Workplace diversity is the term used for the workplace composed of employees with varying characteristics. In other words, most people associate diversity in the workplace with cultural awareness and multiculturalism. However, diversity extends further than just this and applies to diverse aspects including race, gender, ethnicity, age, physical ability, culture, language, religion, sexual orientation, and educational background.
However, for a business to create a workplace culture where all differences are welcome is what truly makes your workplace diverse. Quick Reference to Guide to Australian Discrimination Laws
Goal of an Inclusive Workplace
In addition, workplace inclusion refers to a workplace where people with a variety of characteristics have an inclusion in the company culture.
An inclusive workplace welcomes and supports employees who vary in characteristics such as age, gender, ethnicity, language, physical ability, culture, religion, education, sexual orientation. At its core, a workplace which is inclusive means:
- Every team member feels like they can be themselves without fear of judgment or criticism
- Team members have equal access to career progression and professional development opportunities
- Employees feel as if they can share their opinions and ideas
- All team members have mutual respect, no matter their position in the company
- There is an acceptation of differences
- Team members and managers exercise flexibility towards each other, especially regarding work or leave arrangements.
There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ policy and each issue should be treated on an individual basis. Also you should consider the best interests of the employee and the company. Creating an inclusive workplace is about celebrating the individual and what value they bring to the business.
The benefits of a diverse workplace are endless. Some of the best things about inclusive workplace culture are:
- Team members have the opportunity to learn from each other
- Employees bring different experiences, interests, and views which can help others to look at issues from a different perspective
- Overall company culture and employee morale are higher, meaning that job retention increases and attracting high-quality job candidates and reduces the costs of re-hiring.
How You Contribute to a Diverse and Inclusive Workplace
Your contribution starts with you. You need to know yourself – Take the time to reflect on your awareness, attitude, and knowledge. Be honest with yourself – prejudices and biases are instilled in us based on our background and experiences. What’s important is acknowledgment, so they can be overcome.
To become culturally competent, it’s crucial that you first become aware of your own cultural baggage and unpack the “items” that are holding you back from the skills you need in a diverse workplace.
10 Practical Exercises to Encourage Inclusion
Start small with practical actions. You can talk about diversity and inclusion forever, but taking action is the only way to change anything.
- Take 10 minutes to bounce ideas off someone unexpected in your team. See what questions or insights you get in response.
- Assign tasks to pairs matching people who usually do not work together to build teamwork and build relationships.
- Have a conversation with a colleague you don’t normally talk to and engage them on a non-work related topic. This connection will often improve the ease of the working relationship and enhance overall communication.
- Celebrate holidays and events for underrepresented minorities like Harmony Day or Gay Pride Day. Why should Christmas and Easter get all the love?
- Hold an international foods potluck lunch as a way of highlighting different cultures present in your team and providing opportunities for organic discussion.
- Share discussion points and agenda items prior to team meetings. Some people like to talk through new information immediately, whereas others like to have time to process information. This can help encourage a contribution from the latter.
- Try the Round Robin technique in meetings, where you ask every person in the room for a contribution to the discussion at hand. People can either share an idea or pass.
- Point out interruptions. Studies show that women are more likely than men to experience interruption in meetings.
- Make an effort to put up signage or even company memories that promote the values you want your employees to feel or think. (More inclusion, less Star Wars posters.)
- Above all else, listen to your employees and invest in the things they care about.
Building Policies and Procedures
Having policies and procedures documented for Diversity and Cultural Awareness in the workplace is an important step reinforcing and clarifying the expectations each organisation has of its employees. An effective Diversity and Cultural Awareness Policy should include:
- Referenced legislation.
- The purpose of the policy and why Diversity and Cultural Awareness is important.
- Who the policy applies to.
- The objectives of the business in relation to diversity and cultural awareness.
- Policy Implementation.
- Your workplace culture.
With procedures in place, they will provide clear and precise actions for all employees and managers to ensure the policy is upheld and maintained, thus becoming an integral part of your company’s culture.
There has never been a more important time than now to celebrate diversity in your workplace. Therefore, to help get your organisation started, dita Solutions has made available to you a free and customisable Diversity and Cultural Awareness policy which can be downloaded below.
To see further how dita Solutions can help you improve your workplace culture by building effective policies and procedures, please contact us here.