8 Steps towards an inclusive workplace

Marianne Slotboom
Dec 16, 2021

The Beginning

We understand that an inclusive work environment increases engagement, values different perspectives and sparks innovation. Diverse, talented people love to work in an organization where they can exchange their ideas freely, receive support on their ideas, get inspired, can continue to grow and realize their fullest potential. An inclusive environment drives the success of your organization.

The Problem

The race for diverse talent started sometime ago and Diversity and Inclusion programs are being developed everywhere in tech companies. If you want to stay at the forefront of your business sector, you need diverse talented people and an inclusive culture that helps you to access the different perspectives of that talent.

If your organization hasn't assessed, developed and rolled out an inclusion program, you're already behind the curve.

8 Steps towards an inclusive workplace


1. INSPIRE the C-level

For a successful program, the top level has to be convinced that the effort of building an inclusive culture is key for their business. Managers are the drivers of change.

An important reason why some companies still have not addressed the topic explicitly is that at the C-level, there is little awareness that an inclusion issue has to be addressed. If one does not see the problem, there is no need to take measures to resolve it.

To involve the C-level, it is important to articulate the issue through an analysis of the actual situation. Assess the company culture, register cases of exclusion, and define their impact. Present the results and get buy-in from the C-level.

Define a clear strategic goal with key performance indicators (KPI) to measure progress and results and develop a step-by-step strategy towards an inclusive workplace.


2. FORMALIZE your company policy

Make sure you have your company policy in place. Define what is meant with inclusion and which behaviors are expected from your team. Integrate inclusivity in the corporate core values and communicate these values clearly.

Develop good practice guidelines for addressing exclusive behaviors such as harassment or discrimination. Facilitate communication channels for people to use in the case of a violation of the core values.


3. MOBILIZE all employees

Present the results of the diagnosis to all employees. Make people aware of the fact that not everyone in the organization feels included, even if they do not experience it individually. Get buy-in for the program.

Generally, no one is against an inclusive culture, but the main problem here again is that there is a lot of unconscious bias and people are not always aware that exclusivity is occurring around them.Appeal to the need of creating a work environment where everyone feels safe and valued.

Present your strategy with a strong vision, a clear message for change, and the first concrete steps you will take.  Vision x Emergency  x First steps > Resistance is the formula for people to start moving.


4. BUILD awareness & knowledge

Create awareness and help people become more knowledgeable of what inclusive behavior is. You can organize special information sessions, round table debates, invite experts, organize a D&I month or initiate debates with examples. It’s important to talk about the exclusive behaviors that take place and help team members recognize their own personal biases.

Remind them of the corporate values, guidelines, procedures and channels that the company has put in place.

Provide guidelines about what they can do to contribute to this inclusive culture.


5. IMPLEMENT inclusive leadership

Although inclusion is every one’s responsibility, leaders are the ambassadors of the company culture and important role models. Inclusive leaders are capable of creating a safe team environment where all employees can speak up and will be heard.

Inclusive leaders embrace the input of all employees, even those with backgrounds or expertise that differ from their own.They must facilitate constructive collaboration, empower people, manage friction in the team and make diversity an advantage. Exclusive behaviors are recognized and called out constructively, which means without judging and with understanding.

Special leadership training and coaching programs might be organized to make inclusive leadership a daily practice.


6. DEVELOP inclusive skills

Empower employees with behavioral skills that will help them to contribute to build this inclusive culture.

Before employees can adopt inclusive behaviors, it is important that they are aware of their personal biases as it comes to, gender diversity, cultural diversity, cognitive diversity, age diversity. Once these biases have been recognized, people can start working on applying more inclusive behaviors.  

Training is key to create comprehension, respect and the skills to do the right thing. Moreover, the creation of an open atmosphere encourages everyone to address exclusive behaviors in a constructive way.


7. EMBED in company practices

To reinforce inclusive behavior, it is important to embed the vision and strategy in day to day activities. Make sure there is explicit attention given to it on a regular basis, for example in teammeetings, one-on-one's, in performance interviews, in reward structures, kudo policies.

Make the awareness training part of the onboarding process. Assign or elect (by voting) ambassadors in the organization who will organize activities. If needed, sponsor specific groups. 

Hold leaders accountable for the progress.  


8. CELEBRATE your success

Monitor the progress, review and analyze the results. Were the goals achieved? Were the KPI’s met?  

If this is the case, celebrate the good news. Nothing is as motivating as the knowledge and celebration that the effort of becoming a more inclusive workplace is giving good results.

Communicate the results outside the company in order to attract more talented people.

Based on the results, you can define new goals for the coming period and mobilize the C-level again to drive the new actions.


Marianne Slotboom
The author
Marianne Slotboom

Marianne is a strategic partner and practical developer of human behavior that helps leaders, teams and organizations become more focused and effective, elevating their value to customers. In 2015, Marianne founded Yellow Training to answer the call for more inspirational and creative leadership in the modern workplace.

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