To my mind, I would strongly suggest that an inclusive workplace is one where everyone is valued for their contribution regardless of age, race, sex, ability, ethnic origin, gender, sexuality or faith. It is one which encourages creativity and unique solutions to many workplace problems and issues.
So, is this a “top down” or “bottom up” approach?
It is in fact both or neither depending on which way you look at it.
Certainly, inclusion strategies should be supported and promoted by all level of manager within an organisation. However by getting employees fully involved they begin to see the benefits of workplace inclusiveness. Policies and procedures should be in place which promotes equality and inclusion. These same policies and procedures should be concerned with preserving equality, human rights and dignity. They should have regard for working conditions and employee welfare. It is necessary for recruitment policies to be in place which support equality and diversity.
The workplace should also be welcoming. A culture should be fostered where everyone is treated with respect, dignity and feels valued.
When recruiting staff, companies should take regard of the ‘make-up’ of the local community and their customer base. Where there is under-representation in the workplace, minority groups should be encouraged to apply.
Staff at all levels should be made aware of the inclusive values of the company and be encouraged to play a full part in the further development of policies and procedures. After all, ownership comes from playing a part in something. Staff should also be made aware of the value of getting involved.
Segregation within the workplace should be actively discouraged either self-imposed by the employees because they identify with a particular group or by supervisors/line managers because of limited English language ability of their immediate subordinates. (This is something I have witnessed in many workplaces, where the department head nominates a ‘charge hand’ to be responsible for a particular nationality of worker because the rest of the employees do not speak English as a first language).
Finally, all employees within the workplace should be encouraged to develop their skills and progress within the company. Therefore, if there are barriers which prevent progress within the company by a specific group of people, then this should be identified and eliminated. For example, providing English language courses for people whose first language is not English.
Now that I have identified the vision of an inclusive workplace the challenge for all companies to act on it and ensure that they can provide the solutions in order to maximise productivity, attract new talent and increase employee commitment.