According to Merriam-Webster, inclusion means, “the act of including; the state of being included.” Hence an inclusive culture involves the successful integration of diverse people into a workplace or an industry.
Most times Diversity is confused with Inclusion but they are quite different yet related. Diversity refers to the many ways in which employees may be different like age, gender, physical ability, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status and other personal characteristics, while Inclusion focuses on bringing together and harnessing these diverse resources in a way that is beneficial to the overall business. Put in another way, diversity focuses on getting people who are different into the organization. Inclusion, by contrast, focuses on creating an environment where diverse people are accepted and appreciated.
Inclusion puts the concept and practice of diversity into action by creating an environment of involvement and respect where the wealth of ideas, backgrounds, and perspectives are harnessed to create business value.
In Nigeria, given our very diverse ethnic, cultural and religious background, many organizations can claim they practice diversity but not necessarily inclusion. What is prevalent in organizations are diverse employees who most times feel devalued, ignored or dismissed because their differences are highlighted in negative ways (jokes, stereotypical remarks, outright exception etc.). Moreover, in inclusive workplaces, diverse employees are comfortable speaking about their experiences, are heard when they speak, are given opportunities to contribute to the organization and have multiple opportunities for career advancement. They feel included when their differences and their work are respected and appreciated by the organization and their colleagues. As a result, these employees feel that they are valued members of the team.
In building a culture of inclusion, the following should be considered or put in place;
- Clearly define and Communicate Your Organization’s Commitment to Creating an Inclusive Environment
- Begin at the Top: Executives and top management should reflect the diversity the organization seeks, like having an equal or proportional representation of both genders.
- Create an Achievable and Measurable Inclusion Program
- Be Intentional: Review and update your Policies and Practices for silent or hidden bias
- Use gender neutral language throughout company benefits and policies
- If possible, create a space to disconnect: this is providing a quiet, meditative, no-technology space where a stressed staff can go to restore and rejuvenate.
- Consciously and unconsciously create and cultivate a daily experience of a safe and inclusive experience for your employees
- If possible, ensure the provision of sanitary pads and tampons in the convenience
Some items on this list are quite easy to start implementing and if not full implementation it can at least awaken a conversation around Workplace Inclusion.
The benefits of an inclusive workplace cannot be overemphasized as it helps both employees and employers. It enables organizations recruit and keep employees thereby eliminating the costs associated with high employee turnover. In an inclusive work environment, employees thrive, they are more productive, more innovative, and more adaptable which will arguably make that organization profitable and distinct.
Succinctly, according to the Harvard Business Review, “Without inclusion, however, the crucial connections that attract diverse talent, encourage their participation, foster innovation, and lead to business growth won’t happen. Inclusion isn’t just a moral obligation; it’s an economic imperative.”