Posted: Mon 23rd Oct 2023
Inclusivity goes beyond simply hiring a diverse workforce or implementing diverse marketing strategies. It requires a fundamental shift in mindset and a commitment to creating an environment where everyone feels valued and respected. Many businesses strive to be inclusive, but not all succeed in achieving this goal.
If you want your business to truly be inclusive, it's essential that you understand the key principles and take concrete steps to implement them. From promoting diversity in leadership positions to establishing inclusive policies and practices, there are various ways to create an inclusive business.
In this blog, we explore the idea of inclusivity and its benefits, as well as some actionable steps you can take to become truly inclusive and reap the benefits of a diverse and engaged workforce.
What does being inclusive mean?
Being inclusive means creating a culture that gives everyone, regardless of their background, a sense that they belong. It's about intentionally seeking out and valuing different perspectives, and making sure everyone has an equal share of voice.
In an inclusive working environment, individual employees feel respected, encouraged to debate and able to stress-test ideas, knowing that the organisation values their contributions.
Creating an inclusive culture starts with recognising and appreciating the diversity that each person brings. It means actively seeking out candidates from a variety of backgrounds and experiences to create a more diverse workforce. This diversity not only brings a range of different perspectives but also helps to enhance the business's overall creativity and innovation.
In an inclusive workplace, respect is fundamental. Not only does it mean treating each individual with dignity, but also actively challenging biases and stereotypes, promoting equality and fairness in all aspects of the business.
What are the benefits of being an inclusive business?
First, it boosts innovation by fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce. When people from different backgrounds come together, they bring unique perspectives and experiences.
As a result, they can more easily generate fresh ideas and solve problems creatively. This diversity of thought leads to new and innovative approaches that help drive the business forward.
Happier, more engaged workers
An inclusive business makes employees feel happier and more engaged. When your staff feel valued and included, they're more motivated, committed and productive.
Inclusive cultures provide a sense of belonging and help with employee retention and satisfaction. Employees who are happy and engaged contribute to a positive work environment and perform at their best.
Improves your brand image
Finally, embracing inclusivity creates a stronger brand image. In today's socially conscious world, customers and clients gravitate towards businesses that are known for their commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion.
By allowing for an inclusive work culture and promoting diverse representation, you can attract a wider customer base and gain a competitive edge.
These core business benefits ultimately lead to better overall performance and higher profits. Innovation drives business growth and allows you to adapt to changing needs in the market. Happier and more engaged employees are more productive and produce higher-quality work. And a strong brand image builds trust, loyalty and credibility among consumers.
What are some inclusive business practices?
Inclusive business practices are essential for creating a workplace where every employee feels valued and respected. These practices involve adopting a range of measures and strategies to make sure everyone has the same opportunities and representation.
One key practice is implementing equitable hiring processes. This means actively seeking out diverse candidates and using fair and objective criteria when choosing who to employ. As an inclusive company, you should focus on providing equal access to job opportunities and promoting diversity at all levels of the organisation.
Another important aspect of inclusive business practices is putting inclusion policies and structures in place. This involves creating and enforcing policies that prevent discrimination and promote equality across the entire business.
By establishing non-discrimination, equal pay and family-friendly policies, your business can foster an inclusive work environment.
Inclusive workplace culture
An inclusive company culture welcomes and embraces the unique perspectives, experiences and contributions of individuals regardless of their background or identity. This means actively seeking and valuing diversity in all aspects of the organisation, including race, gender, sexual orientation, age and abilities.
It also promotes open and respectful communication, and encourages employees to freely express their ideas, concerns and perspectives without fear of judgment or discrimination.
In an inclusive business culture, all employees will have the same opportunity to succeed and advance in their careers. This means eliminating any barriers or biases that may prevent certain people from accessing the same growth opportunities as others.
Community engagement initiatives also play a crucial role. Engaging with the local community not only promotes economic growth but also creates a more inclusive environment within your business.
Inclusive businesses understand that they have a responsibility to give back to society, the environment and the economy. They actively engage in corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, such as volunteer days and sustainability efforts. They also prioritise creating inclusive products and services that cater to the needs of a diverse customer base.
Inclusive businesses recognise that their success is intertwined with the success of communities they operate in, and they dedicate effort to creating that positive impact.
Inclusive businesses collaborate with diverse business partners and suppliers, creating a chain of companies that uphold the values of inclusivity. By actively looking to work with and support minority-owned businesses, you're helping to develop and empower underrepresented communities.
If you're an inclusive business, you'll also prioritise diversity in your marketing and advertising materials, making sure your campaigns represent your customers' diverse perspectives.
In this video, our expert panel discuss the importance of implementing diversity and inclusion strategies in your start-up or small business:
How to make your business more inclusive
Business owners play a vital role in making their businesses more inclusive. Here are some key actions you can take to help make inclusivity one of your company's core values:
Acknowledge bias and inequality
Recognise your own biases and understand the systemic barriers that underrepresented groups typically face. This awareness is the first step towards creating a more inclusive workplace. Later, you can provide training on unconscious bias, helping your employees to recognise and overcome any subconscious prejudices that may hinder your work to be more inclusive.
By investing time in learning about the issues and struggles underrepresented groups encounter, you can develop a deeper understanding of those challenges. This knowledge can help inform more inclusive decision-making and action.
