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Creating an Inclusive Workplace

General HR
September 2, 2020

About the Webinar

Managing a diverse workforce is a good thing for employers, but managing an inclusive one is even better. In this webinar, we explore the advantages of an inclusive workplace—where every employee is equally valued and accepted—and how employers can achieve this. 

In under an hour, you’ll learn what sets the inclusive workplace apart and the many ways it benefits employers and employees, from greater innovation to a better bottom line. Best of all, you learn key strategies for improving inclusivity in your workplace. 

Watch this webinar, and ensure that each of your employees—regardless of race, age, gender, and disability/pregnancy status—is an equally included, valued member of your workforce.    

What You Will Learn:

  • How landmark laws, like the Civil Rights Act and Americans with Disabilities Act, impact inclusivity    
  • Measurable benefits of nurturing an inclusive workforce, including greater creativity, better problem-solving, and higher profits    
  • Six ways to create a more inclusive culture that not only accepts but celebrates staff differences  

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About your Hosts

Robin Paggi

Robin Paggi

Training and Development Specialist

Robin Paggi is a human resource practitioner and trainer who bases her advice and training programs on real-world experiences. Her areas of expertise include teambuilding, supervisory skills and communication. 

A California native, she holds an M.S. in Psychology, an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Human Resources, and an M.A. in Communication Studies. She is passionate about tackling pressing H.R. issues and dedicated to sharing her knowledge.

Creating an Inclusive Workplace

September 2, 2020 / 38:50:00

Laura Wist

Welcome, everyone. First, I wanted to thank you all for taking the time to join us today. My name is Laura Wist and I am the social media specialist for VensureHR, and I will be your host over the next hour. We’ll be spending the next hour talking about creating an inclusive workplace. We’ll be covering these relevant topics here, Q&A with our panelist. We will do our best answer all of your questions, but any we do not get to will be responded to on an individual basis after this session.

This webinar is brought to you by VensureHR in all of our PEO partners. VensureHR is the leader of 20-plus PEO partners. Our clients are in all 50 states and generate most of the questions that we will be answering today.

Our agenda for today’s session includes laws pertaining to an inclusive workplace, characteristics of an inclusive workplace, benefits of an inclusive workplace, steps in creating an inclusive workplace, and Q&A.

We are thrilled to have Robin Paggi joining us as our panelists today. Robin is a seasoned human resource practitioner specializing in training on topics such as harassment prevention, communication, team building and supervisory skills. Okay, Robin, over to you.

Robin Paggi

And although our country officially began in 1776, it wasn’t until almost 200 years later that federal laws began to be enacted to level the playing field in the workplace, the first being the Equal Pay Act of 1963. And that act prohibited men from being paid more than women for doing the same job. The Civil Rights Act, Title VII especially, pertain to employment, saying that employers could not discriminate against people based upon five protected classes and they established those protected classes at that point. They were race, color, religion, national origin, and sex. Age Discrimination in Employment Act said that employers cannot refuse to hire people or fire them simply because they were 40 and older. The Rehabilitation Act pertained to federal agencies and organizations receiving federal assistance, and it said that those employers could not discriminate against people because of their disabilities. Pregnancy Discrimination Act said that employers may not refuse to hire women or simply fire them because they were pregnant. Americans with Disabilities Act said that employers could not discriminate against people based upon having a physical or mental disability. Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act said that employers could not discriminate against employees because of their genetic information. Now, when I talk about GINA, which is the acronym for the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, talk about that in harassment and discrimination training. And people often ask me, “Why do people’s genetic information need to be protected?” And I tell them about a lawsuit that happened in California where I reside. Loma Linda University would send applicants to pre-employment medical screening, which is perfectly legal. You can do that. What they would do then is screen them for carpal tunnel and the people who tested positive for carpal tunnel no longer had a job. And that’s against the law. And that’s why your genetic information is protected. One thing that is not on this list that I wanted to be sure to add is that sexual orientation and gender identity was added to federal protections this year. So, there are more protected classes than that. More laws pertaining to various protected classes and states have their own protected classes as well. So, these laws needed to be put into place so employers would not discriminate against applicants and employees because of things like their race. Now, these laws prohibit discrimination, but they don’t prevent it from happening. And all you need to do is take a look at the EEOC, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website, that is the federal government, or the federal agency of the government that make sure that people

are not harassed, discriminated against in the workplace, and take action against employers when they suspect that they
are discriminating against folks. Just take a look at their website and see all of the discrimination claims they filed against employers just this year. So, these laws are a great first step, but they don’t prevent discrimination from happening. Now, I’m sorry to be such a Debbie Downer as we get started, but I think it’s very important that we know our country’s history. So, let’s bring it up a bit by going to the next slide.

