Creating an Inclusive Work Environment

Diverse group of colleagues standing together smiling

Diversity and inclusion go hand-in-hand. Employees of all backgrounds who feel welcome and supported in bringing their authentic selves to work are more engaged, productive and committed to an organization’s mission and goals.

Consider these guidelines for enhancing inclusion:

Set the tone. Leaders and managers should make it clear that they value diversity and inclusion, set standards for professionalism and respectful behavior, and address incidents of bias or discrimination. Connect your unit’s goals to President Drake’s 2020 Vision and Ohio State’s core values, which are the foundation of an inclusive work environment. Frequently discuss how the values influence your unit’s vision, mission and goals as well as the team and individual contributions.

Establish effective communication channels and norms. Encourage open communication about diversity and inclusion and create channels for feedback. Encourage team members to speak up when they witness or experience biased behavior or discrimination.

Support personal growth and learning. Learning about diversity and inclusion is a continuous journey. It is important to understand that we will occasionally make mistakes and commit to learning from them. Emphasize personal accountability while avoiding shaming and blaming. Seek out resources to learn more about the rich diversity of cultures and groups at Ohio State and beyond.

Identify and address implicit bias. Build awareness and implement procedures, training and tracking mechanisms to outwit implicit biases. These may include standardized interview questions, scoring rubrics, blinded evaluation processes, and measurement systems to track applicant pools, hiring outcomes and retention practices.

Establish a council or task force to evaluate the unique diversity and inclusion needs of your unit. Goals of the group could include increasing awareness and skills through educational workshops and resources, evaluating policies and practices, and establishing an action plan and metrics to measure progress.

Additional ideas for embracing diversity and enhancing inclusion in the workplace:

  • Learn about the cultural backgrounds, interests and lives of employees and colleagues. Interact in informal settings and outside of work. Getting to know each other fosters trust and enhances inclusion.
  • Learn about topics related to diversity and inclusion such as implicit bias and cultural competence. While it is important to get to know employees and colleagues as individuals, do not expect members of historically excluded groups to educate others about their culture, race or ethnicity.
  • All employees should be able to participate in, and contribute to, the progress and success of an organization. When an employee identifies a need, ask how their environment or means of communication can be adapted to ensure inclusion.
  • Acknowledge all faiths present in your workplace.
  • Don’t assume everyone is heterosexual. Use the term ‘partners’ when inviting spouses to social activities. This is a more inclusive and non-gender specific term that includes same-sex couples.
  • Ensure all employees have the opportunity to take part in decision-making and planning for social activities.
  • Be aware of, and provide time off for, culturally significant events and holy days.
  • Recognize and acknowledge special days and events such as LGBT Pride Month (June), Black History Month (February), National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept 15- Oct 15), Native American Heritage Month (November), Women’s History Month (March), National Disability Employment Awareness Month (October), Veteran’s Day and other important events.
  • Create a shared multicultural calendar to avoid scheduling important events on major cultural holidays.

Adapted from: Diversity at Work