July 24, 2020

Inclusion in the Workplace: 10 Simple Rules Straight from the Pros

inclusion in the workplace

It’s 2020 and the battle for equality is far from over. 

From the #BlackLivesMatter protests to the gender pay gap debate, the fight for inclusion is officially on—and it’s time for employers to take a leading role.

Because although 87% of global businesses agree diversity and inclusion (D&I) is an organizational priority, the facts show a different picture: 

In other words: it’s time for change.

Behavioral scientists already know it’s easier to make changes when your world’s shifting. And if current global events don’t count as the world shifting—we don’t know what does.

That’s why 2020 is the perfect opportunity to start building a more inclusive workplace. 

But it’s not always easy

So, we asked 10 HR and D&I experts to share their thoughts on how to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace to help guide you on your journey—and the results were extremely awesome. Check it out!

Inclusion in the workplace rule #1: Do. the. work.

If you’ve been in the HR world for long, you know Torin Ellis.

The HR guru founded his own D&I focused HR boutique, appeared on the TV show ‘Top Recruiter: Reign of the Bosses’, and co-hosts a straight-talking D&I podcast with Julie Sowash, ‘Crazy and the King’.

In other words: Torin is the guy to follow.

As someone who’s been in the game for 15+ years, he knows exactly what holds companies back from being 100% inclusive—and more often than not, it’s the companies themselves.

“Stop hiding behind the excuses of ‘culture fit’, ‘no available talent’, ‘diversity lowers the bar’, or ‘unconscious bias training’. Organizations have for far too long used those excuses as a masquerade for their lack of desire to truly pursue inclusion,” says Torin. 

His advice to leap ahead of these tired excuses is simple: do the work.

“Use strategy and tactic to expand the recruiting footprint beyond boolean strings. Connect with academic institutions that have been ignored, talk with Non-Profit Directors of symbiotic community groups, and do a far better job of creating relationships with underrepresented groups. In short—do the work.”

What does an inclusive workplace look like to you?

“One that provides employees with the resources and support they need to show up completely, contribute creatively, and are values in the process. It’s an environment that is free of microaggressions or one that addresses them when they occur. It’s the sort of company that sees this time that we are in as a critical turning point for them to reflect and renew their commitment to being better rather than performative and transactional. It’s one that reaches out to me because they know that better is achievable and they want the assistance and input of an outside resource to aid in the journey.”

Inclusion in the workplace rule #2: Plan diversity into your processes

Known as the ‘Michael Jordan of Hiring’, Dr. John Sullivan is a strategic talent management MVP. 

The internationally known HR thought leader has shared his knowledge in 10 books, 12+ white papers and 12K articles, and some 300+ corporate events. Needless to say, he’s experienced.

When it comes to building an inclusive workplace, Dr. Sullivan has the process down:

  1. “Start by building the business case and you reward executives, recruiters, and managers heavily for reaching diversity goals. 
  2. For recruiting, put together a data-driven marketing-focused process that determines the attraction factors for each major diversity segment. 
  3. Emphasize employee referrals and give an added bonus for diversity hiring. 
  4. Next, primarily source diverse candidates that are already excelling at your competitors. 
  5. And finally, add a diversity retention program that targets top diverse talent before they begin thinking about leaving.”

And don’t forget to check out Breezy’s top 20 diversity job boards to pinpoint the best places to advertise your open roles and attract diverse talent. 

What does an inclusive workplace look like?

“It includes diverse thinkers. Those that view problems and opportunities differently due to birth or experience. An inclusive workforce matches your target customer base so that your products/services and ways of doing business reflect the broad range of perspectives that are held by your diverse target customer base. Diverse approaches and ideas are encouraged and celebrated because they help us expand the number of available options covering the ways that we can act.”

Inclusion in the workplace rule #3: Go beyond mandatory trainings to make inclusion an everyday occurrence

Ethan Salathiel knows his stuff when it comes to building inclusion into the everyday.

As a transman who transitioned gender during a senior role at HSBC, Ethan uses his own experience to drive his work and inform others about inclusion in the workplace. 

“I was the first transman to use the HSBC group policy. The conversations I had with senior leaders at the time helped educate and inform a wide audience, based on what I was going to embark on,” he says. 

“I was always open about my experience despite the difficulties that created for me personally. However, it was important to help the culture evolve in this way and shape the policy. I think everyone who cares about inclusion has an element of personal accountability in the cause.”