What does an inclusive workplace look like? Well, for the first, people feel included. Have you ever felt excluded? I have. Most recently I was at a fundraiser sitting at a table talking with two friends of mine as someone they knew came up to the table and started talking to them. There were just the four of us there at this table and this person that they knew talked only to them. This person did not look at me, did not acknowledge me, and uncharacteristically, my friends did not introduce me. They didn’t seem to pick up on what was happening. But I felt incredibly excluded because this person was not making eye contact with me or directing his remarks toward me at all. So, after about 10 minutes, I left. The feeling of being ignored was so unsettling to me, and I’m not alone in this feeling. Research has demonstrated that being snubbed like that has the same effect on the brain as being punched in the gut. It psychologically hurts and that’s what it means to not feel included in the workplace.

If that situation had happened to me at work, do you think it would affect my productivity? Of course it would, and I would eventually leave the organization as a result of it. So, in an inclusive workplace, people feel included. They feel welcomed, valued, integrated, and part of the team instead of feeling isolated and alone. So, in an inclusive workplace, people don’t all look the same, they’re different colors, different ages, different religions, which results in having employees with a variety of life experiences and unique skill sets. If you’re thinking, “Well, we do have a diverse workforce, so we’re good.” Well, not so fast. Inclusion doesn’t happen just because diverse people work in the same place. That’s just the first step. It takes deliberate action to ensure that everyone feels valued and welcome. And before we talk about those actions, let’s talk about the benefits of taking those actions.

I want to tell you about research done by Deloitte Consulting, and that is a research firm that does a lot of consulting surveys in the workplace. In this particular survey, they included 245 global organizations and more than 70 client interviews. And when we go to the next slide, you’ll see what they discovered through these.

They found in these organizations who were inclusive that they had higher innovation, better decision making, they had a variety of perspectives, it increased their profit, they solved problems faster, and people were more creative. One of the things that they found was that organizations with inclusive cultures are six times more likely to be innovative, six times more likely
to anticipate change and respond effectively, and twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets. Now, why do all these great things happen when you have an inclusive environment? When we’re all the same, we all see the world from the same perspective, which is limiting, we only see what we see. But when we have more people with the variety of life experiences and unique skill sets, then it allows us to expand our perspective and we can see more. And when we’re able to see more, we’re able to be more creative. We’re able to solve problems faster. We’re able to make better decisions and create things. And as a result of all of that, our profits increased. So, that’s why having more perspectives, more life experiences, more skill sets creates more money.

