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How to Build a Safe and Inclusive Company Culture

Close-up of a diverse group of workers’ hands resting on top of one another in a gesture of support.

Inclusivity and diversity initiatives can have many benefits for a company. With inclusivity comes different people, ideas, innovations, and points of view. This can help companies break new ground, develop new ideas, and stay relevant in their industries. Additionally, inclusivity and diversity initiatives are becoming more of a priority for upcoming professionals. Gen Z workers have been shown to value diversity when deciding which companies to work for. You can build a safe and inclusive company culture whether you’re an in-person or remote company. 

Diversity vs. Inclusion: Why You Need Both 

While they have been used interchangeably, diversity and inclusion look and act differently in the workplace. Diversity involves varying the experiences and points of view of the employees you hire. Race, gender, cultural background, and sexual orientation can all influence someone’s perspective, which can bring fresh ideas to the table. 

Inclusivity involves supporting and celebrating that diversity. For example, fostering open communication between management and employees on issues of discrimination or accessibility can create an atmosphere of inclusivity. Having a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination or harassment is another way to support diversity in your workplace. 

Tips for Developing an Inclusive Work Culture

Management and employees can work together to create an inclusive work culture. Policy changes, diversity and inclusivity initiatives, and critical employee feedback can all be used to create a safe and encouraging atmosphere for all employees. Whether you’re an in-person or remote company, there are ways that you can adapt your company culture to prioritize inclusivity. 

Educate Leaders

The first step to developing an inclusive work culture is to educate your leaders. Remember, there’s a big difference between “management” and “leadership.” Managers set schedules, organize work, and help employees perform their jobs. This is a necessary part of most business operations. Leaders, however, inspire people to follow them — regardless of whether they are managers or not. Make sure that your leaders have the resources they need to inspire other employees.

Of course, simply identifying leaders in your organization is not enough. Having the resources and knowledge to set a good example can empower employees to make smart choices. There are webinars available online on topics like bias training and fostering inclusivity in the workplace. These can be a great resource for remote employees. You can also work closely with your HR department to arrange in-person training, seminars, or conferences. 

Incorporate Inclusive Recruitment Strategies 

Part of inclusivity means making your employees feel safe. Making background checks or drug and alcohol screenings a part of your recruitment process can give people peace of mind around their coworkers, knowing that everyone has gone through the same vetting process, and that the screening is integrated into the whole new employee intake process. You never know what may pose a threat to someone, or may offend someone, particularly if you are from different backgrounds. Instituting these practices can create an atmosphere of safety.

If these screenings are new to your recruitment process, it’s important to make sure existing employees are also held to the same standards as incoming employees. This sets a precedent for equality. 

Listen and Connect With Employees

One of the most important steps in creating a safe and inclusive environment is meaningful communication. Managers and those in leadership positions should learn how to connect with employees from different backgrounds, serve their needs, listen to feedback, and in some cases, keep them safe.

Leadership and conflict management resources can help managers learn how to listen actively. Designating a space for complaints, feedback, or questions,  can be another way that management can stay connected with employees. This could be a physical dropbox, survey link, or email address. 

Recognize, Support, and Celebrate Employee Differences

It’s important not only to hire people with a different wealth of experiences but to celebrate and support those experiences. Not only can this benefit your company, but it can make employees feel seen and valued. This can improve their job satisfaction and inspire employee loyalty. 

For example, holding a pride event, such as a charity drive for LGBTQ+ organizations, is a great way to support LGBTQ+ employees. Before you institute these changes, be sure to connect with your employees. Some people may want their privacy protected when it comes to certain areas of their identity of experience. Before you call out specific employees, be sure you have their permission to share their experience or point of view. You may also ask them to get involved directly in inclusivity initiatives. 

Rethink Your Meetings

Creating a space where people feel encouraged to speak their minds is another way that you can encourage inclusion. Next time you’re in a meeting, try to notice if any one person or group of people is leading the discussion. You can ask people who are quieter if they have any opinions to break this up.

If you don’t want people to feel called out in front of a group, you can start to assign different people to be leaders or have talking points prepared for recurring meetings. This allows you to hear from everyone while allowing people to prepare what they might want to say. 

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