Ethan went on to co-found behavioral change org, Bound Coaching & Behavioural Change—a training approach he believes is the key to an inclusive workplace.

“My top tip for inclusion in the workplace is to build on great trainings such as ‘unconscious bias’ and ‘active bystander’ awareness—by role playing in as many conversations as possible and refreshing it in team meetings on a regular basis. It’s so easy to complete mandatory trainings and not think about it again but inclusion is cultural and requires active participation and open dialogue built over time. For example, a 10-min dedicated slot at the end of every weekly/monthly team meeting for an inclusion pulse, to check the cultural state of play and run some useful activities to keep engagement up. The everyday conversations should evolve, and leaders set the tone from the top.”

What does an inclusive workplace look like to you?

“For me, an inclusive workplace is when silos break down and less importance or reliance is placed on things like employee networks, because common ground is found in everyone—the human connection in us all. It’s a time when openness prevails, and people are empowered to be their authentic (and unique!) selves all the time. Colleagues will understand and support each other and not judge just because there is difference between people. Difference will be truly valued and celebrated in almost every conversation. The power of this working environment is immense—imagine all the creative thinking and innovation which will take place when boundaries are broken down—literally barriers in thinking. The freedom will drive an impactful, positive culture and have the same effect on company performance. Win win!”

Inclusion in the workplace rule #4: Create a safe space

Andy Crebar’s aim is to build a company that changes the way People Operations elevate their employee experience. That means giving people the right tools and support to have the best opportunity to reach their full potential—no matter their background.

That’s why for Andy, diversity and inclusion is at the top of the list

“Do the research and start the dialogue. Tackling issues of inclusion often means having courageous and potentially uncomfortable conversations,” says Andy. 

“It is critical to create a safe space (an Inclusion Council, a non-recorded open-mic storytelling session, etc.) to encourage dialogue, offer supportive resources, and work through the discomfort towards long term unity.”

What does an inclusive workplace look like to you?

“An inclusive workplace is an environment that champions intersectionality and allows employees to bring their full identities to work. We are so much more than just our job title—an inclusive workplace celebrates each team member's entire self, including (and most critically) our differences.”

Inclusion in the workplace rule #5: Encourage diverse participation

We’ve all heard of ‘inviting everyone to a seat at the table’.

But for Kim Yake, VP of HR at Dodge Data & Analytics, true inclusion is about more than just getting diversity into the room—it’s about creating a welcome space for participation.

“Inclusion in the workplace enables everyone to fully immerse themselves into the fabric of Dodge—which boosts engagement and therefore success. Inclusion means everyone is invited to participate.”

But that’s not all. Kim is all about reaching out to source top diverse talent, rather than waiting for candidates to find them. 

“Technology enables us to strengthen our outreach to a wide cross section of websites and job boards to attract a diverse audience.”

What does an inclusive workplace look like to you?

“We see an inclusive workplace as one that embraces everyone, where we are all respected and appreciated as valued members of Dodge! In return, we recognize increased achievement both personally and for the business. By actively demonstrating this principle, we can’t help but hire a diverse and unique team of individuals that support Dodge’s foundation and pillars of inclusivity.”

Inclusion in the workplace rule #6: Cede power for an inclusive workplace

Zachary Nunn is a driving force when it comes to promoting inclusion in the workplace.

From his work that drives diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives at PwC, to creating and leading his own media platform to amplify and center the voices of Black and brown professionals at work called Living Corporate, Zachary’s mantra is to take action for change.

But his key to an inclusive workplace is simple: it comes down to a willingness to cede power.

“Inclusion means ceding power to marginalized employees and allowing them true authority to lead and make decisions. If you aren't ceding power, you are not being inclusive. And I realize this is an intimidating proposition for folks who are used to being in control, but you’re not going to move the needle in any measurable way without doing it,” he says.

What does an inclusive workplace look like to you? 

“An inclusive workplace is a space where marginalized voices are empowered to make actual decisions that impact the organization that they are a part of.”

Inclusion in the workplace rule #7: Keep asking questions

Gianluca Binelli walked away from a cozy job at Google three years ago to set up his own company, armed with a Google-style approach to hiring and leadership. 

“I try to steal with pride,” he laughs. “I went on the way Google manages people, especially when it comes to talent, and we simply replicated what we saw and twisted it a little bit.”

