Simple tips for creating a more inclusive workplace, and why it matters
June 28, 2023 ⋅ 5 min read
Kirsten Zeigler is an HR expert and consultant with over a decade of experience across the Tech, Healthcare, Beauty, and Art industries. She’s founder and principal at KDZ HR Consulting, and Kirsten is also part of the Baton Partner Network. Her expertise lies in the protection of businesses, enhancing employee engagement, and establishing standards through comprehensive compliance programs. By offering expert HR support, she enables business owners to concentrate on the growth and development of their company, empowering them to build their businesses with confidence.
With Pride month in full swing, inclusivity is top of mind for many businesses. By creating well-rounded, diverse teams, you are bringing in knowledge and experiences that complement each other which leads to increased innovation, fresh perspectives, a larger candidate pool, and a better understanding of additional markets. This can directly increase your revenue by expanding to new markets, and save money on employee turnover by supporting the staff you have. I know this can sound overwhelming, but there are easy places to start that will put you on the path to creating a more inclusive environment.
The hiring process
Try your best to avoid language that refers to a specific gender in your job postings and throughout the interview process. It's best to not make assumptions on a person's gender or sexual orientation through the interview process, and don't forget, you can not ask candidates' gender, sexual orientation, marital status, age, family planning plans, or other personal questions that could be used to discriminate against the candidate.
Onboarding new hires
You have been through the hiring process and selected your perfect candidate, congratulations! Now that candidate will need to fill out new hire paperwork, and one of the questions asked will be to identify their gender. To create a more inclusive experience, add options to your legacy choices ("male/female"*) such as transgender and non-binary/ non-conforming, and ask for your new hire's preferred pronouns. Additionally, pronouns can be added to email signatures to show awareness and allow clarity on how to refer to each other.
*Note, some health insurance companies may require male or female identification for initial sign-up. Check with your broker to see what the options are.
Non Discrimination Policies are a great place to start. Fun fact: the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) enforces laws that make it illegal to discriminate based on what they consider "protected classes". Some examples of protected classes include race, color, religion, sexual orientation, & gender identity, amongst others. It's advisable to have a Non Discrimination Policy included in your Employee Handbook, which each employee will read and sign off on. This policy keeps you compliant with regulations & laws and sets the tone of inclusivity in your company.
In addition to Non-Discrimination Policies, creating inclusive Family Leave policies and encouraging a culture where all genders feel comfortable utilizing them, is a great way to boost retention and promote equality.
If you're in need of a Non-Discrimination Policy, Employee Handbook, or Family Leave policy, your friendly HR Expert can help!
One practical step towards promoting gender inclusivity in the physical office is by removing gender labels from restrooms or providing a third neutral restroom option. This simple yet impactful change sends a powerful message that all employees, regardless of their gender identity, deserve equal access to facilities. Added bonus: you may be able to save on space by removing restrictions.
Reading this article is a great first step in educating yourself. Continuous learning for business owners and employees couldn't be easier nowadays. LinkedIn Learning provides some great self-paced options (and offers a free 30-day trial), or you can bring in a third party for a workshop. Another option is volunteering, or hosting a fundraiser, with a LGBTQIA+ organization.
Another great step is an Employee Resource Group (ERG). If you have employees who are members of the LGBTQIA+ community, encourage an Employee Resource Group (ERG). These can foster a sense of community and empower the group to provide resources, events, and trainings related to their goal.
Lastly, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) can be offered as a benefit to your team and are an amazing resource for all employees. EAPs allow employees to access an impartial third party when struggling with personal matters. The EAP can provide counseling or referrals, and support employee wellness. You can sign up for a third-party EAP with solutions such as Headspace, or contact your insurance broker to see if there are services offered through your insurance.
Inclusivity in the workplace is something that should happen year-round and shouldn't be limited to specific times or events. One of the best ways of creating an environment of nonjudgment is by leading by example. Modeling and enforcing policies, and continuous support and education, will set your team on the path to success. By creating a culture where employees come from diverse backgrounds and feel respected and valued, you will increase your productivity, retain your team, and open your business up to new markets, which all lead to increased revenue. Employee turnover is a huge burden on a small business, and by taking the steps to support your team as a whole, you will be solving for that one step at a time. Happy Pride!