Encouraging inclusion in the workplace: all the benefits for business

Welcoming and engaging with people for who they are, without discrimination, and allowing them to express their potential increases confidence, engagement and productivity in the workplace. We look at the benefits of an inclusive environment and strategies for its successful implementation. Introducing inclusivity in the workplace can be as difficult as it is essential. It is not only an ethical obligation but also a practical issue. Indeed, encouraging diversity and breaking down prejudice has the potential to stimulate creativity, bring new perspectives and ideas that ultimately improves business performance.

Inclusion is a fundamental principle that should apply to everyone, regardless of their background, gender or ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability or any other personal characteristic.  Every person should have the opportunity to participate fully in the life of society and the company they work for, without being discriminated against or isolated. This means promoting a commercial environment in which everyone feels accepted, respected and valued, without unfair inequalities.

The concept includes several key principles:

  1. Absence of prejudice, both conscious and unconscious.
  2. Full accessibility to community activities and resources.
  3. Respect for diversity, accepting and recognising differences between individuals.
  4. Social equity, ensuring equal access to resources and opportunities regardless of personal differences.
  5. Open communication, allowing a transparent and honest exchange of information, ideas and recognition of varying opinions.
  6. Empathy, creating relationships based on trust and solidarity.

Creating environments in which everyone feels valued and accepted is one of the priorities that communities and institutions are (or should be) working towards. This is reflected, for example, in the enactment of laws against gender discrimination and regulations for the integration of people with disabilities in companies

Inclusion will also be at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and is a key pillar for achieving one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Moving towards achieving an inclusive society is indeed essential to address global challenges such as poverty, inequality, and peace, building a sustainable and equitable future for all.

So, it is worth noting that inclusion and diversity are often used as synonyms, although they are in fact distinct yet interconnected concepts. Having an inclusive culture does not necessarily mean having a diverse workforce with a wide range of characteristics. An inclusive company culture should strive to eliminate all forms of prejudice, creating an environment where employees feel welcomed and valued regardless of their personal identity.

The study “Future of Work: Diversity & Inclusion”, conducted by Inaz in collaboration with Business International – Fiera Milano, indicates that Italian companies are still far from fully embracing diversity. Although 46% of companies already have a D&I plan in place, 63% do not yet have a structured plan but there is the intention to develop one in the future.

An inclusive workplace promotes positive action to avoid prejudice, discrimination or inequality. Diversity is seen as a contribution to the culture and performance of the organisation. More and more companies are recognising that there are significant benefits to inclusion, including:

  • Loyalty: when employees feel they are treated fairly, they are more likely to be motivated and loyal to the company.
  • Innovation: an inclusive environment encourages the exchange of ideas and spurs innovation.
  • Reduced Burnout: employees who feel accepted are less likely to suffer from burnout.

With these considerations in mind, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) suggests six steps to promote inclusiveness in the workplace:

  • Educate managers on inclusivity: It cannot be assumed that managers understand the importance of an inclusive culture. It is essential to demonstrate to the organisation that inclusion is a core competency.
  • Form an Inclusion Council, made up of a dozen influential and diverse leaders from within an organisation who are recognised for their commitment to inclusion.
  • Celebrate employee differences: It is important to value differences and create an environment where people feel free to express themselves authentically in the workplace.
  • Listen to employees: the use of tools such as focus groups, regular surveys and other methods can help employees express their opinions and highlight their needs.
  • Organise more effective meetings: there are a number of activities that can be undertaken to ensure that meetings actually real exchange between all those who attend them.
  • Communicate objectives and measure progress: On the road to inclusiveness, it is essential to set and clearly define measurable and time-bound objectives, as would be the case for any other strategic objective.

A study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) of 27,000 employees in 16 countries found that those who experience harassment and discrimination are more likely to leave their jobs, while those who trust that their managers and the company they work for generally celebrate and respect the principles of inclusivity are more likely to speak openly and unfiltered about the discrimination they experience. Eliminating prejudice and discrimination thus enables people to be deeply themselves and motivates them to make the best possible contribution, with a distinctly lower likelihood of leaving their jobs.

In short, therefore, improving inclusiveness is one of the main levers for attracting and retaining talent.

Gay Lawyers, among other activities, also drafts D&I policies for small and large companies. Do not hesitate to contact us: info@gaylawyers.com

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