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Walking the Walk of Inclusion: What Organizations Must Do to Create Inclusive Environments – Part 2

May 06, 2024
A group of individuals sitting around a table.


In Part 1 of this series, I stressed the fact that focusing on recruitment alone is not enough. Leaders also need to pay attention to the culture of the organization so employees feel valued, respected, and will want to stay.

In addition to clarifying key differences between diversity, equity, and inclusion, I also shared some of the benefits of an inclusive organization. In case you missed it, you can catch Part 1 of the series here.


The Many Benefits of an Inclusive Organization (contd)

In today's increasingly diverse organization, the benefits of cultivating an inclusive environment extend far beyond mere checkbox compliance. It is a proven fact that inclusion brings numerous benefits to an organization.

Last week, I discussed how inclusive workplaces fuel creativity and innovation, make for better decision-making, improve recruitment and retention of top talent, and foster a sense of belonging and community among employees.

Below, you will find three additional benefits of creating an inclusive workplace culture where diversity is celebrated, and every voice is heard.

  1. Improved Collaboration and Teamwork. Inclusive cultures promote collaboration and teamwork across diverse teams. When employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas and perspectives without fear of judgment or bias, they are more likely to collaborate effectively, communicate openly, and build stronger relationships with their colleagues.


  1. Legal and Ethical Imperatives. There are legal and ethical imperatives for organizations to create inclusive environments. Discrimination and bias in the workplace not only harm individuals but can also lead to legal liabilities, reputational damage, and loss of trust from stakeholders. Creating an inclusive environment is not only the right thing to do morally but also essential for compliance with antidiscrimination laws and regulations.


  1. Social Responsibility and Impact. Inclusive organizations can also make a positive social impact. By actively working to dismantle barriers to inclusion while addressing systemic inequities, they are, in essence, building more equitable and just societies, both inside the organization and in the broader communities they serve.


Overall, inclusion is far more than a moral imperative. It is a strategic business imperative since it paves the way for organizations to drive innovation, attract and retain top talent, enhance employee engagement and morale, improve collaboration and teamwork, and make a positive social impact.


How to “Walk the Walk” of Inclusion: Strategies That Work

Fostering an inclusive organization is imperative if organizations want to cultivate a sense of belonging for every individual.

Below, you will find a few strategies organizations can adopt to create an environment where all employees feel valued, respected, and empowered to contribute their unique perspectives and talents.

  1.  Implement formal programs and initiatives aiming at inclusivity.

Organizations need to establish formal programs aimed at promoting an inclusive environment. These programs may include mentorship initiatives, pairing employees from diverse backgrounds, providing professional development opportunities, and supporting the creation of employee resource groups (ERGs) or affinity networks. These initiatives help individuals feel valued and supported. In addition, they demonstrate the organization cares about their employees’ success.

  1.  Celebrate diversity through different company-sponsored events.

Organizations can actively celebrate diversity through various company-sponsored events, such as cultural heritage months, diversity fairs, or international food festivals. These events provide opportunities for employees to socialize, share, and learn about different cultures, traditions, and perspectives. This, in turn, can foster a sense of inclusion and belonging as well as an appreciation of differences.

  1.  Be open to suggestions from people at all levels in the organization.

In inclusive organizations, there is a culture of openness where suggestions and feedback from employees at all levels are welcomed and valued. Organizations should create channels for employees to voice their ideas and concerns, and make suggestions for improvement. It is, however, imperative that the leadership actively listen to and act upon the feedback provided to drive meaningful change in the organization.

  1.  Ensure all segments of the population are represented at the top level of the organization.

All segments of the population should be represented at the top levels of the organization, especially the executive leadership team and the board of directors. Organizations need to prioritize diversity in recruitment and succession planning processes to ensure that their leadership reflects the diverse composition of the workforce and customer base.

  1.  Accept Diversity in appearance.

Organizations need to embrace diversity in appearance by promoting an inclusive dress code and grooming policy. Employees are encouraged to express their individuality through their attire and grooming choices, without fear of discrimination or bias based on cultural or personal preferences. For additional information on this topic read, Culturally Inclusive Dress Codes: Challenging the Conventional Notion of “Professional” Image.

  1.  Learn and respect religious and ethnic customs and celebrations.

Inclusive organizations cultivate and encourage sensitivity to and awareness of different religious and ethnic holidays, customs, and traditions. Organizations should provide resources and accommodations to support employees when observing religious practices and participating in cultural celebrations. This may include flexible scheduling, religious accommodation policies, and professional development opportunities on cultural differences impacting the workplace.

  1.  Ensure inclusive food and refreshments selections.

Selection of food and refreshments at department-sponsored functions needs to take into account religious, dietary, and personal preferences. Organizations need to offer a diverse range of food options that cater to various cultural, religious, and dietary needs, ensuring that all employees feel included and respected during company events and gatherings.

  1.  Ensure flexibility for accommodating personal responsibilities.

Flexibility to accommodate personal responsibilities outside of work is an essential characteristic of an inclusive organization. Flexible work hours, remote work options, and paid parental leave are just a few examples. This flexibility would allow employees to balance their professional and personal commitments more effectively and in a way that would benefit both, employees, and the organization.

  1.  Demonstrate a commitment to social responsibility.

Today’s organizations need to actively support philanthropic causes of diverse groups by donating to and partnering with groups that address social justice issues, promote equity, and support marginalized communities. Companies can demonstrate their commitment to social responsibility by investing in initiatives that create positive social impact and address systemic inequities that are still in place. For example, organizations could support a literacy program in their district to get kids excited about reading while making books accessible for everyone.

  1.  Ensure there are trained dialogue facilitators to support employee development and address personal concerns or any issues that arise.

Organizations should invest in trained dialogue facilitators (or develop their own) to support employee development. These facilitators should be trained to provide a safe and supportive environment for employees to engage in constructive conversations about DEI+, navigate difficult situations, and seek resolution for any equity-related issues.


By implementing these practices and initiatives, organizations will be able to demonstrate their commitment to inclusion and create a workplace where all employees feel valued, respected, and empowered to contribute their unique perspectives and talents.

Organizations that are successful in creating truly inclusive environments deliberately move away from isolated training events. Instead, they promote regular and consistent discussions about DEI+, even if these conversations are difficult to navigate and are certain to provoke anxiety and discomfort. The ultimate goal should be long-term climate change in the organization.


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