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From small businesses to big corporations, workplaces of all sizes are discussing the importance of diversity and inclusion. Unfortunately, in the push to diversify workplaces and hire employees from a variety of backgrounds, organizations often overlook inclusion. However well-intentioned, diversity without inclusion is meaningless.

As organizations seek new ways to increase employee satisfaction and attract top talent, cultural inclusion is of growing importance. With the economy and workplaces alike becoming increasingly globalized, it’s essential that organizations take steps to foster an environment where people of all cultures, religions, countries, races, and ethnicities are welcomed, respected, and valued. It’s up to leadership to set an example of practical cultural inclusion in the workplace.

As organizations seek new ways to increase employee satisfaction and attract top talent, cultural inclusion is of growing importance.

Rather than seeing cultural inclusion as a box to tick, when your organization embraces meaningful change, the rewards will include unlocking employees’ potential and more successful business relationships. First, dive deeper into the importance of cultural inclusion in the workplace and uncover practical strategies for weaving it into the fabric of your company.

Why Cultural Inclusion in the Workplace Matters

While discussions regarding diversity and inclusion in the workplace are certainly trending, human resources and others in leadership tend to focus on visible elements such as gender, age, and ethnicity. As part of their plan to cultivate a more diverse workplace, companies set their sights on specific numbers or percentages. This approach does little (if absolutely nothing at all) to address attitudes in the workplace environment.

According to a Glassdoor survey, 67% of job seekers consider workplace diversity an important factor when weighing a new employment opportunity. If employees find themselves in a workplace environment that is not genuinely respectful and supportive, they will not feel included.

One Gallup poll showed that 45% of American workers experienced discrimination and/or harassment in their workplace in the past year. Eventually, these employees will leave the organization in search of a place where they feel valued. Employers are back to square one and must take up the search for diverse candidates again.

Another reason cultural inclusion in the workplace matters is that, from a globalization standpoint, employees must learn how to effectively communicate with colleagues and clients living in different parts of the world. Inclusivity is an important element to global communication strategies.

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Understanding (or, at least, learning how to be sensitive to) a multiplicity of cultures, races, and ethnicities is critical for business relations such as the expansion into new markets. A 2018 study by Harvard Business Review revealed that companies with higher-than-average diversity had 19% higher innovation revenues.

Consequences of Failing to Embrace Cultural Inclusion

As mentioned, poor employee retention is one of the consequences of failing to embrace cultural inclusion in the workplace. However, it’s far from the only one. Organizations that aren’t creating welcoming environments for their employees (remember that infamous Google diversity memo?) are jeopardizing workers’ safety and wellbeing.

Research shows that enduring racism negatively impacts Black people’s health. In the early 1990s, Arline Geronimus, a professor of health behavior and health education at the University of Michigan, introduced the term “weathering” to describe how living in a racist society affects a Black person’s body. Factors such as workplace inequality require a level of resiliency that ultimately causes Black people’s health to deteriorate at a faster rate than that of their white counterparts.

Additionally, failing to implement cultural inclusion has the potential to stunt the economic success of your company. For example, even beauty lines that market themselves as “inclusive” often fail to adequately serve Black women. Companies with workplace environments where people are encouraged to share their ideas position themselves well for smart production and product development. Your business could be leaving money on the table and not even know it.

Practical Strategies for Creating an Inclusive Environment

With the negative consequences and potential benefits in mind, you’re ready to create an inclusive workplace. Enacting meaningful change will require effort on the part of everyone in your organization. Just saying your company values inclusivity isn’t enough. You will need to implement a tangible plan for cultivating a truly inclusive environment.

Unsurprisingly, change starts with leadership. Educate your leaders so that they can set a positive example for everyone else in the organization. Opportunities for education include racial bias training and honest conversations in safe spaces. Your workplace as a whole will benefit when diverse voices have the opportunities to express themselves. Leadership, in particular middle managers, must be held accountable for results in the workplace.

Other practical strategies for creating an inclusive workplace are forming inclusion councils and celebrating employee differences. Inclusion councils should be involved in retaining and growing a diverse workforce as well as helping to mediate issues among underrepresented employee groups. Celebrating employee differences can be as simple as organizing a potluck and inviting people to share about their traditions and backgrounds.

Companies should test out a variety of strategies and constantly strive to enhance inclusivity in the workplace. Investing resources into cultural inclusion will benefit every level of an organization. Diversity and inclusion in the workplace isn’t a percentage to meet or a box to tick.

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When your company makes a genuine commitment to embracing diversity and inclusion in the workplace, the benefits will make the entire organization stronger.

Jori Hamilton