Diversity & Inclusion: 8 tips to change your culture

Written by: on March 20, 2024

We all want to be more inclusive – and for good reason. Not only is it the right thing to do, but companies with greater diversity are more successful, innovative and consistently outperform others financially.

It’s easy to #diversity on social media or pledge inclusion in a company statement, but how can we go about actively changing our workplace culture? Where do you even start? 

We know it’s a complicated process, so we’re sharing 8 solid ideas to help support diversity and inclusion in your workplace.

Diversity & Inclusion Tips

1. Make workspaces inclusive

Let’s start with the obvious. 

Everybody must feel welcome in workspaces. This means making physical adjustments for people who use wheelchairs, or sending out agendas before meetings to let (neurodiverse) individuals process information in advance. 

Socials shouldn’t always revolve around alcohol (not everybody feels comfortable with it). Networking events mustn’t always happen after office hours (some have childcare responsibilities). Discussions shouldn’t always be in an open-floor, open-ended format (many voices won’t be heard). 

We need empathy here. Think about the members of your team and what they might need to take part fully. Design spaces with everyone in mind. Reflect on whether everyone else is engaging equally. If not, ask yourself why that might be and what you can do to change it.

2. Set up Employee Resource Groups 

It’s not enough to try to make existing spaces more inclusive. Work cultures also need to create dedicated spaces for individuals who might face extra challenges due to disability, race, or minority status. 

Dedicated Employee Resource Groups (ERDs) can provide safe spaces for individuals to unite. ERDs create support networks for those who need them and promote positive change within a company. 

Is it crucial that these groups are empowered with appropriate funding and are able to influence company policy. 

3. Hire inclusively

There’s no use making the workspace all-inclusive if diverse individuals can’t get their foot in the door! Exclusionary recruitment practices prevent diverse people from entering the organisation in the first place. 

To hire inclusively, avoid requesting photographs in the applications to prevent unconscious bias from influencing decision-making. 

Diversify your recruitment base. Hiring candidates who show non-conventional career paths (or ‘squiggly’ careers, as we call them) means opening your business to a more diverse candidate base.  

Since education can be exclusive, try hiring based on competency and experience, instead of specific credentials for a richer and more diverse workplace.

4. Strive for equity, for equality

We’ve all seen those equity vs equality illustrations (if not, here’s one). Equality means giving everybody the same treatment. Equity means treating people in different ways depending on their situation.

Equity principles recognise that not everyone has the same needs. For example, individuals who are visually or hearing impaired will need access to resources, such as transcripts or subtitling.

Equity might mean making a concerted effort to ensure job applications are diverse, privileging people of colour to ensure a diverse mix of applicants. Or someone in leadership, mentoring a Black woman to give her a better shot at that promotion.

It’s not unfair, biased, or ‘reverse racism’ as it’s sometimes called. It’s recognising that some groups suffer difficulties or disadvantages that others don’t and compensating for them. So that everyone has a chance of success. 

5. Invest in training

For a work culture to be truly inclusive, all employees need to check their own conscious and unconscious biases.

This starts with education. Companies must invest in courses, programs, and workshops for employees to teach these values and give practical information about how to embody them. There is a wealth of resources available about unconscious bias, inclusive communication, cultural competency, and bystander intervention.

This training needs to be easily accessible and circulated within companies. Or – even better – included as part of mandatory training programs.

6. Offer flexible work arrangements

More and more companies are recognising the importance of flexible work arrangements.Contrary to what people used to think, working from home doesn’t make people lazy, but rather increases people’s productivity. 

For neurodiverse individuals, employees with disabilities, parents, and those with caring responsibilities (disproportionately women), flexible work arrangements aren’t a plus; they are a necessity. Therefore, they shouldn’t be something offered occasionally but as a standard. 

Flexible work arrangements include allowing employees to work from home or in a hybrid set-up. Being able to adjust the hours or days which they work, or to participate in job sharing or flexible retirement plans. 

As mentioned, everybody is unique, and work arrangements should acknowledge that.

7. Celebrate diversity 

There are so many types of people in the world, and when the workplace reflects that, it’s an exciting place to be. Supporting inclusion isn’t about criticising and berating when people fail; it is also about enjoying the diversity we have.

International Women’s Day is a fantastic example of a time when people celebrate glorious and inspiring women. It’s important that this is done all year round!

Remembering multicultural holidays and traditions also reminds everyone that they are a part of the work culture. Publicly recognising and rewarding employees who demonstrate inclusive behaviours and leadership incentivises better behaviour from everyone.

8. Reflect

As a final point, reflect and respond. 

As I’ve mentioned already, true inclusion is not something that will happen overnight. Since people’s needs are always changing, it might well never really be finished. 

Therefore, we must reflect upon, evaluate and adapt our progress often. Get feedback wherever possible, and collect data in audits to take stock to see what you’re doing well and where you still need to improve.

Numbers are great, but also talk to people! Create spaces, forums, panels, and groups where you can collect feedback from diverse people. At the end of the day, we are each the experts of our own unique problems and requirements. Nobody knows our own needs better than we do. 

Everybody shares responsibility for making cultures more inclusive. There are things we can all do to improve things. Yet, some have more responsibility than others. It is vital that those in leadership roles participate in these practices, as their actions have a trickle-down effect in affecting wider change. 

To Wrap up

Finally, to quote the (awesome) feminist writer Audre Lorde, “Is it not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognise, accept, and celebrate those differences”.

I hope that these tips make your workplace better able to harness that difference and diversity. It makes life a whole lot better for everyone.

There you have it. 8 ideas you can work on today to support diversity and inclusion in your workplace. Please comment what you think and if there’s anything you would have added to the list!

This blog was written by Ruth Chanarin, Data Engineer at Co-op with a squiggly career route and a background in social sciences and languages. Can be found crafting, reading or working out whenever she can get away from her laptop.

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