By Calvin Gower, Trüpp

Recent events have placed a heavy focus on issues related to diversity, and many business leaders feel compelled to respond. Apart from facilitating a civil work environment, diversity has been shown to provide a statistically significant increase in revenue. A recent study by McKinsey & Company found organizations that encourage contribution from a gender and racially diverse team are “35% more likely to have financial returns above their national industry median”. This is partially attributed to attracting and maintaining top talent and gaining competitive advantage through diverse viewpoints that go into product and service development, marketing, and deployment.

As a business leader, you may be wondering how you can build and maintain a culture of respect, diversity, and inclusion in your workplace. Effective change doesn’t occur on its own; it takes intention and well-thought-out initiatives. While maintaining a culture of respect is an ongoing process, there are foundational pieces you can put in place to set clear expectations, build awareness, and steer your organization in the right direction. The cornerstones laid out in this article provide a guide to developing a culture that doesn’t merely check the box but goes above and beyond to ensure employees feel safe, respected, and valued by the organization.

1. Bake it into your company values

It all starts by establishing a philosophy that focuses on diversity, equity, and inclusion–the pillars of a respectful work culture. What does your organization stand for? How are your leaders reinforcing the value you place on maintaining a culture of respect? A written policy or philosophy backed by leadership buy-in and modeling sets the tone for your organization. Think of it as creating a respectful workplace mission statement, showing that your organization is committed to recognizing and valuing each individual on your team. Including this policy in your employee handbook ensures that every team member has seen your policy and knows what you stand for, laying a foundation upon which to build real initiatives that support it.

2. Update supporting policies & procedures

Various workplace policies and procedures can easily be overlooked as sources of unconscious bias that quickly fall out of compliance with employment laws and HR best practices. It is crucial to ensure that respectful workplace values go beyond an established philosophy and pull through to your business framework and practices. A focus on diversity and inclusion should be engrained within your operations and be a key factor in decisions and processes. Areas that require attention include hiring practices, performance management, pay practices, promotional procedures, and communication that incorporates culturally aware language and preferred pronouns.

3. Establish accountability & communication

Maintaining a respectful workplace requires accountability at every level of the organization. Leadership sets the standard by modeling expected behavior, which should cascade consistently through all levels of management. Consider establishing a diversity and inclusion committee that is dedicated to setting and upholding the respectful workplace standards for your organization. It is important to develop clear channels for reporting and follow-through; this is arguably the most important element for ensuring the longevity of a culture of respect.

When inappropriate behavior is alleged, reports should be met with an unbiased investigation. As an organization committed to a respectful workplace, it’s crucial that you maintain a trusted and non-judgmental process. Whether a manager, HR representative, or third-party investigator, ensure that the person assessing or investigating a report is outside the direct reporting structure and the team of the individuals involved. Finally, follow through with corrective action when an investigation uncovers a violation of your policy.

4. Deploy respectful workplace training 

The reality is that your employees come from different backgrounds, work histories, and personal experiences. Consistently training all employees builds awareness and provides tools that they may not have been exposed to before. When establishing a tone for the organization, it is crucial to create awareness, provide a common language, and communicate expectations for workplace culture and behavior.

What makes a good respectful workplace training? Simply put, the content needs to provide both knowledge and practical tools that empower employees to contribute to an inclusive and respectful work environment. Effective diversity, equity, and inclusion training, civility training, and workplace harassment prevention training should:

    • Incorporate modern tools and technologies
    • Fit the organization’s culture, employer brand, and demographics
    • Utilize interactive elements that require engagement
    • Include exams or knowledge checks that ensure comprehension
    • Focus on proactive and respectful behavior
    • Help learners understand acceptable and unacceptable types of behavior
    • Empower employees to take action when inappropriate behavior occurs
    • Provide bystander intervention techniques and examples

Bring it all together

Companies that attract and retain top talent are committed to showing employees they are valued and that their contribution to the success of the organization is appreciated. Establish a philosophy that exemplifies diversity and inclusion, create policies and procedures to support those values, show a commitment to upholding expectations, and provide employees with tools and training that support your commitment to a culture of respect. By making these efforts, you will create a work environment that is positioned for greater productivity and success because employees feel respected, valued, and included.

Learn how to create a culture of respect

Free Workplace Harassment Prevention Guide

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