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We’ve all heard of the benefits of a diverse workforce – research shows that companies with a good balance of men and women are 15% more likely to outperform their competitors, and those with a good mix of ethnic background are 35% more likely to as well.

What is often overlooked, is increasing workplace diversity without focusing on cultural inclusion. According to research, this can lead to lower employee morale and wellbeing, increased conflict, higher absenteeism and more discrimination cases. However, the benefits of being inclusive and diverse are still significant to business as employees are 83% more likely to innovate and are more than twice as engaged.

How to create an inclusive culture in your business
When employers focus on increasing diversity and protecting the company’s reputation, it’s easy for inclusion to be overlooked. Half of respondents surveyed recently said that they felt their workplace did not treat all employees with fairness and equality. Following the results of this poll, Benenden Health came up with five steps you can take to begin creating a culture of inclusion in your workplace…

1. Celebrate employees’ differences
Different cultures in the workforce will mean a variety of holidays, celebrations and traditions. You can embrace these as a company in a variety of ways, depending on your budget, organisation size and other factors.

One simple way of doing this is sharing religious and cultural celebrations or awareness days like Diwali festival and Pride Week on your intranet. These could be celebrated with internal events, whether it’s a lunchtime talk or a company party!

2. Consider individual needs and promote flexibility
Some companies have prayer and meditation rooms in the office, where employees can practice their religious beliefs during the workday and making slight changes to the company’s dress code can also allow workers to feel more comfortable at work.

Offering flexible working or remote working can also help. Some staff have families, care commitments, or are disabled – meaning that travelling or sitting in an office for long periods of time can be difficult.

3. Diversity training
It’s often said that voluntary training is more effective than compulsory, but if you’re struggling to get your people to give up their time for training, you could offer an incentive like free lunch for those who attend.

Unconscious bias training, specifically, could help employees to gain awareness of their beliefs and behaviours – and to challenge any biases or prejudices they may have towards other people at work (they might not even be aware of them). Companies such as Google, Facebook and, more recently, Starbucks, have invested in this training as part of their inclusion strategies.

4. Brainstorming
Hold regular brainstorming sessions – either small team meetings or larger company wide gatherings – with a range of employees from across the business.

Allowing the opportunity to contribute and share ideas will help them feel that their contributions are just as valued as the person sitting next to them, no matter their age, gender, ethnicity or experience level. At the same time, employees exposed to and exchanging ideas with a range of different people can generate solutions, innovation and creativity.

5. Mix it up
Look at the people who are leading team meetings, events and social activities. Is it usually the same few individuals presenting? And are they a diverse group? Try mixing it up and asking different staff members to volunteer to lead these sessions each week or month.

Focusing on inclusion in your workplace will not only help your people feel valued and comfortable at work, but it will help increase employee wellbeing, engagement, innovation, and ultimately boost company performance.

Helen Smith, Chief Commercial Officer, Benenden Health.  

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