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August 9, 2023

The importance of an inclusive workplace and how to create one

The labor market is currently seeing its biggest upheaval in decades. Countless employees seem dissatisfied with offerings that appeared attractive only a few years ago. It leaves employers struggling to understand why their team members are unhappy or even why they are leaving for the competition.

Unfortunately, the answer is often still a lack of diversity. With that, each worker calling for a more inclusive workplace policy is on the heels of what, according to research, would make those companies more profitable and competitive anyway.

In this blog post, we’ll break down:

  • How your business can benefit from a workforce with different backgrounds
  • Which inclusion goals to choose to make the abstract idea of a diverse workplace concrete
  • Why a non-inclusive workplace is actively hurting your company
  • Which specific inclusion efforts can help leaders attract talent and improve their business

Inclusive workplaces are vital for business success

Inclusivity no longer merely involves the intentions of companies that want to set a good example for their industry. During the pandemic, many employees evaluated whether they felt valued. In a recent study, 51% of employees who had just quit their jobs cited a lack of belonging as the reason for leaving.

However, that’s not the only reason inclusion has become more of a focus today. Generational change also has a major impact on the typical expectations of employees.

Millennials and Gen Z make up about a quarter of the global workforce. By 2029, that number is expected to rise to 72%. As a result, inclusion efforts such as Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) initiatives are no longer just part of employer branding as they may have been in years past. Today, workplace inclusion has a measurable effect on talent acquisition, employee retention, collaboration, and cost-effectiveness.

It’s worth stressing that an inclusive environment has an impact on improving productivity and employee experience. That’s because an open culture gives diverse talent a chance to speak up, often bringing in an underrepresented group's perspective.

As a result, each employee can engage in their most creative work, allowing your team to solve the most challenging problems. Over time, your workers can learn to embrace different conversation cultures and problem-solving approaches and apply them to tasks you hadn’t considered before.

Each step toward inclusion can move your own business forward and allow your diverse workforce to be more empathetic with customers.

Proactively implementing an inclusive work culture will also help you comply with the ethical standards and regulations some countries have already implemented to promote diversity and equal opportunity. An improved brand reputation and higher employee retention rates will be an added benefit.

What are the characteristics of an inclusive workplace?

According to our research, even organizations that saw the need for an inclusive workplace still struggled to translate broad mission statements into a comprehensive DE&I initiative. From 2021 to 2022, there was no significant increase in companies with a thorough DE&I strategy.

From numerous public commitments, one can see that businesses recognize the need for an inclusivity strategy to attract diverse employees in the future. However, a wide gap remains between these announcements and concrete measures to implement inclusive cultures.

Ideally, you want to create a workplace where diversity in all its forms is embraced, whether that’s race, ethnicity, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, religion, or socioeconomic background.

DE&I standards offer some guidance for creating a more equitable workplace because they acknowledge that historical and systemic inequalities in our present-day environment require strategies that are just as structured.

Practically, that can mean different things, depending on your current workforce and business goals.

Maybe you’ve found that your application process doesn’t meet your actual diversity goals, making it prone to bias. In that case, it may be worth overhauling talent acquisition practices and introducing blind resume screenings.

Maybe you already have a diverse team but they’re not collaborating well. If so, leadership and inclusion training, focusing on unbiased collaboration, may further unite your team and contribute to a more inclusive workplace culture.

Many paths can let you reap the benefits of more varied perspectives, from sponsorship programs and cultural events to interviews and employee resource groups.

If you’d like to learn more about the benefits packages and engagement strategies that make your employees feel seen and respected, one of our specialized Marsh McLennan Agency consultants will gladly walk you through the options that suit your diversity goals.

Challenges non-inclusive workplaces commonly face

On paper, less inclusive businesses initially only face a lack of diversity. However, these companies suffer from a range of problems as a result, which they do not always associate with poor inclusion.

