How to Create an Inclusive Work Culture in Your Small Business

Author: Gabby Baglino

Gabby Baglino

Gabby Baglino

8 min. read

Updated May 10, 2024

All people deserve to be treated equally, and people are more aware of the importance of inclusivity than ever before. It’s essential that your workplace is an environment where everyone feels welcome and included.

However, the benefits of inclusivity are not exclusively altruistic. An inclusive work culture can help you attract and retain the best talent while improving morale which, in turn, boosts productivity and improves your bottom line.

Why an inclusive workplace culture is important

Creating an inclusive work culture can provide various benefits for your company, which allow you to:

Better reflect your customer base

The chances are that you have a very diverse customer base. An inclusive work culture will help your organization better reflect your customer base. If people feel they can relate to your business better then they are more likely to become loyal customers.

Broaden your workforce perspectives

Having a diverse workforce will give you access to diverse perspectives. Different perspectives can be very valuable when it comes to problem-solving because the team is collectively more likely to have a solution. Diverse teams will also make better decisions 87% of the time

Avoid discrimination lawsuits

If your organization is deemed to have discriminated against a certain person or people, then you may have a lawsuit on your hands. A lawsuit could be costly financially and very damaging to your reputation. If you set out to create an inclusive work culture then the chances of you facing a discrimination lawsuit will drop considerably. 

Improve performance

Studies have shown that diverse teams tend to perform better than non-diverse teams do. Indeed, diverse teams are around 35% more likely to outperform non-diverse teams. 

Keep the best talent

Adopting an inclusive work culture will help make your best talent feel happier in their role with you, encouraging them to stay. This helps you to keep your best talent, and also helps reduce the need for staff training. If you don’t adopt an inclusive culture, there’s a good chance your most skilled workers will leave for one of your competitors.  

11 steps to create an inclusive work culture

This leads to the question of how to create an inclusive work culture at your company? Let’s take a closer look at how you can achieve it.

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1. Get buy-in from senior management

Senior management will be in a position to shape the whole ethos and culture of a company. If the organization as a whole is to develop an inclusive culture, then those at the top need to buy into it also. That doesn’t mean simply having them agree to it or sign some documents – it means having them fully behind the initiative and eager to make it work.

When senior management fully supports an inclusive culture it influences others to do the same, including middle management. They are also more likely to be supportive of effective changes rather than just giving ineffective lip service.

Getting full buy-in from senior management might require some education, including educating them on how promoting an inclusive work culture can be beneficial for the business overall.

If you’re the business owner, then you can speak with investors or other business leaders in your industry. Getting buy-in from external influences can be just as effective as buy-ins internally. 

2. Provide a platform for anonymous communication

Many people will feel uncomfortable about speaking out when they see behavior that goes against inclusive policies. They may be concerned about retribution or being ostracized if others know they have spoken up. Some people are also simply too shy to speak out.

Regardless of the reason, problems may continue to go unchecked if they are not brought to your attention.

One solution is to create a platform that allows anyone to pass on their thoughts anonymously. Having a system for whistleblowing allows you to offer an easy pathway for employees to give feedback and criticisms in complete confidence, and will help you avoid potential discrimination lawsuits down the road.

Make sure all employees know the platform is completely safe and that nobody, including managers, will know who uses it.

3. Host regular meetings

Schedule regular meetings with your employees with inclusivity as a topic, and ensure that everyone is involved. Speak with your team about your initiatives and how you intend to make the workplace more inclusive for all.

Ask your team for opinions and feedback on how to make the plan work, making sure that everybody has a chance to say their piece.

Share your progress regularly, letting your team know what has been achieved and how it has been beneficial for all involved. Make it clear that employees are always free to speak with a manager out about any concerns regarding inclusivity and other topics.

Bear in mind that people working from home can easily feel detached from the team and the organization as a whole. If you have staff working from home, a cloud-calling solution can make it easier for all your staff members to get regular updates and feel like part of the team.

