5 Tactics to Foster Inclusion in the Workplace

June 27, 2024

Create a culture where every employee feels valued and safe to bring their whole self to work.

Inclusion is the practice of engaging with every employee in a meaningful way so each feels respected, heard, and valued. It refers to an individual’s perception, which can be hard to measure — and even harder to influence.

As part of a comprehensive diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) strategy, inclusive workplace practices bridge gaps between awareness and behavior. Inclusion takes what’s right — diversity, equity, accessibility — and intentionally creates individualized experiences based on needs and preferences.

Pro Tip

Many organizations champion DEIA, but it goes by various acronyms. Some programs add B for Belonging. For this article, we’ve used DEIA to represent a holistic approach that promotes fair treatment and a sense of belonging for all employees.

Every pillar of your DEIA strategy is important and contributes to the success of your business. But here, we’ll focus on inclusion and how to foster it in the workplace.

Why Is Workplace Inclusion Important?

Research connects DEIA practices to highly favorable business outcomes. A recent study by TechTarget and Amazon Web Services found organizations who lead in DEIA maturity are more than twice as likely to see extensive positive impact on agility/innovativeness and brand perception. 

Similarly, Paylocity research identified inclusion as one of the strongest predictors of employee retention. Higher retention saves organizations time and recruiting costs while preserving valuable institutional knowledge.

It makes sense. Employees who feel included are more engaged in their work, which leads to increased productivity and loyalty to your company.

Driving organizational success is the biggest benefit of DEIA. Of course, it’s also critical to stay compliant. 

A Quick Look at DEIA Legislation

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee. Many states and some cities have their own regulations as well.

7 Federal DEIA Laws

Civil Rights Act of 1964

Prohibits discrimination against employees and job applicants based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. 

Equal Pay Act

Employers must pay employees of all sexes equally for performing substantially equal work under similar conditions.

Age Discrimination in Employment Act

Prohibits discrimination against employees or job seekers based on their age.

Americans with Disabilities Act

Prohibits discrimination against a qualified individual based on disability in employment and other areas of public life.

Pregnancy Discrimination Act

Prohibits employers from discriminating against women on the basis of pregnancy. 

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act

Prohibits employers from using an individual’s genetic information when making employment decisions.

Lily Ledbetter Act

Prohibits any discriminatory compensation decisions. Each time wages, benefits, or other compensation is unlawfully paid may be considered a separate actionable event. 

Notice there’s no federal legislation that governs inclusion. Maintaining compliance with employment laws is just the first step to realizing maximum ROI from your DEIA efforts. Being intentionally inclusive creates a culture where all employees feel safe to bring their whole selves to work.

Learn More: HR Compliance 101: Fundamentals for HR Professionals

How to Build an Inclusive Workplace

Like most strategies, there is no single formula for getting DEIA right. Your workforce is continually evolving, so your DEIA strategy will always be a work in progress. As you design and refine your DEIA strategy, consider these tactics to keep inclusion front and center.

Tactic #1: Dig Into All Your Workforce Data

Before you start rolling out inclusion strategies in your workplace, take a moment to understand the current state of your workforce.

For companies with more than 100 employees (lower thresholds apply to federal contractors), the EEOC requires annual reporting by job category, sex, and race or ethnicity. In addition to this mandatory data collection, you may ask employees to volunteer additional information, such as preferred pronouns or disability status.

However, demographic data only tells part of your DEIA story. Systematically collecting feedback helps quantify employee perception, so leaders can prioritize efforts that will have the biggest impact on engagement and retention.

Do your employees feel included? How do you know?

Advanced survey instruments like Paylocity’s Employee Voice use statistically validated engagement and retention indicators, along with natural language processing (NLP), to take the guesswork out of employee sentiment data. In addition to inclusion, leaders can view favorability scores on several engagement drivers that influence an employee’s sense of belonging, such as peer relationships, recognition, and manager support. 

Learn More: What Is HR Analytics and How Can It Help HR Management?

Tactic #2: Define Your DEIA Goals

Comprehensive data in hand, the next step is to identify opportunities for improvement. Are there patterns by location, department, or position you can address?

Think about long-term goals and the shorter-term objectives that will help you accomplish them. Both should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound). For example, you might start with a broad goal: Bring in more diverse candidates. To break that down into objectives, what barriers can you remove to expand your reach? 

  • Source job applicants from more diverse channels.
  • Offer a variety of benefits packages so individuals can access services that best fit their needs.
  • Ensure fair and competitive pay and job advancement opportunities.
  • Provide unconscious bias training for hiring managers.

Keep goals aligned with business outcomes to avoid tokenism. As you increase efforts to recruit a more diverse workforce, you also must adjust or vary inclusion efforts to engage and retain new and current employees.

