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  1. Blog
  2. Diversity

13 Must-Have Inclusive Workplace Practices

From hiring to company culture

Sign for inclusive workplace practices
Photo courtesy of Tim Mossholder

Without the existence of visible and measurable diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, our data shows that 53 percent of women are more likely to leave their companies. Throughout history, women and other underrepresented groups have been subjected to discrimination and microaggressions in the workplace, so to cultivate a culture free of exclusionary behavior, employers need to enact inclusive workplace practices. 

Inclusivity goes a long way in boosting employee morale and reducing turnover: “Workers who are satisfied with their company’s efforts on [DEI] issues are actually happier with their jobs,” says Laura Wronski, a research science manager at SurveyMonkey. “They are more likely than others to say that they have good opportunities to advance their careers, and they are more likely to feel like they are paid well for the work they do.”

If you want to support your employees equitably and holistically, check out these 13 must-have inclusive workplace practices, from hiring to company culture policies, and learn why each should be a top priority.

13 must-have inclusive workplace practices

1. Anonymous hiring

Inclusive workplace practices begin with the hiring process. Anonymous hiring allows candidates to remove demographic information—gender, ethnicity, race, education level, graduation dates, headshots—from their job applications in hopes of avoiding possible biases and discrimination. By removing identifying information from the applications, hiring managers can focus on what matters: whether they are qualified for the job. Inclusive, objective hiring processes should be a top priority for companies seeking to uproot discriminatory practices that prevent diversity in the workplace. 

2. Psychological safety

Psychological safety means employees feel comfortable being themselves and voicing their opinions, ideas, and concerns at work. Licensed psychotherapist Tameka Brewington says, “Everyone who is working in a psychologically safe workplace benefits. The employees who work in the space engage in teamwork more, collaborate better on projects, have enhanced problem-solving skills, and have better interactions with customers.” 

Without psychological safety, employees with marginalized identities (e.g. BIPOC, transgender, disabled folks) feel like they can’t share all parts of themselves and might suppress parts of their identity to feel more secure. This is extremely common in exclusionary and toxic workplaces. To cultivate psychological safety, promote self-awareness in your teams, regularly acknowledge and appreciate employees, establish rules for productive conflict in the workplace, and offer training on microaggressions.

3. Transparency

Transparency in the workplace fosters an atmosphere of safety and trust in which both employers and employees feel empowered to identify problems and to hold themselves accountable to solve them. When leaders are transparent with their employees, it creates a sense of community where everyone feels equally involved in important decisions and processes.

Wondering how you can be more transparent? Start by making compensation and salary information more visible, offering mentorship programs and employee training and development opportunities, and explaining the vision and goals related to your company policies. 

Read more: Trust, Accountability & Retention: Why Transparency at Work Matters

4. Good communication

Promoting good communication is one of the most important inclusive workplace practices. Flawed communication negatively affects employee morale, turnover rate, and even company costs—SHRM reported that companies can lose up to $62.4 million per year because of miscommunication. But when coworkers engage in respectful communication and practice active listening, they’re better able to learn from each other and understand issues from every perspective. Plus, active listening is shown to decrease errors and silos, improve teamwork, and build relationships, leading to a more cohesive and positive work environment overall.  

Read more: Lack of Communication: 5 Strategies Leaders Should Use ASAP

5. Sense of belonging

Feeling confident and comfortable at work is absolutely necessary for employees to perform well. Humans are hardwired to crave belonging, and a high sense of belonging in the workplace is linked to a 56 percent increase in job performance and a 50 percent drop in turnover risk, according to career development and coaching firm BetterUp

Career transitions, recruiting, and job searching expert Dana Hundley says, “Belonging happens when an organization recognizes that every employee is an individual with unique experience and perspective, and then develops practices, programs, etc. that create a path for genuine collaboration that supports and celebrates the individual within the whole of shared values.” To be truly inclusive, employers should encourage employees to embrace and share their unique identities at work, open up conversations about how employees want to grow in their career, and facilitate more opportunities for support.

Read more: Why That Feeling of Belonging in the Workplace Is So Important

6. Respect

Respect at work means valuing other cultures, accepting different identities, and recognizing and calling out unfair treatment in the workplace. Unfortunately, respect in the workplace is lacking worldwide—Harvard Business Review reports that 54 percent of employees internationally don’t feel respected by their bosses. 

To foster an inclusive, respectful workplace, establish guidelines about office etiquette, learn about your implicit biases (you can take a test), set aside time to listen to employees (even by scheduling more formal interviews) to understand how their unique experiences and background might affect their needs, and ensure that your diversity and inclusion policies are tied to measurable goals, not just performative language. 

