As any employer will know, in the UK there is a legal obligation to eliminate discrimination and allow equal opportunity in the workplace and this will encompass many categories such as race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexuality and disability. However, we should always strive to go above and beyond – not only is this the right thing to do but raising the bar in these areas will lead to a happier workplace overall. Happy employees are more productive and have greater job loyalty, so it’s a win-win!
There are so many types of people and employees that would benefit from greater understanding and inclusion that it would be impossible to do them all justice in one blog post – there are textbooks written on the subject and entire companies devoted to independently reviewing inclusivity to allow companies to improve. This post therefore will be a brief overview to get started, along with a few perhaps lesser considered examples.
‘A hallmark of a healthy creative culture is that its people feel free to share ideas, opinions, and criticisms. Lack of candour, if unchecked, ultimately leads to dysfunctional environments.’ — Ed Catmull, President of Pixar
How can I increase inclusivity in my company?
Re-assess your values and evaluate your current situation – if you are committed to improving your workplace culture with an emphasis on inclusivity, state this publicly in your core values. This should not be seen as a tick-box exercise but something which will continually evolve and improve. At the moment are there underrepresented workers within teams?
Engage with existing employees – tap into this resource to discover how the workplace might be improved, for example with anonymous surveys. Then demonstrate that you are willing to change things for the better by actioning suggestions
Set goals – know what you want to achieve and let your staff know there is a plan in place
Review your literature – are job descriptions and language used inclusive to all? Look at where you post on social media and who you follow to engage with wider demographics
Recruitment – connect with a diverse group of candidates so that you can redress any current inequities in the workplace. Review expectations within job descriptions – could you be more flexible?
Training – help your staff to become allies and surmount any unconscious bias. Lead by example and make sure relevant materials are easily accessible
Which members of staff may need extra support? Where might I find untapped talent?
The menopause is something half of all employees will experience, and women over 50 represent the most rapidly growing division of personnel. Yet Bupa research has shown that nearly one million women left jobs due to their symptoms, and others have felt obliged to take extended absences. 60% of menopausal women report their symptoms have negatively affected their work, and a quarter didn’t get adequate support.
Symptoms include memory loss, anxiety and depression, issues with sleeping, and headaches. An employee going through the menopause should be treated as someone with an ongoing health condition and supported accordingly. However, due to the stigma around menopause many women feel uncomfortable reporting this as the reason for their illness, so the first step for companies is to normalise the conversation with a proactive approach. Many of these women are at the top of their fields at this point and have years of important insight and invaluable experience under their belts – there is so much to be gained by retaining these important team members in the workforce and any efforts here will be undoubtedly repaid many times over.
An estimated 10% of the UK population are affected by dyslexia and it can have significant effects in the workplace – however these can be overcome reasonably easily with a flexible and supportive approach. Quite a lot of people with dyslexia have only mild symptoms and therefore may never have received a diagnosis, which is also worth bearing in mind.
Some ways to help those affected by dyslexia in the workplace;
Utilise visual and practical learning rather than just content-heavy auditory methods
Give overviews before meetings or training sessions, and introductions to each section. Dyslexics tend to be more big picture thinkers than detail oriented
Ensure regular breaks to aid concentration
Give any literature ahead of time so the employee can process the information at their own pace
Assistive technology is a godsend. This includes common things like spellcheck or voice record, but there are also specialist dyslexic software programs available
Make your written materials easier to digest. The infographic above covers some of the basics, but the British Dyslexia Association have also produced a more in-depth guide which details font choices, sizes and spacing, layout, headings, colours and writing style
Workplaces are usually not well suited to those with alternative thinking styles such as the neurodivergent population – which encompasses 15% of the UK’s populace. This not only leads to very low employment rates within autistic members of society which significantly affects their wellbeing, but also results in companies overlooking a substantial amount of talent with a unique outlook and skill set.
Autistic people, when integrated into the workplace in a thoughtful way, will provide invaluable skills in many areas. Their concentration and attention to detail is commonly far greater than average, and they are often talented at recognising patterns of errors in data instinctively. They are often creative problem solvers and will reward inclusivity in the workplace not only by bringing all these assets to the table but also with loyalty and a strong work ethic.
There are many ways to support neurodivergent workers, and these centre around an individual approach and therefore discussion with each affected employee is needed rather than a one-size-fits-all template. That being said, often written communication is preferred, especially when concise and data-lead where possible. Neurodiversity training for all employees would be encouraged to increase understanding and communication between both parties.
All members of any team will naturally have different strengths and weaknesses. Inclusive employers define inclusion as “the culture in which the mix of people can come to work, feel comfortable and confident to be themselves, work in a way that suits them and delivers your business needs.”
We are all different and this is something to be celebrated, as it will not only lead to a better work environment but ultimately a more productive one as well. Embrace National Inclusion week in your business – you won’t regret it!