Improving inclusivity in the workplace is a lofty goal that can seem overwhelming, or even impossible, to achieve. How can we ensure all people not only have a seat at the table, but a voice as well? While widespread inclusivity takes time, and a constant commitment, it’s possible to start making a difference by incorporating small inclusivity-focused actions into the average workday. Here are 6 ideas to get started:
A great starting point for becoming more inclusive is to check in with others on an individual basis. Get to know them, try to understand their perspectives, and start learning about what they need to help feel more welcomed in the workplace. Keep in mind, all this takes time. To truly get to know someone, it is essential to build trust and take your time. Checking in should be a regular practice.
Greet People Properly
It doesn’t feel great to be called by the wrong name, have your name mispronounced, or be called by the wrong pronouns. When you’re getting to know someone, it’s a good idea to confirm their preferred name and how to pronounce it. Maybe Nancy prefers Nan, or Jayshaun would rather go by Jay.
Asking for someone’s pronouns is a little touchier (since not everyone feels comfortable sharing their preferred pronouns). Instead, do some sleuthing by taking a look at a person’s email signature or their LinkedIn profile. You might also introduce yourself by adding your pronouns (“Hi, I’m Deanna. I use she/her pronouns”) and see if the other person reciprocates.
Pay Attention to Who Is Speaking
An inclusive culture welcomes and amplifies all voices. Unfortunately, I have been in many situations where people are interrupted or silenced, or where certain voices dominate the conversation. I encourage you to pay attention to who typically speaks up….and who remains silent. If you notice someone being left on the sidelines, try inviting them into the conversation. And if someone is a chronic interrupter, it’s a good idea to either step in immediately or speak with them in private.
Recognize Special Days
For decades, Christian holidays have dominated workplace calendars. Lately, the pendulum has swung the other way, in favorite of “holiday celebrations” instead of anything specific. Instead, consider adding holidays to your office calendar that reflect an array of religions and cultures. This will help people learn about different practices and customs, while being respectful of the mosaic of people who make up your workplace.
You may also want to recognize time periods that honor certain groups of people, such as Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, or Pride Month. However, make sure you’re not reducing an identity or background to “just a month” or a day. True inclusion welcomes and recognizes all identities all year along. (For more, read our article on the topic: Going Beyond Cultural Celebration Months.)
Use Inclusive Language
Is the language used in job listings, trainings, and team meetings inclusive? Sometimes, we inadvertently address certain groups of people through the language we use. In job listings, for instance, language can sound more masculine (dominant, competitive, strong), making the listing more likely to appeal to male-identifying candidates.
It is also important to be mindful of potentially racist or sexist phrases that are often part of our workplace vocabulary. See our recent blog post on the topic.
Gather Quick Feedback
One way to find out how included your people are feeling on a typical day is to send out an employee pulse survey—a quick survey that asks a few simple questions. To focus on inclusion, your survey can center on experiences your people have recently had with inclusion (or exclusion), and one or two ideas to make improvements. Make sure the survey can be filled out within five minutes, and consider making the survey anonymous.
Cultivating an inclusive workplace is an ongoing process that takes strategy and dedication. However, you don’t have to over-plan or set overly high expectations on a daily basis. In between your major, workplace-overhaul projects, it’s a good idea to tackle a few small changes. Even the smallest gestures have a way of adding up.
You won’t know what’s working, and what isn’t, until you take the time to measure your work. Evaluate all aspects of your DEI initiatives, making sure to take into account employee feedback. Hopefully you’ll find that you’ve made progress in certain areas—findings that can lead to the prolonged (and, hopefully, better funded!) success of your company’s DEI-focused work.