Create a Culture of Belonging

Like most strategies, there’s no single formula for getting DEIA right. This toolkit sorts through the noise so you can plan and implement a powerful strategy that leads to increased productivity, faster innovation, and longer employee retention.

Tactic #3: Minimize Bias in Recruiting

Unconscious bias is a prejudice or ingrained preference that influences decision making. Similarly, affinity bias is a preference to be with others who are like us. These biases can surface anywhere along the employee lifecycle. But when they occur during recruiting, companies may overlook or lose top talent before they’ve even started.

Almost half of executives say difficulty sourcing talent is leading to missed business opportunities. There are several practices that can help grow and diversify your talent pool, like: 

  • Making sure your career website is accessible and easy to navigate.
  • Sourcing candidates from job boards that cater to diverse populations.
  • Using inclusive language in job descriptions.
  • Candidate masking to hide personal information.

But as companies expand their reach to attract more diverse candidates, they may also have to broaden their concept of company culture

Organizations farther along on the DEIA journey are shifting their talent acquisition mindset from culture fit to culture add. Rather than thinking about culture as a finite thing, culture add gives your company room to grow and respond to change. The key for recruiting is to look for alignment with company values rather than existing culture.

Extend inclusive efforts throughout the hiring stage by leveraging a modern HCM platform that integrates recruiting and onboarding. This lets HR personalize candidate and new hire experiences, making employees feel welcome even before day one and throughout orientation.

For step-by-step guidance on implementing a smooth hiring process, check out the eBook, How to Improve the Candidate Experience.

Tactic #4: Curate Effective DEIA Training

We’re often unaware of how our perceptions, beliefs, and actions affect others — including ourselves. Unconscious bias, microaggression, and favoritism may be unintentional, but they can also be unlearned.

Providing ongoing employee education on DEIA topics goes beyond raising awareness about diversity and equity. Carefully curated learning experiences help employees and managers develop valuable skills that strengthen collaboration and culture, including:

  • Active listening
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem solving
  • Verbal and nonverbal communication
  • Self-assessment

Specific trainings can address an area of opportunity revealed in your data. For example, to increase the diversity of incoming employees, hiring managers may need training on how to avoid unconscious bias during the interview process.

A learning management system (LMS) makes it easier to provide organization-wide training and track completions, but also consider offering small group opportunities. Lunch-and-learns and Employee Resource Group (ERG) activities are a few options, but you also must provide the time for employees to participate.

Pro Tip

When selecting an LMS platform, look for high-quality, out-of-the box training that meets your organization’s needs. Paylocity has been recognized by the Brandon Hall Group as a “Best Learning Program that Supports and Promotes Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.”

Tactic #5: Create Space for Connection

It’s no coincidence that inclusion has become increasingly important in remote and hybrid work environments. But the need for connection began long before the pandemic.

In a survey by the American Psychological Association, 94% of respondents reported it’s somewhat or very important to them that they have a sense of belonging in the workplace. 

One way to create that connection is with Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), employee-driven communities organized around shared characteristics, interests, or life experiences. ERGs provide opportunities to share ideas, shape company culture, and contribute to company success.

Go Deeper

Discover more tips for nurturing a sense of community and empowerment in the workplace with our webinar, Building Bridges: Unleashing the Power of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Accessibility, and Belonging.

As workforces become more dispersed, it’s harder to connect without technology. A next-generation HCM solution includes consumer-grade tools that foster communication and collaboration among employees who may not otherwise have the opportunity to interact, such as those in different departments or locations.

When choosing employee experience tech that promotes inclusion, look for:

  • Convenience: Communication tools built into the same platform employees use to check their paystub and clock in makes staying informed part of the daily routine.
  • Mobility: Employees and managers should be able to access everything they need to know and do from one app, so they feel connected no matter where or when they work.
  • Customization: The ability to customize news feeds, join interest groups, and use social tools like video lets employees create experiences that are meaningful to them.

Choosing a DEIA Technology Partner

Paylocity believes deeply that people matter most, and differences of experience and perspective make us stronger together. 

At Paylocity, we use the same products we offer clients, and our solutions reflect continuous feedback from early adopters and end users. With their help, we strive to provide the tools the modern workforce needs and create diverse workplaces where everyone feels welcome.

Paylocity partners with clients to make the implementation and management of a diversity and inclusion initiative easy, while also providing benchmarking tools to assess effectiveness of their efforts. In addition to data collection for recruiting, compensation, and insights to drive improvements in DEIA, Paylocity’s platform facilitates inclusivity with peer-to-peer communication and recognition tools, and employee listening technology.

Request a demo today to see how our platform fosters inclusive experiences throughout the employee lifecycle.


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