Inclusion is a pillar of a functional workplace. It manifests on many levels, from meetings to policies to seemingly insignificant day-to-day workplace banter. As the boss, it is ultimately your responsibility to create an inclusive space on all levels, for all demographics that comprise your team. A good first step is to clearly define inclusivity, what it means to you, and how you expect to see it take shape in the workplace.
A recent Harvard Business Review article suggests that inclusive meetings constitute the essence of an inclusive workplace. It puts forth several ideas on how to lead such meetings.
Prior to each meeting, make sure everyone has a seat at the table, literally and figuratively. Encourage your attendants to listen and share and let them know they’re in a safe space to do so, even if their opinions differ from those of other folks (including your own). If you notice that a particular individual or small group tends to dominate the discussion, intervene and give the floor to someone else.
It might be helpful to set some ground rules—time limits, participation quotas, etc.—in advance, to ensure that everyone has equal opportunities to contribute. You could even go one step further and offer inclusion training to your employees, which can help eliminate bias and model inclusive language and other practices.
Often, employers implicitly exclude people without realizing it. To avoid systematic missteps and strive for inclusive customs, you must first understand who in your workforce may be more vulnerable to exclusion. For example, if you tend to hold meetings in the mornings, you may be systematically excluding parents who have to take their kids to school and, as a result, must begin their workdays later.
If you’re unsure about how to make your schedules and policies more inclusive, get input from your team. Continuing with the above example, circulate a poll asking who would and would not arrive on time for early-morning meetings, and why. Asking for your employees’ input will empower them and, in turn, lead to more inclusive practices.
Aside from the fact that it’s the right thing to do, leading an inclusive workspace can really benefit your business. By hiring people with a wide range of backgrounds and empowering them to share their ideas, you will create an environment that fosters innovation. If people feel like they have a voice in your organization and that their opinions matter, they will be more likely to offer their unique perspectives which, in turn, will stimulate new ideas throughout your team. Instead of getting stuck in the same thinking patterns and running into the same roadblocks, your team will have a new set of tools to draw upon and think outside the box.