Creating an Inclusive Space and Safe Environment at Work

It goes without saying, diversity and inclusion are strategic organizational imperatives in today’s business landscape. There are publications, job titles, and events that illustrate the importance of these concepts. But what are some actual ways you can begin creating an inclusive and safe environment at your company?

First and foremost, your company needs to understand the relationship between diversity and inclusion. Diversity can exist at your company without inclusion, which can be difficult for some to understand. As Anna Beninger, senior director of research and corporate engagement partner at Catalyst, says, “Diversity is a fact; inclusion is a choice.” When employees do not feel they’re included, costs related to absenteeism, unproductivity and low morale can add up.  Research has shown that when diversity and inclusive leadership work together, however, innovation and growth naturally occur.

Once you clarify and understand the difference between diversity and inclusion at your company, and develop efforts to advance both, you should begin to look at the following steps:

1. Define What An Inclusive Culture Means

Gallup defines it as a place where employees: “feel appreciated for their unique characteristics and therefore comfortable sharing their ideas and other aspects of their true and authentic selves.” Your definition may vary slightly but should have a similar message.

2. Empower Employees

Empowered employees are more productive employees. To empower your employees, you first need to listen to them. You also need to believe them and believe in them. Believe in the value of the work and the feedback talent in your organization gives you. Push them to be their best by asking them thoughtful questions, and then praise their efforts when they do go above and beyond. An inclusive manager is committed to creating a culture in which the unique attributes of each person are understood, valued, respected and utilized.

3. Include Leadership in D&I Efforts

We know that creating spaces where underrepresented populations can feel comfortable in the workplace is important. That is not to say that including intersectionality with a job title and tenure shouldn’t be taken into account. Adjusting the existing approach of employee resource groups to include opportunities to meet with senior leaders, invitations to solve business problems, or access to an anonymous platform through which to report identity-related issues would allow new ideas of inclusion to dispense throughout the company from the leadership.

Not only should you create communities in your company where people can talk openly but you should also create physical spaces that are safe for these types of conversations. These spaces visually reinforce your company’s dedication to learning and inclusivity.

These three steps do not create a fully developed inclusive culture, but they are a wonderful place to begin. With a common definition of what inclusivity means to your company, an empowered employee base, and leadership involved with diversity and inclusion efforts, you are setting the groundwork for a place where each individual thrives and works towards the sustainability and future success of the company collectively.