As a savvy business owner in the 2020s, you know a thing or two about branding. That doesn’t just mean you know a cool logo or a catchy slogan when you see them. You know that your brand and your business are more than just the superficial elements like your logo or your website’s colour scheme. You understand that your brand is a promise that you make to each and every customer.
It’s a set of ideals by which you know your business will thrive, survive or frail. It’s a set of expectations to which you can (and do) hold yourself accountable. But you also understand that your customers aren’t the only ones to whom you need to make yourself accountable. You understand that you are as beholden to your employees as they are to you. You aren’t just about turning a profit.
You want to create a workplace where everyone feels valued. A place where everyone feels that they make a contribution to what makes your business successful. A business that celebrates diversity and acknowledges the contributions that each and every member of your team brings to the table every day.
When it comes to matters of diversity and inclusivity, it’s easy to get lost in empty platitudes and forget what makes your workforce truly inclusive. Your policies, your mission statement, your complaints procedure, everything that makes your business what it is (from both an operational and branding perspective) should have inclusivity baked into the crust. But what does that look like in real terms? Let’s take a look at the anatomy of a truly inclusive workplace…
Employee complaints are handled promptly, seriously and transparently
All businesses have a legal responsibility to eliminate prejudice and bigotry from the world of commerce. Employers are legally responsible for ensuring that their team members are not treated differently on the basis of;
- Their race
- Their religion
- Their disability
- Their gender
- Their sexual orientation
- Their age
- Whether or not they are pregnant
However, even in recent years we have seen employers turn a blind eye to sexism, ableism, racism and other forms of discrimination. Most businesses ensure that they are protected by EPLI insurance (Employment Practices Liability Insurance) to cover the costs of settling legal matters when employees are treated inappropriately.
And while this is an important form of protection, you need to also ensure that your HR guidelines have a prompt, serious and transparent approach to dealing with employee complaints. Even if they’re directed at you. No workplace can be truly inclusive if it sweeps accusations of misconduct (even those that turn out to be groundless) under the rug.
All employees have a voice
Employees need to feel listened to in order for your workplace to feel truly inclusive. And there are a number of ways in which you can (and should) do this. Your AOB section of strategy meetings should be an open invitation for employees at all levels to share their opinions, insights and suggestions.
You should have an open forum where your team members can leave their suggestions and ideas on how your business could be improved. Even if it’s something as quotidian as a suggestion box. Your employees have unique perspectives and are, in many ways, more attuned to your business’ operational workings than you are. Underestimate the contributions they can make at your peril!
You hold yourself accountable to your team
Businesses need strong leadership. And who’s better placed to judge what’s best for your business and your brand than you? Yet, while your business’ success may be built upon your vision, it’s the hard work, endeavor and imagination of your team that bring your vision to life every day.
As such, your employees should feel just a part of your business as you are. That means you need to make yourself accountable to your team. Acknowledge when their ideas are better than yours. Own it when you’re wrong and they’re right. Celebrate those moments where they come up with an idea that’s better than yours. Employees want to feel like part of a dynamic and vibrant collective, not as though they’re working in a dictatorship.
You take active steps to show employees that they’re valued
When employees know that their contributions are valued, and even celebrated, they’re much more likely to feel engaged in their work. And that’s extremely important in the current climate. Even before we’d ever heard of COVID-19, employee engagement was an issue that businesses of all shapes and sizes grappled with.
Around 85% of the global workforce is either not engaged at work or actively disengaged. Which means you need to recognize and celebrate their achievements in a shared space in order for them to feel more rewarded. Employee recognition platforms allow businesses to do exact;ly that. They look and feel just like social media platforms (Facebook even has its own platform called Workplace).
However, they allow managers and entrepreneurs to share and celebrate the accomplishments and endeavour of their team at all levels. They even allow for peer-to-peer employee recognition so that your employees can call out exceptional achievement among their friends and colleagues.
An inclusive workplace is one in which everybody feels valued from senior executives to entry level colleagues. Every single person under your roof makes an active contribution to your business, and they deserve to be celebrated accordingly!
Everyone has access to a personalized course of learning and development
Your employees are more than just the sole function they fulfil for your business. They are human beings with aspirations, career goals and ambitions. And if you fail to help them achieve their goals under your roof, they may ditch you to go and work for a competitor. Something that no right-minded entrepreneur can entertain.
As such, employees at all level should have access to a course of personalized learning, training and development in line with their unique goals. Whatever they may be.
When your employees all feel valued, well compensated and encouraged to succeed with strong mechanisms in place to facilitate their goals, you can say with pride that you have a truly inclusive workplace.