Create inclusive marketing content
Make sure your marketing and communications reflect diversity and inclusivity. This involves using diverse imagery, representing a variety of people, and avoiding stereotypes. Inclusive marketing content helps to create a sense of belonging for all customers.
Prioritise inclusivity in leadership activities
You should actively demonstrate your own commitment to inclusivity through your actions and decisions. This can include:
seeking out diverse perspectives in team meetings
giving equal opportunities for growth and development
promoting inclusive leadership behaviour
Think about diversity when hiring
When recruiting new employees, make diversity and inclusion a top priority. This involves:
evaluating job adverts to make sure they're inclusive
using diverse methods of recruitment
implementing structured interview processes that limit bias
Jasmine Gaterell, co-founder of No Comment Required Clothing, explains why hiring – and then consulting – disabled people is so crucial:
"The first thing to acknowledge is that at least 15% of the population are disabled. And yet for a lot of businesses, inclusion is the last thing on their list of priorities. I know a lot of brands are almost scared to approach the subject because they'll have to admit that they haven't been accessible.
"So bring disabled people into the conversation. Hire them and then speak to them – don't just think you know best, or forget about it because it doesn't matter.
"Because actually the Purple Pound, which is the yearly average spending power of the disabled community, is billions of pounds a year. So from a selfish point of view, you could be missing out on an awful lot of revenue.
"And it's also just a human right for everyone to be included. So always start by hiring disabled people and asking them for help or for their opinion or for advice or guidance."
Prioritise diversity and inclusion training for all employees
This training helps increase awareness of biases, cultivate empathy, and provide practical strategies for creating an inclusive workplace.
What types of things prevent businesses from being inclusive?
Lack of awareness and understanding
Many business leaders may not fully grasp the importance of diversity and inclusion or the barriers that underrepresented groups face. This often means they fail to prioritise inclusivity in their business practices and decision-making.
Another major hurdle is unconscious bias, which can unintentionally influence hiring decisions, promotion opportunities, and the overall workplace culture. These biases often stem from ingrained stereotypes and prejudices and can hinder efforts to create an inclusive environment.
Sometimes, businesses may make efforts to include underrepresented individuals but merely as a symbolic gesture, without providing them with genuine opportunities for growth and advancement. This approach can leave people feeling isolated and frustrated, rather than truly included.
Resistance to change
Some employees may be hesitant or resistant to embracing diversity and inclusion initiatives, seeing them as a threat to the status quo or fearing that they will be overlooked in favour of underrepresented colleagues.
Watch this webinar to find out how you can advocate for inclusion in the workplace and your community:
How to know whether your business is inclusive
Building an inclusive organisation may be your ultimate goal, but what can you do to measure your current levels of inclusivity and understand what point you're starting from? Here are some key factors to consider:
Inclusive businesses start from the top. Assess whether you (and other business leaders, if you have them) actively champion and prioritise diversity and inclusion.
Do you set clear goals and expectations for building an inclusive culture? Are you willing to challenge the status quo and implement necessary changes? Leadership commitment is the foundation for creating a truly inclusive environment.
Diversity in the workplace
Look at the representation of different social identities within your organisation. Are people with diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, genders, sexual orientations and abilities well represented at all levels?
An inclusive business recognises the importance of such varied perspectives and actively seeks to create a workforce that reflects the broader community it serves.
Inclusive policies and practices
Review your company's internal policies and practices to make sure they promote equity and inclusion.
Are there clear non-discrimination policies in place?
Do you have inclusive hiring practices that attract diverse talent?
Do all employees have opportunities for professional development and advancing their careers?
Inclusive organisations have policies and practices that actively level the playing field for everyone.
Employee engagement and satisfaction
Assess how engaged and satisfied your workforce is. Are employees from different backgrounds equally engaged and feeling a sense of belonging?
Conducting surveys and seeking employee feedback will help you gauge the perceptions of inclusivity within your company. Remember that inclusivity goes beyond mere representation – it's about all employees feeling valued and included.
Inclusive culture and behaviour
Building a culture of inclusivity requires fostering an environment of mutual respect, empathy and open-mindedness.
Think about whether your business encourages open communication, embraces diverse perspectives, and actively addresses biases and stereotypes. Inclusive businesses promote cultural understanding and create opportunities for employees to learn from one another.
Accessibility and accommodations
If you have physical premises, consider how accessible it is for employees with disabilities. Are there physical accommodations in place? Is the technology and infrastructure inclusive for everyone? Inclusive businesses go the extra mile to make sure all employees can fully participate and thrive in the workplace.
Outside engagement and community impact
Examine your business's relationship with people on the outside and the wider community. Are you actively engaged in diversity initiatives and partnerships with underrepresented groups? Inclusive businesses understand the importance of being responsible community members and contributing to creating a more inclusive society.
How can a business be inclusive without it seeming performative?
As Joanna Hamer of Hatch Enterprise UK says:
"It comes back to your reason for running a business. What's most important is to know from the very start your purpose in doing it.
"What's the vision of what you want to see in the world, and what are your non-negotiable values? What are the things you must see in this business and what are the things that are flexible for you? What matters to your business? What are you going to speak up about?
"If inclusion and diversity are in those core values, people will see that reflected through everything you do. Things tend to look more performative if they're not part of your core values, and not something you've been doing since you started your business."
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