It is important to practice inclusivity in all walks of life. If we do not, it will lead to some people, including those with physical or mental disabilities, being excluded or marginalized. What’s worse, it paves the way for systematic discrimination, which has no place in today’s modern, socially conscious society.
Whether it’s by choice or necessity, most Americans commute or connect to a workplace in order to earn an income. However, if there is division and discrimination within the workplace, the employment experience can be a very unpleasant one. That is totally unacceptable and in this article, we will lay out how your business or organization can create an inclusive workplace that’s apparent to your employees and consumers.
1. Updating Company Values From Management Down
Ensuring that the management team is 100% onboard with promoting inclusivity in the workplace is essential. Getting everyone working towards the same goal is key. It is the only way to avoid discord and prevent internal conflict. But the management team will need a safe place to ask questions they may have before embarking on a total inclusivity initiative. Connecting with an ADA specialist, like the coordinators at ICS, ensures your management staff are being thoughtfully led in creating a more inclusive workplace.
It is only when all of the managers are firmly committed and onboard that genuine inclusivity has a real chance of emerging.
2. Instilling An Inclusive Culture As Part Of An Organization’s Core Values
Updating an organization’s core values is a necessary step on the road to initiating an inclusive work culture. It is particularly important before implementing any fundamental change that the company reanalyzes its organizational goals. Managers need to ensure that business owners and leaders are firmly behind the proposed core values and resulting initiatives. It is also a good idea to seek feedback from the very employees who an inclusive initiative is designed to accommodate and promote.
3. Inclusive Mentality And Language
Inclusion is much more than a notion. If it is to successfully work, everyone’s mental processes must be geared toward the same end. It is not so much a case of ending discrimination – it is more an attitude of never condoning or entertaining it in the first place.
The words that are used to describe inclusion and that seek to nurture it must be more than mere platitudes. They must become part of a common language that everyone adopts within the workplace.
4. The Importance Of Acceptance In Building Trust
An inclusive workforce is one in which everyone trusts one another. The things that people value do tend to vary from ethnicity to ethnicity and from group to group. It does not mean that one group’s values are any more appropriate or valid than any other’s. The key here is an acceptance of what others value and a willingness to share one’s own values.
5. Encourage Feedback
It is all too easy to think that you have got it right and that everyone is happy with the status quo within your workplace. Building trust is one important component of being able to talk to others on an equal footing, but even so, many people may still be reluctant to come forward or present their ideas. That is why it is essential to not only welcome feedback but to promote and create a safe-space for it.
6. Creating Safe Spaces In The Workplace
Every organization that employs a workforce needs to ensure that there are safe places that staff can use for personal or sensitive needs. It could be spaces for prayer or meditation, a private lactation room for new mothers, a videophone for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees, quieter work stations, service pet relief areas, or gender-neutral restrooms.
7. Enlarging Your Company Vacation Register
We are used to being able to take time off work to celebrate or honor certain religious, cultural, or personal occasions. They include things like Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Independence Day, etc. But these are no less special than holidays such as Diwali or Ramadan, Yom Kippur, or the Day of the Holy Innocents.
To be truly inclusive, organizations must extend their holiday calendars to give those of different backgrounds the right to commemorate their special days as well. It may not be possible for some businesses to offer time-off, but these special days should at least be officially recognized and acknowledged and breaks throughout the day regularly provided to respective employees.
8. Plan Initiatives With Inclusivity As Their Goal
Encouraging workers to enjoy each other’s company outside of the workplace is one of the best workplace inclusivity tips. Showing documentaries in the breakroom or cafeteria at lunchtime or inviting guest speakers on an agenda of diverse topics create opportunities for collaborating and bonding. What’s even better, you can be as creative as you like bringing new experiences and presenters into the mix- the possibilities for inclusive engagements are endless.
9. Demonstrate Your Inclusive Initiative To The Outside World
Organizations that directly interact with the public have an excellent opportunity to promote and showcase their diverse workforce. There are also opportunities for businesses to reexamine which charitable partners they support and to widen the scope of these recipients. This not only helps to boost morale and encourage team building within the organization, but it can also improve employer appreciation and reduce employee turnover.
10. Improve The Disability Friendliness Of Your Organization
Making the workplace wheelchair and blind-friendly is a must for businesses that seek to provide an inclusive work environment. It is not just workstations that need to be reevaluated, but common areas such as cafeterias, breakrooms, hallways, and restrooms. Talk to members of your workforce who identify with these disabilities and seek their feedback for improvements that can be made, down to the smallest details.
11. Multilingual Or Graphic Signage
Most of the signs we come across today are graphically designed so as to be universally understood. Running man/fire exit signs are a case in point. But some signs are still in written form, and where it is not possible to replace them with a graphic representation, language diversity must be taken into consideration and accounted for. This means providing written signage in multiple languages and modalities, including Spanish and braille.
12. Don’t Forget Your Remote Workforce
The workplace may no longer be the office or the factory – especially since the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many people to work from home. In these circumstances, inclusive workplace tips must be extended to the home where remote workstations are not likely to have ergonomic accommodations. Ask your self-identifying disabled employees whether they lack accommodations while working from home and seek appropriate solutions when possible.
13. Nurture The Introverts
No healthy workplace is entirely composed of extroverted, type-A decision-makers. Introverts are just as important a source of input and fresh ideas as their more socially-assertive peers. Improving workplace inclusivity means affording the quieter members of staff opportunities to contribute and engage via methods that fit their personality.
14. Dealing With Exclusive Issues
People are not perfect, and they never will be. There will, from time to time, be occasions when you may spot exclusive behavior. Do not be tempted to ignore it or to assume that someone else will deal with it. Make your observations known and take the individual aside to discuss how the situation might have been dealt with in a more inclusive manner. Before it becomes necessary, ensure your workplace has systems in place to escalate and address exclusivist behavior.
If it becomes a regular occurrence with the same individual, it may be that the individual of concern is not a good fit for your inclusive workplace.
15. Partner With a Locally-Based Accommodations Agency
There are occasions when no matter what an organization does internally, its inclusivity needs require accommodation from outside the workplace. The ultimate step for businesses that find themselves in these situations is to partner with a locally-based accommodations agency that has experience working with the Deaf, Deaf-blind, hard-of-hearing, or blind. Partnering with an accommodations service provider like ICS demonstrates an organization’s resolve in attaining complete inclusivity in the workplace.
16. Becoming A Socially Responsible Brand
Becoming a socially responsible brand means adopting and nurturing true inclusivity in the workplace – even when the workplace is extended to the home. Knowing your organization is a socially responsible brand is a reward in and of itself, but it will also engender loyalty in your workforce and be a continual marketing springboard from which to expand your target audience.
17. Inclusivity Is Ever-Evolving
Inclusivity is dynamic. Whatever may be in place today, may not be appropriate tomorrow. It is therefore vital that inclusive initiatives and programs are regularly reviewed to ensure they are constantly meeting the needs of the communities they seek to promote. When in doubt, organizations and businesses should partner with a local accommodations agency to seek professional input.
If your business or organization is interested in creating a more inclusive workplace, schedule a free consultation with one of our ADA specialists. In just 30-minutes, we can help you identify at least five ways in which your entity can become more inclusive of its employees, consumers, and the local community.