How to Make Sure You Provide an Inclusive, Discrimination-Free Workplace Environment
As an employer or manager, you have a duty of care to your employees. This includes providing a discrimination-free workplace environment where your team members are free to do their best in a safe, inclusive environment.
Discrimination and inclusiveness are terms that are thrown around a lot these days, but what does this mean in practice? As a leader, how do you foster an environment that promotes inclusivity and eliminates discrimination? Here are our top tips for providing an inclusive, discrimination-free workplace.
What are Discrimination and Inclusivity in the Workplace?
Discrimination is defined as any act which treats any person or group less favourably than another person or group.
Discrimination at work can be based on, among other characteristics:
- Sexual orientation
- Marital status or pregnancy
Some, more direct forms of discrimination are easy to spot. For example, not hiring someone because they are black, or passing a woman over for a promotion because she is pregnant or believed to be likely to become pregnant soon, are very clear forms of discrimination. However, there are also more indirect forms of discrimination which as such can be more hidden and overlooked, even by well-meaning employers. This could be something like certain work conditions and requirements which are more difficult for certain employees to comply with due to the religious beliefs or family situation.
Inclusivity is closely related to discrimination, but it is not just an absence of discrimination in the workplace environment. Inclusion means making sure that everyone of your team’s voices are heard, their opinions are valued and they are equally important to the team. Inclusion means understanding this in theory, implementing it in practice, and making sure that this is clearly conveyed from your leadership, to every team member. This not only promotes a more positive working environment that will promote better employee retention, it will also empower your team members to perform at their best.
Rotate Responsibilities Across the Team in the Workplace Environment
This doesn’t mean changing your team member’s roles or core work responsibilities, this wouldn’t make sense. However there are plenty of more general responsibilities in the workplace that are traditionally taken on by managers, but that could be rotated across the team to promote a more inclusive environment. A great example is chairing meetings: if you as the leader or manager usually chair your team meetings, mix things up by rotating chair responsibilities across the team. This promotes engagement, fosters professional growth, and will likely make your meetings more creative, interesting and dynamic. Small shifts like this send a strong message to your employees that everyone’s input is valued.
Educate Your Leaders on Inclusivity & Discrimination
If you want to address inclusivity and discrimination in the workplace, you first need to make sure everyone is on the same page. Start by educating your leadership team about discrimination, so they know how to recognise it, eliminate it, and not contribute to it yourself, and how to better promote inclusivity. Your leaders are absolutely key in these respects, as they set the whole tone for the organisation. And even though these key people may be committed to a more inclusive workplace environment, they may not be completely across all the nuances and practicalities in this area. It is a great idea to make discriminatory and inclusivity training mandatory for all your leaders and managers, including regular refreshers.
Be Supportive of Parents in Your Workforce
It is important to remember that parents make up probably a significant proportion of your workforce, and being inclusive of them means making sure you support them in juggling parenting responsibilities with work. This not only promotes a more inclusive work place environment, it is also better for your business, as it will mean you don’t risk losing your best employees once they become parents.
Many workplaces have found success in establishing flexible work arrangements, which may include work-from-home options, on-site day care, and being able to bring their children to work. If you decide to pursue the latter option, make sure you have the necessary infrastructure in place to support this. Be inclusive of the parents in your team by providing a baby changing table in both male and female bathrooms: remember that non-discrimination means accommodating both mothers and fathers.
Celebrate Difference in the Workplace Environment
Inclusivity doesn’t mean simply tolerating difference within your team, it means celebrating it! By actively promoting the things which make your team members special your actions will speak larger than words in terms of encouraging inclusivity and discouraging discrimination in the workplace environment. One example of this which is becoming increasingly popular in many organisations is to hold events where team members bring foods from their cultural heritage to share with their colleagues. Not only does this celebrate the different cultures within your team, it is also a great team-building exercise. Setting up important infrastructure, such as a prayer room for Muslim employees, is also a great way to support and celebrate their diverse needs.
As employer or manager, it is your duty to deal with your employees. Providing a discrimination-free workplace environment is key to improve productivity and efficiency in business. If your team members feel free to participate in decisions, they will contribute your organizational success.
Share with us your experience regarding the importance of having an inclusive, discrimination-free workplace environment through the comments section below.
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