21st September, 2021
As a business grows, the team and cohesion of its workforce becomes more important. That’s when promoting diversity and inclusion really takes the stage.
“Building an inclusive culture and diverse workforce isn’t just the right thing to do, it can also bring powerful benefits for your accounting firm. Why? Because different kinds of people think differently, looking at and solving problems in new ways. Diversity can be ‘a potent force of insight and innovation.’” – Harvard Business Review.
A diverse workforce is only the first step. To realise the benefits to insight and innovation, you first need an inclusive culture – one in which diverse voices will be heard and taken seriously.
Diversity and inclusion in business means supporting a workforce where team members feel a sense of belonging to share different thoughts and perspectives. Innovation and problem solving thrive when people can do their best work – and that occurs when they’re able to just be themselves and feel they’re an important part of a wider team.
Enabling an inclusive environment where team members feel a sense of belonging allows diversity to thrive. Diversity in the workplace implies a workforce that’s varied by gender, ethnic background, age, religion, sexual orientation, nationality, life experience and even health conditions, which can be fostered to create a diversity of thought and perspective.
There are many ways to promote inclusion and diversity in your place of work, with most of them aimed at celebrating and creating awareness of the diversity that exists in your workforce to foster a sense of belonging.
That being said, it all starts with making sure you’re building a diverse team from the get-go. And that could mean reviewing your hiring processes (see How to create a diverse and inclusive culture at work, later in this article).
How you continue to promote diversity and inclusion with an existing workforce will likely come down to the members of that workforce and what they’re hoping to see in terms of representation. Some common examples are given below.
Who are the people that make up your workforce and what are the cultural events they would be celebrating at home? Invite these events into the office and engage your workforce to get involved! Businesses that encourage the sharing of cultures will naturally be seen as more inclusive
Community groups that are proactive in supporting and contributing to cultural events are also likely to help create shared resources for the benefit of the whole organisation. This offers a way of sharing culture and creating community that’s less tied to calendar events
Not only can you consider how the traditional owners of the land you work in are acknowledged as part of regular meetings and events, take into consideration this acknowledgement in all areas of your business. For example, in New Zealand te reo Māori (the Maori language) is increasingly appears in business meetings while in Australia, Australia Post recently made the big step of including First Nations place names in addresses
For growing businesses, it’s important to understand where you may have an imbalance of genders in certain roles or areas of the business. Further, are all ‘like for like’ roles equally compensated across genders? If you haven’t investigated these questions before, you may run the risk of being seen as less inclusive
Engaging with employees on the subject of diversity requires a certain amount of attention be given to ensuring the language used is inclusive. This may mean starting a discussion around how the business and your team uses pronouns, gendered language or multiple languages both internally and externally
Inclusive workplaces are six times more likely to be innovative and twice as likely to achieve or surpass financial goals. They also keep employees longer. That’s partly because a diverse and inclusive workplace isn’t just good for people outside the mainstream, it’s also good for those who fit the traditional mould.
If a workplace actively seeks diverse people, they’ll feel more comfortable bringing their whole selves to work, knowing they’ll be accepted for who they are. And, on a purely practical level, when you’re looking for diverse people, your talent pool will widen significantly.
Read: Talent acquisition: Building a modern workforce
Creating diversity is easy – just make the effort to recruit and employ people who look and think differently from people already on your team.
Creating inclusivity is more complex, and takes an all-business effort that goes beyond anti-discrimination by actively seeking and appreciating diverse voices.
It’s a lofty goal, but with continuous focus, small actions at every level of the business will start to add up. Here are some of the ways you can start now.
Is your leadership on board? You’ll need to put diversity and inclusion on the priority list, so you can invest time and money into implementing initiatives, rather than just paying lip service.
Even in the most equal-seeming business, there will be systems that work against diversity. Is it in the way you review salaries or in your hiring process?
Once you’ve found ways you can improve, write down what you’re aiming for, what you’re changing and things you won’t accept. This may seem like ticking boxes but it can have real-world impacts.
As an example, one study showed that policies of this kind lowered instances of harassment and discrimination towards gay employees – a big step towards whole-hearted inclusivity.
Feeling welcome isn’t just about friendly teammates, it’s about how a space is set up to accommodate your different needs.
Can someone who uses a wheelchair or crutches get around easily? Are meetings held in a way that makes more room for women’s ideas? Do you have accessible facilities and food for gender-diverse folk, those breastfeeding, people with a-typical brains, with mental or physical challenges and various religious beliefs and lifestyles?
There’s a reason team-building activities are so popular. When people get to know each other, two things happen.
First, they get to understand the different challenges people face, which naturally leads them to build mutual trust. They’ll also – perhaps contradictorily – focus less on the differences and more on each team member’s humanity.
You don’t need to take people away for paintball or a confidence course. Simply build moments into your day-to-day that allow for connection. Host a casual morning tea once a week, ask that people eat lunch away from their desks and put up a fund to sponsor team activities.
Flexible work hours are an easy, catch-all way to make your workplace more inclusive. People can fit work around supporting family members, caring for kids, religious practices or even simply transport logistics.
Set some parameters, then let your people choose when and where they work.
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Diversity and inclusion are not only a fair way to run your operation. They are also a sure-fire recipe for reviving a stagnant business, bringing in new ideas and boosting innovation.
Start with your senior management to remove the roadblocks and create a workplace that’s accessible and welcoming to everyone. Find ways to unite teams and foster work friendships, and give each employee the opportunity for flexible working hours.
Now’s the time to start widening your talent pool and keeping your people for longer to give your business a shot in the arm.
Are you taking on more people but need the right system to help you manage them? MYOB Advanced Professional Services Edition has everything you need to scale and support a growing practice. Take a closer look today.