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How can you tell if your workplace is actually inclusive?

  Aug 25 2022 | admin

A practical guide to recognizing Unconscious Bias and tips to make your workplace inclusive:

How can you tell if your workplace is actually inclusive?

   Inclusive workplaces recognize their Unconscious Biases and remove systematic barriers

Employees in organisations with higher scores on inclusion assessments are 45% more likely to stay at their organisation and   90% more likely to go out of their way to help a colleague.

It has been established that inclusive practices make your employees your collaborators. It gives them a voice, enables a  sense of belongingness and provides equitable learning and development opportunities. 

However, Unconscious Biases based on societal conditioning hamper inclusiveness and potential business growth in your organisation. 

The first step to making your workplace inclusive is to identify these biases and actively work to remove them.

Let’s bust these biases-

Bias #1: Asking women applicants “When are you planning to get married?”

Truth– If job interviews are loaded with questions directed to women if they are married or single or how they are going to manage work-family responsibilities or have questions pertaining to pregnancy or future child-bearing plans, it amounts to discriminatory hiring practices

83% of Indian youth believe asking female candidates about marriage plans during interviews is inappropriate. Indian youth do not share the corporate’s view that female employees change their priorities after marriage. 

Getting married or having kids are personal choices and do not reflect on the skillset, work experience and educational background of the candidate. 

Bias #2: Employing trans people is more trouble than it’s worth

Truth– The continuing lack of information about transgender issues makes it hard for trans people to participate in the economy. 

An inclusive workplace allows trans people to be upfront about their gender identities and provide a supportive organisational environment. LGBTQIA+ who are open about their sexuality at work are much less likely to leave their company than their closeted peers.

If your workplace is not inclusive, people from transgender communities may involve themselves in self-monitoring behaviour. They may conceal their appearance to fit intogender-performativenesslike modulating their voices and hiding their bodies.

Bias #3: You believe that older employees=less productivity=fit for early retirement 

Truth– This bias perpetuates discrimination towards older people. They are denied work opportunities and receive age-specific remarks too often. They are asked to retire involuntarily due to age. 

Older workers face negative stereotypes, including perceptions that they are less adaptable, lack physical capabilities, and have limited technological knowledge. 

Not only that, this bias puts pressure on the younger employees to drift towards workaholism

Irrespective of age, companies should promote employees based on performances, not stereotypes. 

Bias #4: People who are neurologically diverse are ‘lesser’ or ‘abnormal’.

Truth– Research suggests that teams with neurodivergent professionals in some roles can be 30% more productive than those without them. Inclusion and integration of neurodivergent professionals can also boost team morale.

HR practices are not inclusive if they believe that cognitive conditions such as Asperger’s, Dyslexia, Autism and ADHD are diseases that need to be corrected. 

Harvey Blume in The Atlantic, 1998 says – “Neurodiversity may be every bit as crucial for the human race as biodiversity is for life in general. Who can say what form of wiring will be best at any given moment?” 

A study by the University of Montreal found that in a test that involved completing a visual pattern, people with autism finished 40% faster than those without the condition. 

Some of the most famous and successful people in the world are neurodivergent. Satoshi Tajiri, the creator and designer of Pokemon, has Asperger’s Syndrome; Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, has dyslexia and actor and activist Emma Watson has ADHD.

Bias #5: Single parents and divorcees are challenging to work with

Truth– No single parents are not challenging to work with. 

However, hostile work environments like being passed over for promotion when they are better qualified or experiencing sexual harassment at the workplace make it non-conducive for them to stay at work. Therefore, such issues should be addressed through institutional mechanisms.

Bias #6: People with disabilities are inefficient & absent at work

Truth– There are many qualified candidates with disabilities. Employers should not assume that people with disabilities lack the necessary education, training and experience for employment, and would not be able to perform essential job functions. 

Moreover, companies benefit from the untapped talent pools through inclusive policies. In India, out of almost 3 crore people with disability (PwD), of which around 1.3 crore is employable, only 34 lakh have been employed. With the right policy and strategy shift, there is a real chance to raise employability rates and per capita income among the PwD population.

