10 Ways to Promote Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Creating a diverse and inclusive company culture is easier said than done. Many businesses, especially startups and small businesses, make it a priority but find it challenging to move the needle.

If that sounds like your situation, don’t panic—you’re not alone.

Fortunately, learning how to promote diversity and inclusion in your workplace isn’t rocket science. It just takes a bit of know-how, choice, and action.

And, if you get it right, here’s what’s in store:

Sounds pretty nice, right? And that’s all on top of the harder-to-measure (though, ultimately more important) factors like helping people, spreading love, and making everyone feel safe and heard.

Want to make your business (and the world) a better place? Learn how to promote diversity and inclusion in your workplace in 2022. Below, we’ll show you actionable tips for how you can begin making the change your business needs.

How to Promote Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

1. Don’t Guess—Measure

You can’t just walk into a room of people and decide whether it’s diverse and inclusive. Diversity and inclusion aren’t just look-and-feel metrics—you need hard data.

Conduct anonymous company surveys to learn how your employees feel about diversity, inclusion, and company culture. Repeat the survey regularly to see if you’re making progress and set goals (for all to see) about where you’d like to be 12 months or further in the future.

You should also use customer research to learn more about your hiring needs. If your customers represent certain demographics, it’d be helpful to have that relatable expertise on your team.

What gets measured gets done.

Make it public, and be accountable for the goals you set. Setting check-in dates make it a priority, and it prevents the initiative from getting swept under the rug if you’re less than pleased with the results.

Make diversity and inclusion a company-wide initiative. Executives, team leads, hiring managers, recruiters, and your front-line workers (who are busy referring all their friends) should play a part in the endeavor.

If you fall short, don’t beat yourself up. Half the battle is recognizing the problem, committing to a goal, creating a plan of action, and executing to the best of your abilities. Diversity and inclusion aren’t so much end goals as they are a constant transformation.

2. Make Inclusivity Part of Your Company Values

Your business’s values usually describe your culture and how you think, behave, and treat others. Unfortunately, diversity and inclusion don’t often make it into these values, and instead, they get thrown into an “other” values bucket.

If you want inclusivity to be part of your company’s culture, add it to your core values. And that doesn’t just mean throwing the information into an onboarding pamphlet or on your website’s hiring page—it means reiterating (and driving towards) your values during all-hands, events, team meetings, and even calls with potential investors.

Ask your employees for help drafting an update to your values. What do they want inclusivity to look like at your company, and how will they know if you’re making progress? What vernacular resonates with them? Let them make suggestions and provide feedback, and then polish your brand-new company values to satisfaction.

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3. Be More Deliberate with Your Word Choice

Inclusivity involves what you say and how you say it. Make an intentional choice to cut harmful language from your company’s everyday vocabulary. This isn’t just what you put on your website or Google Docs—this is how you speak in meetings, hallways, and company events.

For example, maybe you’re still calling individuals in your sales departments “salesmen.” That’s non-inclusive language that could be hurting your female team members.

If your employees have preferred pronouns, respect his/her/their wishes and refer to them as such. And if you’re not sure, it’s always better (and safer) to use non-gendered terms. For example, if you’re asking about someone’s spouse, use the term “partner” instead of “husband” or “wife.”

Your industry could be using jargon that some minorities or groups find offensive. For example, some industries use terms like whitelist, blacklist, master bedroom, and wife beater. These terms can be cruel and insensitive. Find new (more inclusive) words to describe these objects.

When you make mistakes (because, eventually, we all do), apologize quickly and sincerely. We’re not perfect, and inclusivity isn’t a switch we can turn on and off. However, make a deliberate effort not to make the same mistake again.

4. Build Safe Places for All

The average person spends at least 90,000 hours of their life at work—that’s one-third of your life. Whether we should work that much is an entirely different debate. However, the takeaway is that individuals should feel comfortable and safe in the place they’re spending the majority of their time.

