as we’re publishing this on Election Day), check out the full recording and our key takeaways below. Trust me, it’s well worth the watch.

5 best practices for creating a more inclusive workplace.

Below, we share best practices - along with recommended tools and tactics - from our panelists on how to make your workplace more equitable and inclusive. 

1. View the process of building an inclusive workplace as a journey. 

Many HR leaders view diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts as a box to check. So they’ll hire a DEI specialist to host a workshop once a month and call it a day. Unfortunately, this is far from being enough. All the panelists agreed that the process of making a workplace more inclusive is a continuous journey - not a one-time task that can be crossed off a list. For teams that are just getting started on their journey, our panelists had a few recommendations on how to take a more impactful path: 

  • Conduct a stakeholder analysis. To understand where and how a lack of inclusion is affecting your company culture, you have to go straight to the stakeholders. In other words, engage your employees. Whether it’s through surveys or one-on-one conversations, gather data on exactly what your organization needs to do to change - instead of making assumptions. And don’t expect this transformation to happen overnight. You need to commit to at least six months to one year of ongoing efforts to even start moving the dial. 
  • Hire external experts. To help your company make a social transformation, Myisha recommends hiring an outside expert who holds a marginalized identity to support your efforts. Not only are external experts more objective, but someone with a marginalized identity also has the lived experience to be able to relate to your employees empathetically. As Myisha puts it: “You can’t be the problem and the solution.”

2. Hold up a mirror.  

It’s common for people to engage in microaggressions and hurtful statements or behaviors without even realizing the negative impact of their actions. To address these moments, it’s often necessary to hold a mirror up to that individual. This doesn’t mean shaming that person or “calling them out.” There are techniques you can use to factually reflect what someone says that allows them to step back, reassess, and hold themselves accountable. For example: 

  • Lead with an inquiry. It can feel awkward to mirror someone when they’re demonstrating a lack of inclusive behavior. In cases like these, it may be easier to lead with a question. Oscar recommends using a phrase like the following: “I heard you say XYZ. Is that what you meant?” This leaves the door open for a conversation and gives the other person the opportunity to reflect on what they intended to say. 

3. Apply equity to support inclusive conversations. 

BIPOC often don’t have access to the support, resources, or communities they need to feel safe in their place of work. For example, people may not have access to therapy or employee resources groups to help them work through their experiences. In cases like this, what can companies do to create space for people to still have those conversations?

  • Create a culture of allyship. Being an ally isn’t about being “perfect.” It’s about being committed to learning more about the experiences of marginalized individuals, being open to identifying your existing biases, and growing in your personal journey. There are also basic things you can do at an organizational level to celebrate employee wellbeing. For instance, Karen shared that OrderGroove is starting with the basics and training their managers to have better, more empathetic one-on-one conversations. This can serve as a critical foundation for more dialogue around allyship. 

4. Present the case for business and humanity.

All HR leaders know that DEI efforts can only go so far without leadership buy-in. But how exactly do you go about doing this? While there’s a ton of research to support the business case for DEI, the panelists agreed that the humanity case is even more critical. Nobody should have to make sacrifices around bringing their whole selves to work or feel like they have to trade their safety for a paycheck. 

  • Address both parts of the equation. Love also wants to remind HR leaders that you need both diversity and inclusion to see progress at your company - whether it’s from a business or a humanity perspective. Data shows that more diversity in a space can trigger conflict. But what creates innovation is adding inclusion to the equation. Since inclusion is correlated with psychological safety, that’s what helps you reap the benefits of bringing diverse bodies and minds together.
  • Have an exit strategy. Unfortunately, sometimes organizations or leaders are unwilling to change. In cases like this, the best option may be to start thinking about your exit strategy - for those who have the option to leave their jobs, which the panelists recognized that not everyone has the privilege of having. But if you can, use your exit strategy as an opportunity to revisit your values and think about what’s important for you to have in your next job and place of work that you didn’t have in your current one. 

5. Identify your role. 

As we mentioned before, people should view their efforts with DEI as a journey. In addition to this, it’s also important to also recognize where you are in your journey and identify what role you want to play. For instance, some people might want to make an impact through individual conversations and one-on-one interactions with others. Others may be better equipped to tackle the larger systemic issues that are negatively affecting marginalized populations. 

  • Be ok with your role. Regardless of which role you identify for yourself, Hakemia emphasizes the importance of being ok with it. You can’t do everything on your own, so it’s critical to figure out what your strengths are and where you want to spend your time and fully commit to that place. This ensures that you’re making an impactful contribution and also not burning yourself out in the process. 

There has never been a more critical time for HR teams to rethink the way they approach their DEI efforts. We encourage you to watch the entire recording of the webinar and start putting the recommendations from our panelists into practice today!

If you’re curious to learn how Blueboard can help you develop a more equitable employee recognition program (that offers choice and personalization to meet every unique employee’s needs) and hear how our top clients are rewarding intangibles and culture-driving behaviors with experiential rewards for employees, request a personalized demo online here.

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