4. Build your ethos around inclusivity

Inclusivity shouldn’t just be about initiatives that take place on the periphery of your working culture. Instead, make it the center of your organization’s ethos. Make it clear that every aspect of your operations is to be performed with inclusivity in mind.

Create a company mission statement that outlines your inclusivity goals to everybody involved, from your most junior employees to the most senior, and even to your customers and other businesses you are associated with.

This will help to ensure inclusivity is entrenched deep within your company and that there’s little room for misunderstanding. Don’t forget also to get feedback when drawing up your core values to help ensure your ethos genuinely is inclusive of all people.

5. Launch initiatives that back up your statements

It’s also important to make sure you put your money where your mouth is and show that your intentions are honest. Too many businesses pay lip service to inclusivity and equality without actually committing to anything.

Supporting charities, matching employee contributions, and offering paid volunteer time for employees can make a real difference and show that your mission statement is genuine.

6. Form an inclusion task force

Create a team of people who are knowledgeable on the topic of inclusion and have a passion for it. Encourage the team to put their minds together and come up with strategies that can be implemented throughout your organization.

Your task force can help educate and encourage the rest of the workforce. They can create posters and other materials that will spread education, make the organization’s intentions visible, and help make individuals who may otherwise be marginalized feel welcome.

7. Celebrate differences

Help your employees be proud of their differences, and encourage others to respect and embrace those differences instead of discriminating against them. Don’t shy away from differences but celebrate them instead, and do so together.

If cultural festivals are happening, let it be known that all employees are free to celebrate.

Celebrating differences in this way can help people understand each other better and create more unity in your workforce. It can also help educate your workforce about their coworkers’ cultures and practices.

Take a closer look at your company’s employee calendar and you may find events that should be included as paid days off. These include Juneteenth and certain days during Pride Month. Adding such occasions to your company holiday calendar will help show your employees, and your customer base, that you genuinely want to celebrate differences.

8. Make your premises wheelchair accessible

Where possible, ensure that people in wheelchairs have easy access to the building. Create ramps that are easy to use and ensure doorways are wide enough to grant easy access. Also, ensure that facilities are available for disabled people and that they have all they need to be safe and comfortable in the workplace.

Also make sure that wheelchairs have easy access to common areas like canteens and break rooms where employees may socialize, making it easier for them to feel as though they are part of the team.

9. Encourage inclusive language

The language you use can help make a big difference in how welcome people feel in your organization. For example, use inclusive pronouns like “they” and “theirs” in official materials to avoid any perception of gender bias.

Eliminate any language that might be considered derogatory, oppressive, or culturally insensitive, and encourage all employees to do the same. Lead by example by paying special attention to this in official company communications.

10. Examine procedures for biases

It’s often difficult to identify our own biases, and they may be hidden in plain sight in your processes and procedures. If biases are not identified they will likely continue, doing harm to your business and individual employees.

Have your procedures and processes examined by a third party—preferably someone educated on topics involving inclusivity. Have your team managers study their own procedures and look for any potential biases in their day-to-day operations.

You may be surprised at how many biases are present, and identifying them enables you to fix them.  

11. Reward good performance

One of the most effective ways to let your employees know they’re appreciated is to recognize their good performance.

Arrange performance reviews so you can pass on your appreciation to employees in private, and consider more public displays of appreciation like employee of the month awards.

Rewarding good performance at work will help more of your employees feel like part of the team, that they are welcome and appreciated, and boost job satisfaction all around.

Inclusivity benefits everyone

Above are some of the key aspects to take into account when creating an inclusive work culture. It’s important that everyone is on board with the initiative, including those at the very highest levels, and that your efforts are made visible. Examine your current processes to look for hidden biases, and celebrate the differences among employees in your workforce. Achieve inclusivity and you can boost your company’s productivity and improve its reputation while helping to make the workplace a better place for everyone.

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Content Author: Gabby Baglino

Gabby Baglino is a digital marketing specialist for Vispato, with several years of experience in business marketing, writing, and content creation.