His top tip for inclusion is simple: Keep asking questions.
“Keep an open mind and keep learning by asking feedback. Asking anonymous feedback empowers people to share more on what they would like to see changing in the workplace, says Gianluca, “I feel that we still have so much to learn. Keeping our workplace inclusive isn’t just a checklist enforced via committee, it’s a continuous journey to learn and improve.”

What does an inclusive workplace look like to you?

“Over 40% of Booster Box’s team comes from all over the world so it’s very important that we have an inclusive culture. It’s crucial everyone has the opportunity to have their voice heard and feels comfortable being themselves at work,” says Gianluca. 

“An inclusive workplace is where everyone has a safe space to share their thoughts and opinions without repercussions. We offer management training to emphasize the importance of making sure everyone on the team feels like they can voice their opinion. We also often make impromptu calls or chats on Slack or video to catch up. We know people’s days don’t end when they log off or leave the office, so it’s important to support people in adjusting to a different culture.”

“In the end, an inclusive workplace to me looks like an extended group of friends or family working together. We do have our differences, and we do have tough moments, but we can also be found enjoying a pizza and a Spritz together outside work.”

Inclusion in the workplace rule #8: Ask yourself why you care

With a straight-talking approach to D&I issues, over 15 years’ HR experience and several HR awards under her belt, there’s a reason people listen to Katie Augsburger. 

For Katie, inclusion in the workplace comes down to two things: Why you care and what kind of energy you bring to your D&I plans. 

“[First off,] you need to be very clear about the why and the what. Why are you doing this? Why do you care about diversity, equity and inclusion? Organizations sometimes just say ‘we care!’ but what are you trying to achieve by saying that?... So [be] very intentional about this journey. This journey may open up information about your organization, so… be really clear about what you’re willing to do and not to do,” said Katie in an interview with the 2050 Trailblazers podcast

“And the second thing is the difference between reactionary work and aspirational or broad-thinking work. A lot of time organizations will focus on [D&I] because of a moment within their organization in which this was highlighted. So, somebody notified the company of harassment or somebody said something inappropriate in a meeting… and these reactionary moments sometimes give us a very different result than an organization who is doing it because of an intentional focus… so be mindful of which place you’re coming from and what kind of energy you’re bringing into the practice.”

What does an inclusive workplace look like to you? 

“For me it looks like creating spaces where employees win. Where they feel heard, excited and cared for. Feeling like they can take up space, ask questions and take risks.

Inclusion in the workplace rule #9: Hear every voice

Rachel Hammerton is an advocate for getting people’s voices heard

That’s why for her, inclusion is all about knowing your workforce and starting the conversation—whatever their role.

“Our top tip to boost inclusion in the workplace is making sure that everyone has a voice. We work with a variety of positions, from frontline in-home support workers… to people focused on big-picture ideas. We boost inclusion by making sure everyone knows they have a voice, regardless of their role, and that their voice matters. We strive for a tone of equality within our workplace culture, knowing that the voice of a frontline care provider is just as important as that of our CEO.”

What does an inclusive workplace look like to you?

“An inclusive workplace looks like everyone within the organization recognizing and advocating for a culture of equality throughout the organization as a whole. Again, recognizing that everyone's voice, opinion, mental health, personal well-being, and jobs are just as important as everyone else in our company and we are here to support one another. It also means that when opinions are brought up they will always be heard. We strive for a departmental structure, rather than a hierarchy, where everyone is the expert of their domain and we trust one another with that expertise, while also having leaders to support and guide us, making sure that we are aligned with our organization's core beliefs and values. “

Inclusion in the workplace rule #10:  Combine empathy with accountability

Hallam Sargeant is an HR pro with 20+ years of progressive D&I leadership under his belt. 

“My top tip to boost inclusion in the workplace is building empathy through understanding and appreciating the experiences of others. This makes for a more inclusive workplace and by extension a more inclusive community where your employees live, work and play,” says Hallam. 

For Hallam, building empathy means investing time and starting conversations with your employees. 

“Take the time to seek out and understand the varied perspectives of your employees. Encourage dialogue outside of individual echo chambers and bring everyone into the conversations. Exercise empathy—you may not know exactly what your colleagues are going through, but you may be able to identify with the emotions they are feeling. Let that be a starting point for your journey of empathy and dialogue with your fellow human beings regardless of background, differences or similarities.”

What does an inclusive workplace look like to you? 

“An inclusive workplace means that all employees can bring their full non-assimilated self to work. Most companies try to fix the underrepresented group versus ensuring there is joint accountability through company leaders, people managers and institutional systems to reduce or eliminate headwinds for these employee groups.”