It’s important for organisations to demonstrate their commitment to maintaining a high standard of company culture with a strong focus on creating an environment that promotes diversity and inclusion. Fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace and supporting employees both professionally and personally should be a priority for business leaders.

Ross Wetherbee, Diversity & Inclusion Senior Manager at leading life insurer TAL, shares his top tips on how businesses can encourage diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Engage and empower your leaders to take ownership of diversity and inclusion

When it comes to encouraging diversity and inclusion in the workplace, leaders can’t just ‘talk the talk’, they also need to ‘walk the walk’. Fostering diversity and inclusion starts at the top and business leaders have a critical role to play in bringing diversity and inclusion to life. A real marker of success is seeing leaders and the broader business taking ownership of inclusion and diversity.

Inclusion makes diversity meaningful and business leaders need to capitalise on the strength of the differences among their employees. People are more innovative and productive when they are given a safe, respectful, and inclusive environment to work in, and this also helps foster a sense of belonging and connectedness among teams.

Ensure the organisation is genuine and authentic about its work in this space

Finding an authentic and genuine approach to diversity and inclusion allows organisations to access the benefits of bringing diverse people together.

Authentic leadership is one that emphasises self-awareness, open communication, and different perspectives. Equally as important, initiatives and programs designed to foster diversity and inclusion must be meaningful and considered. They must also be relevant to the organisation, its employees, its customers, and the community it operates in.

To exceed the expectations of employees, it’s important for businesses to consider what diversity and inclusion actually means to them, why they want to be a leader in the space, and how they are going to get there.

Foster an organisational culture where everyone is respected, welcomed, and has a sense of belonging

Company culture matters. Company culture connects employees to an organisation’s values, mission, beliefs, and behaviours. It drives the way employees engage with their team, which can then impact the quality of work produced.

Research from Great Place to Work revealed that when employees trust that they will be treated with fairness and respect and that their unique perspective is valued they are close to ten times more likely to look forward to going to work, and six times more likely to have pride in what they are working on.

Creating a work environment where all employees can be themselves and feel that they are in a safe and affirming space can help people perform their roles to the absolute best of their ability. There are enormous benefits to creating a workplace where different perspectives are valued and embraced, as it provides employees with great opportunities for personal growth.

Make sure diversity and inclusion is a continuous process, that progress is measured, and reporting is transparent

Creating change and momentum in diversity and inclusion is a process that requires conscious thought and investment. Businesses need to encourage people to be themselves by celebrating people for who they are. This is an ongoing process and one that requires constant support. Measurement is a critical marker of success, and clear measures to track efforts when it comes to diversity and inclusion can help organisations stay on track.

Diversity and inclusion is not something that can be implemented overnight, and it takes time to get it right. It took a long time to get to this conversation, so it’s no surprise that it’s going to take a bit of time to manifest real change in the space.

Ensure that HR policies and programs support the organisation’s aspirations, but aren’t the first and last action

HR policies and programs provide structure and consistency in businesses. More than that, they recognise the needs of employees to help maintain the wellness of the organisation. The experiences employees share can be influenced and shaped by the actions and decisions of their business leaders, so reviewing existing workplace policies and programs with a diversity lens is crucial.

While many businesses have been bringing diversity and inclusion into greater focus over the last few years, there is still significant room for improvement. There are countless steps and organisation can take to cultivate diversity and inclusion in the workplace and, if chosen and acted on authentically, employees will feel supported to thrive both personally and professionally.