5 small steps you can take towards inclusion at work
Inclusion at work has been a long-standing discussion in many organisations and in the media. The level of diversity at senior levels is often at the core of this discussion. Large corporate organisations have implemented inclusion and diversity programmes and initiatives. Some have put this at the core of their company brand. Many see it as crucial to attracting and retaining talent. A few recognise the important of diverse views at leadership level. These are all important steps towards higher levels of inclusion at work.
In today’s world, inclusion has come to the forefront of everyone’s mind in all aspects of life. People are highlighting their day-to-day experiences. This adds add to the discussion around inclusion and diversity at leadership levels in government or large corporate organisations. As important as diverse leadership and strategic initiatives are, what about the small steps we can take as individuals?
To move towards inclusion at work, there are incremental changes we can make. These can add up over time. Often the bigger schemes can overshadow the day-to-day experiences of inclusion, or a lack of. Here are 5 small steps we can all take as individuals to move towards stronger inclusion at work:
Actively include all voices during meetings
Meetings at work are a platform for bringing your voice to the table as a team member. There are many reasons why someone’s voice may not be heard in this setting. Someone might hold back because of their more introverted nature. Or, there may be a reason related to their feeling of being a minority at work. It’s not always easy to know what the reason is that someone doesn’t speak up. In order to create a more inclusive dynamic, it’s worth actively bringing people into a conversation during these meetings. Ask them a question or for their input into the discussion. This is especially important during virtual meetings where you can’t use a hand gesture to indicate your desire to contribute. Although it’s especially important for leaders to facilitate this, everyone can actively bring others into the conversation.
Be aware of social dynamics
When you go for lunch or receive group emails amongst your team, is there anyone who is regularly left out? Notice who is asked to participate in social activities and included in regular communications. There are some people who just may not want to go for lunch as a group, but it’s worth considering whether there is a lack of inclusion within the team as the underlying reason for them being left out.
Do the training
Sometimes it’s not a priority to do training in the workplace, especially if it’s not compulsory or not monitored. However lots of organisations do offer inclusion and diversity focused training, often centred around unconscious bias. Even though training doesn’t necessarily ‘fix’ the problem, it’s worth thinking of it as a small step to increasing your own self-awareness around thinking patterns and behaviours. If your workplace doesn't offer anything, can you find something externally? At a minimum, read up on articles centred around this topic and bring the conversation up with colleagues.
Join an employee resource group
Many large organisations have groups you can join that focus on promoting inclusion and diversity of a minority group. They often run development events focused on the needs of these groups, although it’s likely that they will be open to all employees. Try attending their events or if you want to make a bigger impact, joining their committee. You don’t necessarily need to share the same minority characteristic to do this – in fact, it can be even more of a statement if you don’t as you are showing your support regardless.
Again, if there aren’t these types of groups available in your place of work, could you start one? What external options are there? There are usually lots of online communities on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn centred around a specific topic – try and search for one and bring what you learn back to your team.
One of the simplest things we can all do is just notice conversations and behaviours around us, and especially within us. Look around you and within you and see if you observe things that could be non-inclusive. Looking within ourselves is the first and most important step to doing this, before engaging in conversations with others. Self-awareness will allow us to foster more honest, open and non-judgemental discussions.
Taking incremental steps towards inclusion at work can feel less overwhelming than trying to do something at a large scale. It is often the small steps that are most consistent over time that end up being more impactful than large scale initiatives. These bigger initiatives are still important, but it’s worth thinking about what we can do at an individual level to make even one other person feel more included in their work environment. Bringing more diverse voices to the table is not just about business impact, but about someone’s day-to-day experience of coming to work and feeling actively engaged with the job they spend so much of their time doing. Ultimately, higher levels of engagement can also lead to higher individual, team and organisational performance, which is a bonus.
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