Lakshmi Sreenivasan, the founder of The Outcast Collective says-

“ When employees feel their identities, ideas, presence or contributions are not valued, they eventually leave. Hence, challenging these biases is important for making workplaces truly inclusive. It helps us unlearn our inherent thought processes and improve employee retention.”

Tips to make your workplace inclusive:

  • An inclusive workplace starts with inclusive hiring and interviewing practices- 

If your organisation has barrier-free recruitment and selection processes, it will receive applications from diverse backgrounds and vice-versa.

Job Descriptions(JD) are the first impression of your company culture to the applicants. Using phrases like “mentally tough” or “strong business acumen” in your JDs might scare away potential talented employees. Words like these narrate an aggressive approach toward the job post and negatively impact candidates who are not cisgender heterosexual men. 

As opposed to that, if your JDs mention that you are open to employing LGBTQIA+ and people with disabilities, it encourages candidates to apply with a positive mindset. 

Similarly, interviewing in a professional and non-judgemental manner is equally important. To make sure that happens, ensure that your selection committees represent people from diverse backgrounds and you have a structured interview format. This not only reduces the chance that interviewers will go off on irrelevant tangents that introduce unconscious bias but also makes it easier to compare candidates more fairly. 

  • Inclusive workplaces adopt gender-neutral language– 

Language is the key to connecting with marginalised groups such as LGBTQIA+. Workplaces are the spaces outside one’s home that shapes an individual’s self-worth. Hence, to make everyone comfortable with their sense of being, it is important to break the male/female binaries of identity.

You can begin by making content gender-neutral wherever possible, and strive to write in a gender-neutral way. If you’re writing about a hypothetical person — or if you’re unsure of the person’s pronouns — use they or them instead of he/she

  • Inclusive workplaces do not reward workaholism- 

As opposed to the popular notion, that working overtime doesn’t make your business grow. Indeed, it reduces productivity.  

Do not reward your employees for presenteeism in the workplace and for sacrificing their personal lives. Sending an email late at night and expecting to work overtime as a routine could lead to inefficiency, over-commitment and burnout. 

Employees are clearly more beneficial to organisations when they are happier. So what’s good for the individual is also what’s good for business.

  • Inclusive workplaces provide informal networking opportunities to all employees equally– 

Networking may appear gender-neutral, but informal socialising becomes a barrier for many in workplaces.

Long lunches and smoke breaks are possible for some but people with disabilities or domestic responsibilities miss out on such opportunities that help advance their careers. 

You can create community-specific clubs, groups and co-working spaces as short-term solutions. However, giving equal opportunities to all employees for networking is irreplaceable.

  • Inclusive workplaces create accessible infrastructure as a business imperative– 

Your company must make efforts for people with neurodivergence to make them feel at ease in the workplace. 

A great place to start is by creating physical infrastructures like designing ramps, automated doors, visual aids, telephone headsets, screen readers and accessible washrooms. 

The second best thing to do is to conduct workshops to help your managers and colleagues adjust to the idea of a PwD-friendly workplace. Educate them on the ableist language they might be using that stigmatises People with Disabilities.

  • Inclusive workplaces address microaggressions and harassment through existing institutional mechanisms- 

There should be no place for harassment in the workplace and strict procedures must be laid out to address them. It is advised to not “sweep the situation under the rug” or pretend it never happened. This will only make the situation worse.

Microaggressions and harassment create a hostile work environment and affect an individual’s self-worth. Institutions can use an employee sentiment assessment in order to regularly assess how employees are feeling and see where areas of concern may be occurring.

However, the desirable way out is to ensure that institutional mechanisms like an Internal Complaints Committee and POSH guidelines are working and approachable. This makes sure that conflict resolution mechanisms are readily available and leads to reduced attrition. 

Inclusive workplaces are adobe where people of different cultures, creeds, body types, genders, religions, regions, bodily abilities and sexual orientations can bring their whole selves to work. It’s not charity, it’s a business imperative. 

At The Outcast Collective, we facilitate discussions and training sessions promoting bias literacy: 

To know more, schedule a call with us here

Written By Krati Gupta