Read more: Respect in the Workplace: 5 Inclusion-Driven Tactics That Lay the Groundwork

7. Trust

Building trust in the workplace creates a sense of stability and reliability, and an HBR study found that people at high-trust companies report 74 percent less stress, 50 percent higher productivity, 29 percent more satisfaction in their lives, and 40 percent less burnout

If you want to build a foundation of trust into your organization as a leader, be approachable and show your humanity, provide autonomy to your employees, set clear expectations, provide constructive feedback, reward good behavior, and host team-building activities. Plus, career and life coach Emily Stark says leaders can easily take ownership by infusing more transparency, honesty, and open conversations into their daily interactions.

8. Accountability

In an accountable workplace, there are clearly defined goals and expectations and everyone follows through on what they’ve taken ownership of. For example, if a company is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, its leaders are responsible—and should be held accountable—for hiring candidates with different backgrounds and perspectives who will add to their current teams and creating space for those voices to be heard. 

Karen Nussbaum, the founding director of the national organization of working women 9to5, tells InHerSight, “One of the best ways to hold corporations and their executives accountable for equity and inclusion is for them to take public positions on relevant issues.” State your goals publicly on your website and social media and detail them in the onboarding process and in team meetings.

9. Empathy

According to a 2020 Workplace Empathy Study, 90 percent of employees, CEOs, and human resources professionals say empathy is important in the workplace, and 83 percent said they would leave their organization for a similar role at another company that exercised more empathy. As an inclusive workplace practice, demonstrating empathy “requires stepping outside of your own needs, assessing and removing bias and privilege, actively listening to your people, and then taking action,” writes Jennifer Moss for Harvard Business Review.

Want to practice more empathy at work? Take time to connect with others on a personal level, ask questions and really listen to the answer, be open to perspectives other than your own, and avoid passing judgment or making assumptions about others.

Read more: 5 Signs Someone Lacks Empathy & How to Practice It at Work

10. Support for employees in marginalized groups

Inclusive workplaces don’t just choose competitive benefits, they choose benefits that they know will better support specific groups of marginalized employees. And when employers focus on championing intersectional subgroups, the whole company benefits by getting better benefits overall. It’s a win-win. 

For example, truly inclusive workplaces have policies, benefits, and practices in place that improve the lives of queer and trans employees. LGBTQ+-friendly workplaces offer perks like fertility benefits, transition-related care, non-discrimination policies, inclusive parental leave policies, casual dresscodes, employee resource groups (ERGs), and unconscious bias and gender inclusion education. 

In addition to the above benefits and policies, adding your pronouns to your emails or LinkedIn profile can show that you’re an ally to the LGBTQ+ community. When everyone practices sharing their pronouns, it lessens the stigma and clears any confusion, helping employees feel more comfortable being themselves at work. Using gender-neutral terms is another super simple way to show allyship and promote belonging for trans and gender non-conforming people. 

Read more: LGBTQ-Friendly Companies: 11 Key Contributors to Inclusive Cultures

11. Remote work

Understandably, offering remote work is a popular inclusive workplace practice at the moment. Only 3 percent of women tell InHerSight they’d prefer zero remote work in the future—the other 97 percent want to continue working remotely in some capacity after the pandemic. Working from home allows women the flexibility to take care of other needs, like the unpaid work and caretaking responsibilities that often fall disproportionately on women. 

But, although the ability to work remotely is a positive sign of an inclusive workplace, 37 percent of women tell InHerSight they don’t feel they have the same access to new projects and opportunities since working from home. To combat this trend and ensure that women have a virtual seat at the table, employers should consider opening up new channels for feedback, such as an anonymous question box or open discussion forum, and seek out differing opinions in larger meetings.

Read more: 185 of the Best Companies for Remote Work in 2022

12. Flexible hours

Another top-of-mind inclusive workplace practice is allowing employees the ability to set flexible hours and schedule work around life. When InHerSight asked working moms what they need most from their employers during the pandemic, the top response (48 percent) was, unsurprisingly, flexible work hours. director of global air quality sales Ayala Rudoy speaks to the benefits of offering flexible hours and building culture around results, not just time spent working: “There is a lot of trust that allows me the autonomy to manage my time as I see fit and to have full flexibility of my schedule. As a mom of three who lives in Israel and works with a U.S.-based team, this has been essential for me. It has allowed me to have a real work-life balance and also made it much easier to handle the lockdowns!”

13. Learning opportunities

Inclusive workplaces encourage continuous learning and improvement through employee trainings, courses, and meetings. Lunch and learns, for example, promote professional development, enable employees to meet team members from other departments, and create a space for useful feedback. They can cover hands-on advancement topics like how to develop your coding skills, or go into deeper discussions about more thought-provoking topics like fostering diversity and inclusion.

Another example: Expel works with a specialized human capital consultancy to offer conscious inclusion training and R.I.C.H. (race, identity, culture, and heritage) discussions for employees and managers. Their sessions have helped employees learn how individual truths impact the work and culture at Expel—for better or worse—and how to adjust their behaviors to create a wholly inclusive workplace.

Read more: Breaking Down Bias: 6 Company-Led Initiatives That Are Green Flags for Women

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