Company culture is one of those intangible things that’s difficult to describe. It’s like the terms “agile” or “impact.” What do these terms actually mean? And is their meaning the same to everyone?
When businesses talk about “company culture,” they are generally referring to the overarching company atmosphere and shared values, as well as the typical attitudes and behaviors of the company’s employees. Company culture could be reflected in the organization’s mission or value statement, or it might be mainly comprised of “unwritten rules” that its people tend to follow.
One definition of company culture is a shared set of workplace beliefs, values, attitudes, standards, purposes, and behaviors. This definition implies that everyone is on the same page—that all team members live by a similar set of values and standards. However, that isn’t always the case and, far too often, people tend to feel left out of the pervasive company culture because they do not neatly fit the norms.
For example, some companies normalize certain activities, such as playing golf together or attending after-work happy hours. However, these activities might inadvertently exclude certain people, such as those with physical disabilities or those who refrain from drinking alcohol.
Additionally, some employees might feel like they don’t fit in with the company’s norms simply due to their identity. The organization may not be as accommodating or welcoming for certain groups—BIPOC individuals, those who do not practice Christianity, LGBTQ+ individuals, disabled employees, etc. Even if this exclusion is unintentional, it’s the responsibility of the company’s leadership to pay attention, check in with their people, and advocate for change, if necessary.
Here are 5 ways to begin building an inclusive company culture:
Foster Open Communication
It’s essential to encourage open dialogue and communication within the organization. Create safe spaces for employees to share their experiences, concerns, and ideas. Actively listen to feedback, take any suggestions or criticisms seriously, and take action to address barriers to inclusion.
Use Inclusive Language
Using inclusive language is crucial for building a welcoming company culture. Be mindful of the words and phrases you use in all company communications, such as emails, meetings, and presentations. Avoid using gendered language or terms that may exclude certain groups of people. Instead, opt for inclusive and neutral language that embraces diversity. This not only helps create an environment where everyone feels valued and respected but also sets the tone for positive interactions.
Hold Inclusive Activities and Parties
Strive to create activities that cater to a diverse range of interests and abilities. This could include team-building exercises that promote collaboration and inclusivity, or parties that celebrate different cultural traditions and holidays. Be sure to also take into account dietary restrictions (some people may have allergies or intolerances, while others may be following cultural traditions). Putting a little extra thought and care into planning these events can make a big difference in ensuring everyone feels included and valued.
Provide Diversity and Inclusion Training
Invest in diversity and inclusion training for all employees. This type of training can help raise awareness about unconscious biases, teach inclusive behaviors and language, and foster empathy and understanding among team members. By providing education and resources, you can empower your employees to actively contribute to a more inclusive company culture.
Provide Spaces That Are Comfortable and Safe
Create physical spaces within the company that are accessible and accommodating to all employees. This includes providing wheelchair ramps, ergonomic workstations, and gender-neutral restrooms. Another way to create a safe space is to promote Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), which allow employees to connect with others who share similar backgrounds or experiences. ERGs can provide a sense of belonging and support for individuals who may feel marginalized or underrepresented.
Creating an inclusive company culture requires ongoing effort and commitment from all levels of the organization. It’s important for leaders to model inclusive behaviors and actively promote diversity and belonging. By taking just a few meaningful steps, companies can make significant progress towards building an inclusive culture where all employees feel valued and respected.