Think of ways to make your office (physical and digital) more inclusive for all. Here are a few ideas:

  • Wheelchair Ramps: Wheelchair ramps aren’t just for employees in wheelchairs. Some employees may find it more comfortable than taking the stairs, and others may be more inclined to bring disabled friends and family to company events.
  • Nursing Rooms: Give the working moms (or aspiring moms) a safe, private space at your office. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy (neither should it be dingy)—just include a locking door, comfy chairs, a mini-fridge, and a sink.
  • Gender-Neutral Bathrooms: Not everyone identifies as the traditional labels of boys or girls—give those employees somewhere safe to do their business. A simple solution is to have single-person gender-neutral bathrooms.
  • Quiet Spaces: Not everyone works well in “collaborative” spaces. Some employees like quiet, secluded places to complete work. They’re not necessarily introverts or even anti-social—they just work better that way. Provide hushed spaces at your office for employees who don’t like loud conversations or other distractions.
  • Personal Time (Remote): Remote employees are constantly bombarded by Slack messages, emails, texts, and Zoom meetings. Let employees block off times on their calendar to go “off the grid” and not respond to messages. Respect that time.
  • Prayer Rooms: Some faiths are active during the week, not just on the weekends. Providing a dedicated space in your office for them to worship not only makes their lives easier but shows that you care.

It’s also common practice (and fun) for companies to name their workspaces, floors, and conference rooms. Get in on the action, but ensure the names you choose include a diverse pool of names from different genders, cultures, minorities, and interests.

5. Hire with Intention

Diversity and inclusion at your company aren’t just transformed with your existing workforce—it’s shaped by who you hire next, too.

When you’re hiring new workers, resist the urge to hire people just like you. While that makes for easier relationships and less discomfort, your business doesn’t need more of you (no offense). It needs varying skills, perspectives, personalities, and behaviors.

Think about what your team might be lacking. If you’re an all-male marketing team, it’d be worthwhile to hire some other genders. If your leadership team identifies as one race or ethnicity, consider being more diverse with your hiring to get more perspectives in key decision-making.

Remember, creating diverse and inclusive teams isn’t about being politically correct. It’s about making your teams better, happier, safer, more engaged, and higher performing.

Everyone wins.

6. Add More Inclusive Company Holidays

Take a look at your typical company holidays and decide how you might be more inclusive of other cultures, beliefs, faiths, and people. Thanksgiving may not be very important to some of your coworkers, but Juneteenth might hold a special place in their hearts. Respect that with the days you choose for company holidays.

Now, this is tricky ground to navigate. It’s hard to make everyone happy because taking time off for every holiday just isn’t possible—no one would work, and you’d eventually shut down. Not good.

Consider adding a wide range of more inclusive company holidays to cater to your current and potential workforce. Don’t set these dates in stone, but revisit them often based on employees’ wants and needs. If no one is taking off for Election Day, you might consider adding Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur instead.

You can also add floating holidays to let your employees take off for important days or events. Some might want to take off for their birthday, while others want to celebrate a marriage anniversary.

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7. Encourage Employee Interest Groups

Our social spaces are getting smaller, and our friends and social groups end up bleeding into work. That’s fine and dandy, but it also presents an opportunity for like-minded co-workers to gather and meet in and out of the office.

Encourage (and fund) groups and clubs at your business that help employees find friends and networks. For example, employees at Twilio created interest groups for everything from LGBTQ+ to motorcycling to foodies to running. There’s a network for every identity, hobby, and passion.

Help your human resources (HR) department understand these groups so that they can direct new hires (and potential candidates) to what’s available. Knowing there’s a network of similar individuals could make the difference between someone joining your company or skipping the offer.

8. Host Inclusivity Trainings and Events

Inclusivity is shaped by our cultures, relationships, and upbringing, but not always for the better. Often, it takes more than just a deliberate decision to be more inclusive—it requires training and repetition.

