When you stress inclusivity at your small business, you tap into the innate power that comes from linking together people with different backgrounds. As a small business owner, you’re the primary mover behind your company’s culture, and you can do a lot with your business policies to foster open communication and diversity.
The Basics of Company Culture
Your company’s culture is like an ecosystem that helps your employees to thrive — or drags them down into discouragement, grumbling, and negativity. You can build a positive, nurturing company culture beginning the day you open your doors by taking proactive steps. Start by defining your company’s values. Whether you opt for innovation, encouragement, creativity, deadlines, or the bottom line, your company culture automatically reflects the things you value. From there, you can help foster your chosen company culture by hiring people who share your vision and values.
Why Inclusivity Matters at Work
When your workplace values inclusivity and collaboration, your employees feel supported. They understand that they have the freedom to achieve their best potential and to set aside differences to work with one another toward a common goal. An inclusive workplace is one that doesn’t waste the talent of its workers because of prejudices, low expectations, and assumptions, and it doesn’t sideline valuable employees in petty competitions and power plays.
As a small business owner, you know your company benefits when employees experience high job satisfaction. When this occurs, you suffer far less employee turnover. You’re able to plan for the future without the constant start-and-stop loss of momentum caused when you have a constant stream of employees coming and going.
Creating a Company Culture That Fosters Inclusivity and Diversity
Your company culture and inclusivity can indeed walk hand in hand. An inclusive, diverse workplace encompasses people from a wide range of backgrounds. It may include people of color, women in roles not traditionally assigned to women, individuals from the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities, single parents, and those from a varied range of religious backgrounds.
There are plenty of steps you can take to encourage inclusivity in your business and to make it a priority. Consider implementing the following:
- Create opportunities for employees to interact outside the workplace so they can learn about each other’s lives and cultural backgrounds.
- Include all employees in decision-making where possible, and offer the opportunity to plan social activities to all employees.
- Acknowledge special days such as the International Day to End Racism, Gay Pride parades and celebrations, and the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
- Recognize all religious holidays as equal, and provide people of all faiths time to worship or celebrate special holy days.
- Use the term "partners" rather than "spouses" when speaking of employees’ significant others or inviting them to office-sponsored events.
- Challenge stereotypes of LGBTQ if they come up in discussions, and don’t promulgate them in official communications.
- Show respect for transgender individuals in the midst of transition by using their preferred pronouns and establishing a flexible dress code.
- Provide appropriate accommodations for the blind, deaf, or otherwise disabled.
- Reduce disruptive or distracting background noise in your workplace to accommodate those on the autism spectrum or who have hearing loss.
- Provide instructions and information in a way that those with learning disabilities can understand.
- Connect employees with mental health issues to any needed help.
- Create flexible schedule options to accommodate the needs of single parents.
- Use scheduling software to avoid placing important meetings on cultural or religious holidays.
- Network with local groups to build a diverse workforce by recruiting from a wide range of cultural backgrounds.
When you develop company policies that allow all employees to be heard and acknowledge the rich diversity of cultures, religions, and abilities, your workplace can benefit from taking advantage of the talent of all employees.