Top Tips for Building an Inclusive Workplace
Employees have different expectations for their working life and conditions than they did just two years ago. They are asking if their employers will treat them fairly, whatever their situation or demographic may be. In order to answer these questions and step closer to building an inclusive workplace, it may be time to think about biases, more specifically, internal, unconscious biases.
Bias is a preconceived opinion to decide a cause or issue in a particular way. Bias flows from stereotypes based on that person’s interactions with others in the regular course of society.
Most people are familiar with explicit biases or biases that are outwardly expressed. Legislation has been put into place that requires equality of opportunity for minority groups and to prevent hiring decisions made due to explicit biases.
What we’re referring to is unconscious bias, also known as implicit bias. It’s important to understand the evolution of unconscious bias, so as to be able to address unintended bias in the workplace.
Unconscious biases are harder to pinpoint. Unconscious biases refer to attitudes and beliefs that occur outside of conscious awareness and control. Bias flows from stereotypes and stereotype thinking begins as early as 3 years old. Family, friends, community, and even media consumption, all contribute to stereotype thinking. By the time a person is an adult, their internal biases have been absorbed into their subconscious thinking process and humans rely on their past experiences to frame their understanding of the world around them.
Basically, what you are told by your society is often reflected in the workplace. For example, if you live in a culture where women are homemakers, women will have a tough time getting past the application process, especially for jobs considered typically masculine.
For those in the US, gender discrimination is explicit, but for those in Afghanistan, it is probably an implicit bias. People in Afghanistan have likely never seen a woman working on a factory floor and therefore believe women aren’t working in those types of jobs, because they can’t.
With this understanding of how unconscious bias evolves, we can focus on approaching diversity and inclusivity in a way that does not face resistance from nonminority groups nor minority groups.
The all-inclusive multiculturalism system does just that. It emphasizes that diversity includes all employees, minority and nonminority alike. The AIM approach fosters the maintenance of subgroup identities within the context of an overarching identity to celebrate differences in a unified manner.
This approach, through its facilitation of learning, promotes the formation of authentic relationships among diverse individuals and eschews the prejudice and stereotyping typically associated with diversity. For example, word choices in an organization’s diversity materials should communicate the inclusion of all employees. The word diverse doesn’t just apply to ethnic minorities but also includes non-minorities in the concept of diversity. This makes it clear that all groups will enjoy the same recognition and respect.
Similarly, policies and initiatives can be framed as benefiting everyone as opposed to just one group. When a practice does not directly benefit everyone, employees can be reminded that such practices promote professionalism and cooperation and are a part of a greater effort to create a stronger workplace environment for everyone. An example of contributing to a greater effort would be paying for employees’ childcare when some employees are child-free.
AIM fosters minority and nonminority leadership and involvement in diversity initiatives. Diversity task forces, resource groups, and councils should comprise of minorities and non-minorities to reflect the inclusion they claim to promote.
Mentoring and social networking can benefit by including cross-race groupings. By-products of such efforts include career development benefits for proteges and increased intercultural competence. AIM designs benefits that don’t just ‘say’ they benefit all employees but actually do benefit all employees.
A truly inclusive workplace moves beyond surface-level tactics of inclusivity that don’t really do anything to address unconscious internal biases.
When building an inclusive workplace it’s important to focus on forming quality relationships among employees that are different from one another. These relationships encourage ongoing learning, are long-lasting, and create the opportunity for individuals to engage, challenge, and support each other with clarity and confidence.
Employees are able to thrive and reach their fullest potential because there is a climate that encourages open communication and learning which allows individuals to move past social stereotypes and build mutually supportive and resilient relationships.
Change is hard, even if it’s positive. If you’re ready to open up your business and build an inclusive workplace that allows employees to innovate and create, let’s get in touch. StepUp Recruiting has a diverse network of contacts and the passion to promote inclusive employment that will help give your company a competitive edge.