How to Create a More Inclusive Workplace
June is Pride Month for the LGBTQ community. It’s an important time to celebrate how far we’ve come in supporting LGBTQ individuals, and to reflect on how much farther we can all still go. It also reminds us to think of how we as employers, leaders and, most importantly, people create diverse and inclusive workplaces. Initiatives such as CEO Action and diversity reports are a step forward, but the realization of an inclusive workplace results from the actions we take on a daily basis.
At Ultimate Software, our people have always been our first priority and it has been a process as we constantly strive to make Ultimate a better workplace for all people. We’ve learned along the way how to best do that by speaking with and listening to our employees. One example was extending our 100-percent-employer-paid healthcare premiums to include not only employees and their families, but same-sex married couples, as well. Beyond benefits, however, there are many other key steps employers can take to create a more inclusive workplace:
Realize that diversity and inclusion aren’t the same thing.
Companies often focus on reaching a certain diversity representation, and then may lessen their focus once they’ve achieved the initial goal. But, hiring diverse employees is only the first essential part. Once you’ve created an inclusive culture, you have to work every day to protect that culture. Think about what you’re doing to make diverse individuals feel included, supported and respected — and whether you’re doing enough. While you may donate to transgender equality organizations, do managers understand the issues transgender employees commonly face at work? Look to bring in third-party experts for trainings on how leaders can create a welcoming and inclusive environment that treats all individuals equally.
Influence the “people managers.”
Minority groups should have the same opportunities as majority groups, but this doesn’t always happen in practice. A recent study from the Kapor Center for Social Impact found that one-third of underrepresented women of color were passed over for a promotion, and 64 percent of LGBTQ employees left a company due to bullying or public humiliation. People managers impact inclusivity, influencing decisions about promotions, raises and at-work opportunities.
At Ultimate, we believe that organizations should offer trainings on transgender sensitivities and peer support groups for queer women in leadership positions. Technology can also help level the playing field, when organizations use unbiased metrics and quantitative feedback to support their people decisions.
Be open to change.
Fostering an inclusive workplace is a work in progress. As you make significant advancement, it’s equally important to recognize your shortcomings and remain open to change. Many LGBTQ couples turn to adoption when starting their families. Case in point: Ultimate’s original adoption leave policy stated the adopted child had to be under 1 year old for the employee to receive time off. However, when one of our employees adopted an older child from China, we realized our policy was limiting. So, we decided to change the policy for everyone. Smaller companies might not be able to bend every rule for every employee, but you should keep an open mind about adjusting policies that don’t adequately support unique situations.
An inclusive workplace starts at the top but thrives from the bottom. It’s important to respect individuals’ beliefs and value a difference of opinions, and to be upfront with potential employees about the company policies in place and the values you uphold. During interviews, let candidates know what resources you offer. For instance, if you have a women’s-only networking group or a mandatory racial-sensitivity training program, be transparent in stating these company priorities. This shows minority employees you’re committed to their inclusion, and can provide insight on whether candidates share your company values and believe in your mission.
Constantly re-evaluate your programs.
As you look for more ways to improve your workplace for all individuals, take a look at what other companies are doing to address diversity and inclusion. The Human Rights Campaign produces a Corporate Equality Index every year, examining how the nation’s largest workplaces address specific policies, such as having sexual orientation in the non-discrimination policy, transgender-inclusive benefits and a public commitment to the LGBTQ community. Remember to also look at your competitors. Are talented individuals leaving your company for a more inclusive workplace? Beyond being great for people, having a workplace that values all people is also good for business — inclusive organizations have been shown to outperform their peers.
Diversity and inclusion is a complex topic, and there’s no overnight solution for making sure our employees feel valued. As we reflect on Pride Month and take time to celebrate the people who make our companies so unique, now is the perfect time to renew our focus on all people.
What can we all start doing today to foster more inclusive workplaces?