Tips to Make Your Business More Diverse and Inclusive
As a woman in business, you likely understand how diversity and inclusivity can strengthen and protect your brand. Including team members with a variety of experiences leads to shaping products, services, and customer journeys in a way that reaches more people and provides more genuine experiences. You’ll find more authentic success by hiring the right people to inform your entire structure, design, and process.
Harnessing inclusivity in the workplace is about more than simply hiring diverse people. Here’s how to create an inclusive, cooperative workforce, provide for your team’s needs, and benefit from their skills and input.
Understand the Differences Between Diversity, Inclusivity, and Invitation
Diversity is all about hiring and highlighting employees of various genders, sexualities, religions, and races. They may come from a variety of economic backgrounds and educational levels as well. A diverse team isn’t hard to put together if you’re mindful of it, but diversity alone is not enough to elevate your business to its full potential.
Inclusivity involves an integrated process in which all team members are actively participating in the day-to-day operations of your business. If all of the people of color at your business work in your warehouse or all of the women are confined to administrative roles, you’re not only missing out on skills and opportunities, but you’re not providing a chance for individuals in your workforce to empower themselves. There has to be an opportunity, and it’s got to be a collaborative effort.
Invitation is about a specific request to take a seat at the table. It involves a direct question — for example: “Would you like to join the team for new product development as a project manager in your area of expertise?” This earnest invitation is about integrating a specific perspective, skill set, and background, including life experiences that may differ from yours. This is far better than simply sticking someone on a team for the sake of diversity (which is insulting and transparent).
Being open to feedback from members of your workforce is essential. The only way you’ll know there’s a problem is if you’re receptive. Make sure you address accessibility concerns. Does your shift schedule conflict with public transportation? Are your workspaces accessible to those with varying levels of mobility? You might not think of this until it’s brought to your attention.
Start With Your Mission Statement
What are the values of your business and brand? Does your mission statement include a desire for inclusivity, welcoming diverse voices? If not, marginalized jobseekers and customers may not recognize inclusivity efforts, consider you for employment, or buy whatever it is you’re selling. You’ve got to bake it into your company’s culture from the ground up.
Make sure you incorporate those values into your public-facing website, specifically on your “about us” and “careers” pages. Your inclusivity is an investment and a commitment to be proud of; don’t hide it on a buried page. This is part of walking the walk.
Understand also that your mission statement can, should, and will change due to diverse team input. Make it clear that this is just a starting point and that the mission and vision belongs to everyone. Only through this collaborative mentality can you embrace inclusivity.
Educate Your Workforce
Emotional labor shouldn’t be the burden of your marginalized employees. If a black woman is responsible for educating other employees on why it’s wrong to touch her hair without permission, you’re not fostering an inclusive workplace.
It’s your responsibility to provide your workforce with the sensitivity training required to create and maintain a welcoming workplace for everyone. If marginalized employees wish to take on such an initiative themselves, empower them — but don’t expect it, and always ensure their time and efforts are recognized and compensated fairly.
You should also direct marginalized employees to helpful resources, should they express or demonstrate a need for them. For example, if an employee with a disability is unable to access reliable transportation, direct them to the National Organization for Vehicle Accessibility. This organization provides grants to individuals with disabilities who are in need of financial assistance to get accessible transportation.
Cultural misunderstandings in multinational or multicultural offices are bound to happen. It’s your responsibility to stay aware of issues affecting your workforce and their communities. In some smaller American towns, immigrant populations experienced a 130% increase since 1990, and local corporations had to embrace the change or get left in the dust.
If your marketing messages fail and you receive negative feedback because you’ve done something that offends others, respond appropriately. Avoid, especially on social media, saying things like “I’m sorry you were offended.”
Instead, tackle reputation management head on, answer questions thoughtfully, promptly, and honestly. Do not respond aggressively to negative feedback, but don’t ignore it, either.
Many organizations work hard to specifically connect underrepresented, qualified candidates with jobs. Consider contacting one of them to help you in your recruitment process. Moving forward with respect, empathy, understanding, and a commitment to investing in your workforce creates a collaborative, productive environment. Are you ready to commit to this type of environment?
This guest post was authored by Brooke Faulkner
Brooke Faulkner is a writer, mom and adventurer in the Pacific Northwest. She spends her days pondering what makes a good leader. And then dreaming up ways to teach these virtues to her sons, without getting groans and eye rolls in response.
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