Guest Blog With Otisa Eads: 4 Ways to Foster Inclusivity in the Workplace

Rainbow crosswalk with people walking

by Otisa Eads

Inclusivity may be an easy concept to understand, but it is harder to implement and maintain within an organization. What do I mean by that? Well, I have noticed that it is much easier for a manager or leader to simply talk about inclusion than it is to follow through on making actual changes.

Trust me, I get it! Implementation and application of a concept can be difficult. Yet, it is extremely important that we don’t just get caught up in the celebration of Pride month (or any other month/day for that matter) and be sure we are truly living it out in the workplace.

According to Lisa Kepinski and Tinna C. Nielsen, “inclusion is when all people are valued and able to participate and contribute to their fullest”.

Inclusion in the workplace looks like…

1.) Educate and Inform

What are the existing programming, events, and employee resources available? Do you invite speakers to continue educating and informing your employees on DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) initiatives? Do you especially partner with LGBTQ+/BIPOC speakers, coaches, and consultants to put on programs and events for your staff?

If not, I suggest creating an employee engagement calendar that will encompass safety, education, and team building/fun. Then, reach out to speakers, facilitators, or another 3rd party on partnering to execute this programming. (You can go ahead and create a list of partners to refer to when you are needing support with your programming and DEI initiatives.)

2.) Inclusive Culture Reminder

Send a reminder to your staff about fostering an inclusive culture and share what that looks like at your organization. You can give examples of what is important for inclusivity to thrive in the workplace. Also, be sure to explain what is not accepted in your workplace culture.

Do you allow your staff to provide input on programming or events? Do you offer affinity spaces when hosting DEI training, discussions, or cohorts? Perhaps starting an Employee Resource group/committee can be a starting point in bridging the gap between what staff are wanting when it comes to training, development, DEI programming, and affinity spaces. This will be a great way to implement the input and feedback given by staff.

3.) Policies and Procedures

Do you have a zero-tolerance (discrimination/harassment/bullying) policy? This policy would ensure the safety of employees and explain the consequences for those who do not comply with this policy. You will need to clearly define what this policy means for your company, what the consequences would be, and make sure that this process/procedure is fair when executed.

Additionally, it will be pertinent to equip managers and leaders with the ability to follow up and follow through with a complaint process if an issue is needing to be addressed between employees. Make sure managers have a procedure to utilize when complaints arise and they know exactly what to do in documenting the complaint/incident and support the employee through this entire process. Be their advocates!

4.) Celebrate but don’t be performative.

It is awesome to celebrate Pride with your staff and coworkers. Just be sure to check in with your employees on what they want to do in order to celebrate. There are a variety of ways you can celebrate as a team, but you want to make sure that the fun isn’t harmful or performative.

Be sure you are following the suggestions above to make sure that there is some thought behind the events, actions, or swag bags. Lastly, be sure you are not just celebrating Pride because it is trending to do so or for fear of being canceled if you do not, but that you’re making inclusivity the norm in the workplace.

Your BIPOC & LGBTQ+ staff wants to feel heard, seen, and valued all year round not just during Pride month (or when celebrating Juneteenth etc.). Create a work environment that allows consistency with inclusion efforts. Focus your time and energy on making inclusivity the default and be sure to allow room for feedback and adjustment.

What are your thoughts on inclusion and equity efforts in the workplace? Please share your thoughts with me below.

Otisa Eads (she/her) is an HR & Systems Strategist Consultant to help established business owners create systems that optimize their business for growth and expansion. In addition, Otisa loves creating strategies with start-ups, non-profits, and business owners who want to expand their choices with new aligned and effective solutions to the problems in their business. In her HR expertise, she specializes in creating strategies, on-boarding systems, and leadership development training & coaching. She enjoys planning and executing employee engagement activities for her clients. Otisa is passionate about organizational culture and DEIJ (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice) when she is working with clients and speaking at events. 

Otisa holds a Bachelors of Science and Business and a Bachelors of Arts from Murray State University. She is originally from Westport, KY. Now, she has lived  in Colorado for the past 8 years.

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