For the most part, that’s due to the very nature of a non-inclusive work environment. If team members don’t feel like an essential part of the organization, they probably won’t announce it publicly to explain why they’re quitting their jobs. After all, not being heard is the very reason they’re leaving. Fifty percent of the U.S. workforce are “Quiet Quitters,” meaning they grow increasingly detached from their job while only doing the necessary minimum or leaving without explaining why.

Both can be incredibly challenging for employers. They often seek an explanation within the contract conditions or the employee’s benefits package. While that may be one of the reasons, discussing benefit options with your employees will usually be more straightforward than addressing less tangible issues that are part of your office culture.

In many cases, non-inclusive enterprises can experience impacts ranging from lower employee engagement to higher turnover rates. That’s because individuals feel excluded, marginalized, or undervalued. But even if those workers don’t decide to leave, the lack of inclusivity hurts the company. Often, team members who feel left out can grow disengaged or struggle to collaborate.

Since these employees don’t feel seen, it can erode their commitment to the enterprise’s goals and mission. Additionally, the impacts stemming from a lack of diversity can have detrimental effects on their overall health. Excluded workers often face higher stress levels, anxiety, and depression. Each of these factors in itself can limit the employee’s health in the long term. This can lead to increased absenteeism and, thus, additional stress on the other workers, perpetuating the cycle.

Though depression and stress are sometimes ignored for a long time, even by employees themselves, it’s harder to do so with subsequent physical illnesses, such as heart disease or sleep disorders, which often require years of treatment. Many American workers are already struggling with financial stressors and relationship problems, and employers providing support for their overall well-being can positively impact employees both in and out of the workplace.

Apart from those internal struggles affecting the workforce, non-inclusive businesses could also face external challenges. Their lack of workplace diversity and higher turnover rates can damage their employer brand, making it difficult to attract new talent.

Finally, these enterprises can face legal and compliance risks if they find themselves violating local employment laws and regulations around inclusion. Being non-inclusive can hurt your employees and reputation and weaken the trust stakeholders place in you, leading to financial penalties.

If you’d like to learn which voluntary benefits and communication strategies can boost your employees’ loyalty while helping you to attract new talent, get in touch with a specialized Marsh McLennan Agency consultant.

How employers can create a more inclusive culture

If you’ve concluded that your company could benefit from a more inclusive work environment, you’re already one step ahead of the competition. Still, it’s important to note that reaching your enterprise DE&I goals does take time.

To develop an informed strategy incentivizing inclusive behavior, you should assess your current situation, including application and office practices. This can also involve requesting feedback from your employees, which requires special tact, especially if your team isn’t used to inclusive workplace practices. Let them know it’s OK to open up about their authentic selves and to share where the work environment could be improved.

Create a clear strategy with specific inclusion goals, timelines, and responsibilities. This might affect your entire company culture or only require you to use more inclusive language, depending on your current situation. If you haven’t considered the structural changes demanded by employees for a while, you might need to update your options for employee well-being and benefits packages.

To ensure these actions align with your overall business goals, it’s essential that inclusive leadership personnel lead by example and coordinate strategies in detail with your vision. One such approach could be adding a role like Chief Diversity Officer or another diversity leader who aligns strategy and training programs with your current needs in gender and diversity goals.

Fostering an inclusive culture at the office may require a certain level of reconsideration within your organization and your employees’ their daily habits and operations, from the hiring and training process to meeting agendas and reporting.

As you open the door for feedback from your entire corporation, consider external partnerships for objective insights, as well. That can mean collaborating with industry associations and diversity-oriented non-profits.

If you struggle to find an informed approach for your enterprise, a Marsh McLennan Agency consultant can assist you in evaluating your employee benefits offerings and implementing the right communication and employee engagement strategies.

Get in touch with us today. We’ll help you design a comprehensive inclusion strategy, from HR tools supporting your workforce demographics to strategic plan management that helps you notice marginalized team members before it’s too late.