Towards a more inclusive working environment

March 29, 2023


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In a society as diverse as ours, inclusion is an important issue. Yet translating those good intentions into practice in the workplace is not always a straightforward task. With a roadmap in hand, we pave the way towards an inclusive work environment.

Diversity refers to the existence of differences between people, both visible and invisible differences. Such visible differences can be skin colour, but also age or whether or not people have a physical disability. Invisible differences include personality, but also political affiliation and culture. Inclusion goes hand in hand with diversity, but is not the same thing: inclusion refers to actively involving all people. Inclusion is a way of dealing with diversity, namely including everyone in the group.

Many organisations include diversity and inclusion as a core value. There are several reasons why organisations commit to a diversity and inclusion (D&I) policy. The following are some of the main reasons:

  • An inclusive company achieves better results. To give just one example, according to a 2015 PwC study, organisations with a high degree of diversity more easily increase their market share and achieve greater success in new markets. After all, inclusive companies attract more talent and have lower turnover.
  • Employees who feel accepted for who they are feel better and more motivated at work.
  • By standing for inclusion as an organisation, relationships with your customers improve. At the end of the day, your customers are different too and it is important to be aware of that. So by being mindful of diversity, you will have a better understanding of diversity among your clients and engage with them better.
  • By focusing on inclusion, you show society that you take your social responsibility. This creates trust between your organisation and society.
  • Aside from being a relevant core value, a D&I policy is also important to comply with legal requirements. After all, discrimination is prohibited. In Belgium, there must be equal opportunities in work and employment. For instance, you need to ensure that the workplace is accessible to employees with disabilities.

It is therefore important to draw up a roadmap to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace. But how do you do that?

1. Diversity and Inclusion Scan

Before you can take practical steps, you need to know what is going on in your workplace, so the first step is to investigate. What is the composition of your team? Have certain misunderstandings or conflicts arisen in the past as a result of colleagues being different? How were these dealt with at the time? Before diversity can flourish, you naturally need to know what kind of soil you are planting the seeds in. That is why a B-Tonic Diversity and Inclusion Scan is essential. That scan gauges the state of diversity and inclusion in your organisation. What are you doing well, what can we improve together? Consider for instance using inclusive recruitment strategies. The scan alone is not enough: you also need to know where you want to go. B-Tonic helps your organisation with that too.

2. Go for a diverse workforce

A diverse workforce is a good idea for the reasons already highlighted above. But apart from that, it is also useful to focus on a diverse and inclusive workforce. According to McKinsey, for example, the companies with the greatest gender diversity are 21% more likely to have above-average profit. So in this way, you can argue that inclusive hiring can result in a larger talent pool. In turn, a larger talent pool leads to a range of perspectives, which improves mutual cooperation.

3. Train team leaders: they need to carry the vision forward

Train your organisation’s team leaders. They can spread the vision, internally and externally. Thanks to your team leaders, employees become motivated and involved in the policy. Have team leaders also open up towards their employees too. Een goed D&I-beleid begint tenslotte bij de teams zelf.

4. Connect and communicate with employees

To create a successful D&I policy, awareness at work is essential. Communicate openly about this with your employees. On the one hand, what is the power of diversity and inclusion and in what way might they themselves feel the impact? On the other hand, it is important to dwell on possible obstacles. This could be about small things, such as an employee who is less able to walk and therefore cannot easily get on the high chairs of a meeting room, for example. A useful tool to dwell on this issue are D&I training courses. Such trainings can help employees become aware of the value of diversity and inclusion and how it contributes to an inclusive work environment. This can lead to greater understanding and respect between employees and reduce prejudice and stereotypes.

In addition to D&I training, you can hold open conversations with teams among themselves about the vision and about inclusion within the team. Such conversations can sometimes be a little uncomfortable, but understanding and empathy about the personal story quickly remedy that. By opening up to everyone’s own values and norms, background and personal story, you will understand your team better and solve or even prevent potential problems faster.


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maartje vanewijk

Aaltje van der Zee
People Sustainability Expert

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