3 steps to creating a more inclusive culture

Article written by Lauren Harris, Director of X4 Life Sciences.

An inclusive culture enables a diverse workplace to thrive. If you want your business to be inclusive, you need to create a cultural and environmental feeling of belonging and show you are committed to supporting all employee backgrounds, genders, religions, ethnicities and sexual orientation.

I have been researching companies’ internal processes such as Facebook, speaking with individuals in the business and my clients, to find out what they are doing to create a more inclusive culture and wanted to share with you 3  important steps in doing so.

1. Listen to your employees

Before working on improving your businesses culture, you must understand the culture you have now. What do you stand for? What are your values? How would your employees describe your culture?

To get an accurate picture of workplace inclusion, organisations need to think about employee perceptions of inclusion, as well as evaluating people management practices and line management capability.

Spend the time listening to employees from all levels in the business, from your leadership team down to your most recent hires. It’s key to ensure all voices are heard to give you the most transparent and honest view of your organisation’s culture, as it will feel different at varying levels of seniority.

When problems are identified internally, a commitment to changing this can vastly improve your workplace environment. Even the best company cultures have room for improvement.

Approaches to find out how inclusive your culture is:

  • Run culture workshops and focus groups to help people collaborate on ideas
  • Examine progression and hiring data in teams to ensure there’s a level playing field
  • Start a culture committee which includes people from different teams, backgrounds etc.
  • Create a bespoke survey to collect inclusion data
  • Book in one-to-one meetings with a range of individuals in the business

The post-listening phase is all about taking action and analysing the data to identify actionable changes. For example, if your data shows that people from certain demographics do not progress at the same rate as others, investigate why this is and outline how this can be resolved. This could be solved by realigning the internal promotion processes to ensure it works for everyone.

2. Educate

Most leaders agree an inclusive workplace is important, however they might not truly understand inclusive workplace practises.

Workplace inclusion is when people feel valued and accepted in their team and in the wider organisation, without having to conform. To achieve this, leaders must practise inclusive leadership and be educated on how to manage diverse workgroups and the reasons why it’s crucial that their actions contribute to a more inclusive workplace. The behaviour of managers has a powerful impact on the workplace experience of all employees.

For example, if every social event is centred around going to the pub, you are always going to be excluding a proportion of your workforce who may not drink or have an interest in this type of activity. Similarly, if your team building events are always out of work hours, you may be excluding people who have childcare responsibilities.

Some ideas on how to educate the business:

  • Training sessions that help employees understand and recognise unconscious bias
  • Training tailored specifically to senior leadership and managers
  • Official company policies communicated to the business

3. Forget “fit”

Cultural fit has become a widely used buzzword and a lot of the businesses are on the look-out for the perfect cultural fit candidate “does this person think like us and act like us?”

Many companies like Facebook, are starting to realize its shortcomings, and are now banning hiring managers from using the term “culture fit” all together. A hiring process built around an undefined notion of “culture fit” is fraught with bias.

If cultural fit is a top priority when hiring in your business, most interviewers are more likely to hire people like themselves and discount those who are different. In my interview with Lisa Rich Milan discussing Female Leaders in the C-suite, Lisa discussed the risks of “mono thought”: “This happens when businesses all think one way because the leadership team hired in the likeness of the he/she and they all walk and talk the same language. No diverse thoughts, no safe place to challenge respectfully, no platform to share ideas and take risks. They hire people who are just like them.  You don’t get that diversity of thought.”

Redefining the internal hiring strategy is essential for a business when it comes to creating an inclusive culture so that hiring managers do not opt for those deemed a good cultural fit because they match the personality and background already in a business.

How to diversify your recruitment process:

  • Allow for a flexibility in the role
  • Avoid exclusive language in the advertisement e.g. ‘winner,’ ‘relentless.’
  • Widen your candidate search; is your current pool comprised of individuals with very similar backgrounds and experience levels?
  • Broaden the set of requirements you are looking for. Don’t just strictly focus on professional or technical qualifications.
  • Don’t over-rely on employee referrals. Although cost-effective, they may add a risk of unconscious bias.
  • How diverse are the individuals that conduct the interviews? Don’t make hiring decisions based on one individual’s opinion.
  • Set diversity targets with your HR and internal talent acquisition team.

When an employee leaves the business, exit interviews are also a valuable time to gather insight into how inclusive your culture really is as employees are more inclined to be honest. This is an opportunity to find exactly why they are leaving, such as if they felt excluded or held back in some way – use this information to make actionable insights.

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