At Gateway HR, we’re firm believers that inclusivity isn’t just a buzzword, or something that should be on a business’s agenda once, and then forgotten about. Creating a culture of inclusivity and ensuring that you have the policies and practices in place to support with ensuring that this is considered at every stage of business operations, is key to ensuring that your business is offering the best range of opportunities to all individuals.

You’re probably more used to seeing the word ‘inclusion’ being accompanied by its two companions, Equality and Diversity – forming the famous ED&I when they’re together. However, as passionate believers of ED&I being a mainstay within a business and not a trend, we wanted to take the time to look at each area on its own; so we’ve pulled together a quick definition of each, and some key things to bear in mind for each area whether you are a HR professional, business owner, member of a networking group within your organisation, or just an employee looking to make a difference!

Let’s start with Equality – Equality is the practice of everything being equal, or the same. Whether it be ensuring that everyone has the same access to education, to hobbies and furthering potential talents, and even job opportunities. However, this is not to be confused with Equity. Equity is about providing the appropriate level of support that individuals need to reach the same goal – the key difference here is that the support offered may not be the same for each person in this case.

Next up is Diversity. The CIPD defines diversity as the differences in “colour, ethnicity, abilities, age, gender, beliefs, interests, socioeconomic (class), marital or partnership status, sexual orientation, geographic, academic/professional backgrounds, opinions, backgrounds, thinking, experiences and many other characteristics.” Research has shown that organisations with diverse workforces see huge increases in innovation and decision making, as the range of perspectives and backgrounds is much wider than a non-diverse team.

And lastly (but certainly not least), Inclusion. This is the practice of making sure that teams feel psychologically safe in their workplace, and that their contributions are not only listened to but that they are heard, and also encouraged! Having an inclusive culture means that individuals can comfortably be themselves when they are at work without fear of being treated any differently, and organisations who have developed this have seen increases in engagement and empowerment within teams.

So, we’ve briefly covered the definitions – bearing in mind that these are very brief, as we could talk for hours on each section! But why should you consider creating an inclusive culture, and what should you think about when doing so?

Let’s start with the why:

  • Increased engagement from your team
  • Better decision making
  • Increased team cohesion
  • Attraction and retention rate increases through increased brand reputation and support/development offerings.

And what are some key things to consider when reviewing your culture?

  • Culture starts from the top down – there is no point in saying something if you don’t mean it, and if your actions don’t back it up too. It’s not a HR Department’s responsibility to single-handedly change a business culture, everyone must play their part.
  • Everyone’s needs are different – just because two people have the same diagnosis, this does not mean that any potential support or help they need is the same. Assess each case individually but apply the same level of support and flexibility regardless.
  • Obtain buy-in from key leaders and Managers within your organisation – these may potentially also be the biggest influencers within your teams, so it’s important that they are championing your message of belonging and inclusivity.
  • Offer the right training and development – to your leaders, your teams, and anyone with an interest in this area!

A growing area of inclusivity focuses on Neurodiversity – another thing that we’re glad to see finally getting the recognition it truly deserves. The lack of resources and support available to employers when supporting neurodiverse individuals into the workplace – or those who receive a diagnosis during the course of their employment – has been noticeable over recent years, but we’re now starting to see an increase in discussions in this area which is great. It’s so important to consider neurodiversity when assessing the inclusivity of your workplace, as the needs of individuals will vary greatly and there is also often still a stigma attached to neurodiverse conditions. Creating an environment where individuals feel safe and comfortable disclosing any conditions so that they can receive the true support they need is invaluable in avoiding potential performance (and discrimination) issues.

As we’ve said, creating a sense of belonging and purpose is the responsibility of everyone within an organisation. It definitely needs to come from the top; however, you also need to obtain buy-in and support from everyone within an organisation to ensure that everyone is working together to create a safe, judgement-free and accepting environment.

Now, we do live in the real world, and so we’re not pretending that differences in the workplace don’t (and won’t) arise once your culture has changed. Hopefully they will be few and far between, but there will always be instances of differences in opinion or a clash in views. However, having the right policies and processes in place to manage situations like these when they arise will help you with navigating these challenges, and will provide key support with maintaining an environment of acceptance whilst making it clear what is and is not acceptable in the workplace. Therefore, if you’re considering reviewing your culture and whether you’re championing belonging and inclusivity, it’s always worth taking stock of your current policies and processes and making sure you’ve got a strong set of documents to support you with managing any situations like this.