Educate your workforce (and yourself) on how to be more inclusive. Invite guest speakers or professional trainers to host sessions and events to teach your crew. Don’t just do this once a year—make it a regular part of your week-to-week and month-to-month personal and career development.

For example, you might host LGBTQ+ work events during June, Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) occasions during November, and Black History Month discussions during February. Diversity and inclusion can (and should) be an ongoing part of your company’s culture and focus.

9. Equip Your Employees to Lead

If DEI matters to your business, you must equip your employees to lead.

Whether you’re a Fortune 500 corporation or a startup with five employees, top-down messaging is only valuable if the employees live it out. You can hire a consulting company to craft the perfect DEI language in your handbook, but if nobody believes in it, you’re pretending to be an inclusive business (which might be worse).

By empowering your employees to lead your DEI initiatives, you’ll have a culture that reflects the values of what matters to your people—not just the C-suite. Of course, you can still support the direction of your DEI goals, like hiring and HR rules, but your focus as a founder should be helping your people define what makes your business a welcoming and safe place to work.

  • Here are some ways to equip your employees to lead your DEI efforts:
  • Create an internal DEI committee that doesn’t include leaders or HR.
  • Dedicate an annual budget for DEI activities and education.
  • Send out quarterly anonymous surveys about DEI topics within the workplace.
  • Invite guest speakers to discuss DEI workplace topics.
  • Finance employees to obtain DEI certifications and attend conferences

10. Talk About It

Diversity and inclusivity will never improve if you bury them under the rug. Bring them into the light. Make them a topic of discussion in executive sessions, team meetings, and one-on-ones—and not just during annual goal planning or Pride Month.

Be frank and transparent with your employees. Ask for feedback, and don’t get defensive if you don’t like what you hear.

Remember, diversity and inclusivity in the workplace isn’t a destination—it’s a journey. Where you start your voyage isn’t as important as which direction you’re heading.

Talk to other managers, founders, and CEOs to see what works (and doesn’t) for them. Their insights could help you better cater to your local demographics and potentially avoid catastrophic mistakes and insensitivities.

More conversation and greater awareness are never going to hurt the situation—it’s only going to make things better.

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How to Promote Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace FAQs

What is the role of leadership in promoting DEI in the workplace?

As a founder or leader of a business, you must set a precedent when it comes to valuing DEI in your workplace. Of course, the earlier you incorporate DEI practices into your business, the better. But at some point, you must be willing to let your employees define how to build a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace.

How can we effectively handle conflicts or misunderstandings that may arise when working with individuals from diverse backgrounds?

To ensure disputes are dealt with appropriately, have an HR team trained in DEI workplace conflicts and instruct your leaders to recognize where there could be tension. Above all else, you must create a workspace where employees feel safe coming to their superior or HR team to discuss conflicts regarding diverse backgrounds. Otherwise, you’ll never know if there are problems when there could be.

How can we ensure that all employees feel valued and heard, regardless of their background or identity?

Communicate often, listen, and take action. Plus, you can create avenues for anonymous feedback, like surveys or written statements that your HR team can process. Generally, employees will not jeopardize their careers, so you need to encourage them and ensure they have safe feedback avenues.

Become a More Empathetic Leader

Learning how to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace isn’t a one-and-done action item—it’s a never-ending process. However, that’s not the only area of leadership that demands your attention. Other workers also have their fair share of problems, and they need help.

It’s hard to understand your managers’ and employees’ problems when you can’t relate. However, that shouldn’t be an excuse—it’s an opportunity.

And we can help.

Whether you want to better relate with your social media manager or your head of financing, we have the training courses you need. Learn what your demand generation team is struggling with, and find out what your content marketing playbook is really made of. Discover why your copywriter uses certain words in specific places, and uncover why your digital advertisements person keeps asking for more budget.

Whatever you need to know—we have your back. Check out our free training courses to take the next step in becoming a more empathetic business leader.

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