Diversity and inclusion in the workplace are becoming more important than ever before. A 2017 Deloitte report found that at least 69% of executives prefer policies that promote inclusion and diversity at the workplace. McKinsey also reported that companies with a gender-diverse workforce make 15% more in revenue than the national average, while ethnically diverse companies make 35% more revenue.

Experts argue that workplace diversity improves the perception employees have about a company. Employees themselves are more vocal in expressing their views about inclusion and diversity.

Contrary to popular belief, promoting inclusion and diversity at work is not that hard. Here are 9 employee engagement ideas that can steer your company in the right direction.

1. Put Yourself in Other People’s Shoes

Empathy is a strong tool that you and your employees can use to understand what other people go through daily. A good activity is to ask a group of employees to imagine the challenges that certain groups of people – racial minorities and women, for example – may regularly face. Ask them to write a few sentences about their experience. When people see things from a different perspective, they become more welcome to inclusion and feel less resistant to change. And it can lead to fruitful conversations and solutions.

2. Create Diversity Goals 

Diverse thinking is extremely useful when it comes to fostering new ideas, obtaining constructive feedback, and creating an all-inclusive environment where everyone feels a sense of belonging. The easiest way to create a diverse workforce is to set measurable and specific goals for diversity training participants at your organization. For example, if you or someone at the office overhears someone making negative comments about African-Americans, Asians, or women, your goal should be to publicly confront these comments and change mindsets. These proactive measures will go a long way in discouraging racial and gender biases at the workplace.

3. Improve Communication Skills

Most people are genuinely concerned that anything they say or do could be misconstrued as racism or even hate speech. This skepticism about their preconceived racial biases may prevent them from engaging with each other on a team level…thus, creating a stressful work environment. This is where an activity built solely around communication and listening skills comes in handy.

Experiment with dividing your workforce into teams and give each member an interesting topic to engage in. Make sure the topic isn’t too controversial, or else the teams won’t engage in them. The first person talks about the topic uninterruptedly, while the other listens attentively. Then, the roles switch. Listening to someone with an open mind is a great way to eliminate communication barriers. Organizations must make sure employees feel respected and included regardless of their race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, and country of origin.

An effective way to encourage open communication is to integrate all communication channels in your office onto one platform. This way, you can reach out to more employees on their preferred methods of communication.

4. Make the Most Out of the Lunch Hour 

Engage your employees by offering diversity and inclusion workshops during the lunch hour. Ask your senior executives to oversee these activities, or if you want to become truly creative, invite experts to talk about the importance of cultural sensitivity at the workplace.

5. Celebrate Different Holidays and Events 

Most offices love to celebrate Christmas, and they even go to great lengths in decorating their office. But what about other events such as Black History Month or International Women’s Day? Underrepresented cultures and minorities have certain holidays and events that they would love to share with you.

Promote learning about other cultures and people through their events, foods, traditions, and music. Consider dancing lessons, a lunchtime potluck, and even a movie night. Have fun with it! Another thing you can do is to offer your employees ‘floating holidays’ to accommodate their religious preferences.

6. Promote a Multilingual Workforce

If you truly want to make employees feel welcomed, try to take into account their language barriers. Most corporations with a global presence deal with this issue by offering translation services to help everyone understand what is being said. Your employees will feel encouraged to engage in their native tongue if they see the CEO speak their language, even if they struggle to put together a cohesive sentence! It’s the thought that counts.

Another long-term strategy is to have your multilingual team learn other languages. This may sound a little expensive, but the results will pay off even if the employees don’t end up learning the language. They will at least have learned new ideas about the other culture. It is also wise to hire employees who speak more than one language.

7. Create an Inclusive Workspace

This will require a little investment since you’ll probably have to restructure the existing office space. For example, you should always make your office accessible for disabled team members. If your location allows, you can set up lactation rooms for mothers.

8. Reduce Bias in the Hiring Process

This is a real problem for many companies, claim researchers at Harvard Business Review. Much of the sexism, ageism, racism, and biases can be eliminated by reevaluating your hiring process. Some good strategies to eliminate bias include restructuring job descriptions to ensure they conform with gender neutrality by using words that appeal to both genders.

It’s surprising how we make biased decisions unknowingly. To eliminate this, try creating a blind, systematic process for reviewing resumes and applications to improve your chances of including the most relevant candidates.

9. Design Stronger Anti-Discrimination Policies 

A report by Harvard Business Review found that 75% of interviewed employees didn’t feel the company policy was truly indicative of real change. They thought that strong leadership commitment and ‘fool-proof’ anti-discriminatory policies were essential.  There is no one size fits all rule for company policy, so don’t just copy and paste what other companies are doing. A tailored approach will improve results.

Diversity and inclusiveness in the workplace improve employee retention, boost morale, and increase engagement.

I hope this article has given you some ideas that you can put into action. If you need more help, let our diversity and inclusion consultants at Greer Consulting Inc assist and train you in diversity management skills. We offer culture training for employees and strive to promote empathy at work and drive productivity.