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How businesses can foster a diverse working culture

Danni Rush, Chief Customer Officer - Virgin Incentives and Virgin Experience Days

Numerous religious dates fall in April.

At the start of the month, we had the long-awaited Easter bank holiday, with Brits finally able to enjoy good weather, albeit for only one day.

Similarly, Jews celebrated Passover earlier this month, and Ramadan also begins on 13th April, with thousands of British Muslims preparing to fast with their families.

The variety of religious celebrations happening in April is symbolic of how diverse UK is.

Over a tenth (13.8%) of the UK population is now from a minority ethnic background. And in the upcoming census, less than half of the population is expected to identify as a Christian, down from 71.6% two decades ago.

However, this diversity may not necessarily be reflected in work environments.

A report from the Muslim Council of Britain said that work still needs to be done to foster an inclusive work environment which considers cultural differences.

For instance, the report recommended that employers and workers consider that handshakes, direct eye contact and socialising in the pub may be awkward for Muslim colleagues.

Why is workplace diversity important?
While this may sound like a small issue, businesses must appreciate that having an inclusive company culture has wide-ranging benefits, extending beyond supporting employees.

According to a Glassdoor survey, a diverse workplace is one of the main factors a potential employee considers when considering a job offer.

Similarly, having a diverse group of employees reaps many benefits both culturally and financially, including a wider talent pool, increased productivity, better employee performance and retention, and improved profits – with a Boston Consulting Group study finding that diverse companies generated 19% more revenue.

It’s important to remember that diversity within the workforce also includes sexual orientation as well as race and religion. A Stonewall report revealed that more than a third of LGBTQ+ employees (35%) have not told their work colleagues out of fear of discrimination, rising to 38% among people who identify as bi-sexual.

How can businesses foster a diverse work culture?
It is vital that managers, as well as employees, know how to foster a diverse work culture.

Recruiting a team that encompasses all faiths, race, backgrounds, and sexual orientations is a step in the right direction, but simply having a diverse workforce doesn’t mean a business has a diverse work culture.

A business must put in the policies which consider the different backgrounds of their employees and creates a culture which appeals to every background.

For instance, employers could create a private place for Muslim employees to pray and implement a policy ensuring that no meetings are scheduled at times of prayer.

As well as employers, employees themselves have a responsibility to support diversity and inclusion in the workplace. This can be easily reinforced during the onboarding process. Instead of simply giving new recruits a diversity policy to read, businesses can consider creating a training session on inclusion which highlights why it is important to recognise and value differences among their colleagues and how to be respectful of these.

The value of group experiences
Employers can also use group experiences to foster an inclusive, open culture.

Although financial constraints caused by COVID-19 and social restrictions may make these challenging, as society reopens employers can use them as an opportunity for staff to let their hair down and relax.

Group experiences – be they virtual or in-person – are a great way to bring people together in a workplace and improve inclusiveness, by breaking down the silos within the business, such as different departments, faiths and backgrounds.

How businesses can celebrate and acknowledge their diverse workforce
An important way to achieve a diverse working culture is to involve employees from different backgrounds in HR decision-making processes.

Employers should speak to their team, ensure that any potential policies are relevant to them, and check if any beneficial changes could be made.

Involving employees in the decision-making process for any new policies or a reward and recognition scheme ensures that everyone’s voice will be heard, and that the direction of the business is aligned to both the business’s values and theirs.

Encouraging and fostering diversity is becoming increasingly important to business success. And, although harder when working remotely, these values must remain at the forefront of an employer’s mindset as we emerge out of the pandemic and return to a semblance of normality.

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