So, what specifically can we do to create an inclusive workplace? Well, first of all, is education. Now, as I said, I’m in California and we have a law that requires employers with five or more employees to provide sexual harassment prevention training to all employees. What does that do with an inclusive workplace? Well, in that training, we are allowed to talk about not only sexual harassment but also other forms of harassment and discrimination. And I frequently provide this training and I talk about discrimination and I talk about all the protected classes that we have in California and we currently have 17. Now, what I tell people in this training is that they may not discriminate against people because of having these 17 protected classes. But, educating leaders like this does not help them want to create an inclusive workplace. We’ve got to move from complying with the law to utilizing diversity in order to gain better profits. So, instead of being told they better not discriminate against people, leaders need to be told about the benefits of diversity and inclusion. Remember, just because we have diversity doesn’t mean we have an inclusive workplace. HR professionals need to present the business case for taking action to create an inclusive workplace. And the business case always includes how any action is going to affect the bottom line. So, remember, inclusiveness creates innovation, creativity, better decision-making, problem-solving. But the bottom line is that the organizations that have an inclusive workforce make more money and that’s what business leaders usually want to know. And additionally, because our daily interactions are the most telling sign of whether a company is inclusive or not, everyone, or at least people in supervisory positions, should receive training on how to be inclusive. Now, in our daily interactions, how do we be inclusive? Well, I go back to the example that I told you about earlier. I’m sitting at a table, someone is having a conversation who refuses to look at me or talk to me. That is not an inclusive behavior, and so pointing things out like that to people are important. These are behaviors to engage in in order to make people feel included, make eye contact with them, say hello to everyone, make sure you include everyone in on the email, just behaviors like that. People are frequently promoted into supervisory positions because of their technical competence. However, being a good supervisor requires a different skill set. Just because you’re good at the job doesn’t mean you’ll be a good supervisor. People in supervisory positions need to have people skills, and I spend the majority of my time training supervisors on their communication skills. Everything we do is through communication and we communicate to get results from the people that we supervise over. Lots of supervisors never get any training on how to supervise or how to communicate effectively and are left on their own to try to figure out how to do it. So, mandatory training is key. And while I’m not a fan of making people attend training, they don’t want to attend if it’s not mandatory, the people who really need it don’t show up. Also, people usually don’t change their behavior unless there are consequences for not doing so. So, supervisors especially need to be held accountable for demonstrating inclusive behavior on a daily basis. Next is an inclusion committee. And you’re probably thinking, oh, great, another committee. Here is the reason for the suggestion. You’ve got to have a dedicated group of people who really want an inclusive workplace in order to make it happen. And the committee should be as diverse as possible with members not only coming from different ethnicities, genders, et cetera, but also different levels of an organization, different departments, even different locations. If you’ve got them. It’s important for people to be at all different levels and different departments so that you have representation throughout the entire organization. If it’s the same people who are volunteering for all the committees that they always volunteer for, you’re not going to be as effective as possible. So, it takes strategizing in order to determine who is going to be on that committee. So, you have the greatest amount of representation by diverse people. So, what will the committee do? Well, ideally, it should be involved in goal setting around hiring, retaining, and advancing a diverse workforce, and especially, and addressing any engagement problems among underrepresented employee groups. So, what committee members do basically is they let everybody know what people are saying around the organization. And a lot of times people won’t talk to their supervisor about how they’re feeling or certainly somebody in the C suite, the CEO, the CFO, the COO, they won’t talk to those people, but they will talk to their coworkers. And those coworkers should bring information back about people feeling like maybe there are clinics in the workplace or that people are talking about certain things. And so, basically, this inclusion committee brings back data to share with the committee members in order to determine what needs to be fixed. Now, once upon a time, I was an HR manager of a law firm in the town I live in. And one of the things that an attorney told me is that I needed to shut down the gossiping that was going on. I disagreed. I wanted people to gossip. And eventually, the gossip comes to me and the gossip I’m talking about, it’s not who’s dating who it is, what they’re complaining about, and when they frequently wouldn’t come to me to complain, especially if they were complaining about me, but somebody would tell somebody who would tell somebody who would eventually come to me. And that’s exactly what I wanted because that let me know what people were unhappy about and what needed to be fixed even when it was me. So, that’s a great deal of what the Inclusion Committee does. What are people saying that is the problem and how do we fix it? Now, one of the things that are important is that the committee needs to meet on a regular basis, perhaps quarterly, to review this organizational feedback, to address issues, and most importantly, to relay the information to the business leaders, because something’s got to be done about all of that talk. And if there’s no follow-up to that, then that will be a problem. Now, the responsibility for inclusiveness shouldn’t fall on the underrepresented members of your workforce. It’s everybody’s responsibility to be inclusive. It’s just the inclusion committee’s responsibility to try to do something with that information. Next is holding more effective meetings. And wouldn’t that be great to hold more effective meetings? A lot of our time is wasted in meetings and there is a definite lifecycle to meetings in order to make them more effective. But in our case, when we’re talking about an inclusive workforce, how do we make people feel included in meetings? Well, first of all, distribute material in advance. Now, that’s just a best practice of more effective meetings. But, how does that affect inclusively? Well, one of the things is that you might have people whose English is their second language. And so, if they have information before the meeting, then they can spend time with it, making sure that they fully understand it so that they are prepared to comment on it when they go to a meeting. Another thing is that you have people who are introverts and introverts are people who usually need to think before they speak, which is a good idea for everybody to have, but introverts especially want to think about things before they voice them aloud. And so, distributing information early not only helps people maybe of certain ethnicities but also people of different personality styles, because that is diversity as well. Another thing that people can do is to include people working from home. Now there’s a whole bunch of us working from home. I’m working from home right now. But when things get back to normal, and they will eventually, there are some people who are still going to work from home, and sometimes they are forgotten when we’re discussing things. Sometimes the technology isn’t set up for them to be able to voice their opinions during meetings, and you should definitely make sure that that is taken care of. Rotate meeting times, if you have people in different locations, as we do at Vensure, then maybe you want to start meetings at different times in order to accommodate different time zones. Another thing is that sometimes people work on the night shift and some people work very early morning. And so, keeping that in mind, when you’re having your live meetings, making sure that you are adjusting time in order to suit them. Another thing is that when people ask questions that don’t seem to be helpful or relevant, that you don’t indicate that that’s what you’re thinking. So, we have the phrase, “There are no stupid questions.” And even though we have that phrase, sometimes when we’re in meetings, the people who are leading the meetings communicate that they really didn’t appreciate what somebody had to say or that kind of thing. So, when you’re letting people know that you don’t appreciate their contribution, then they won’t contribute anymore. And so, that’s why it’s really important. And make sure that people are courteous, set some guidelines. One person talks at a time. No side conversations. Don’t be on your phones during meetings. Don’t interrupt people. And so, these are really important ground rules to have because if we don’t have them, then people end up accidentally disrespecting other people and people don’t work together, and check out. Next on the list is listen. And by listening, that means soliciting feedback. And so, you’ve got to get people to talk to you in order to listen. And you want to check in with your crew and see if they feel included or not. Usually, surveys are a good thing for them. Focus groups are a good thing for that. Now, I was asked by a client to conduct some focus groups. Lots of people were leading the organization and they wanted to find out why people were leaving from the people who were still there. And so, I met with focus groups and asked them particular questions. And in order to try to find out why there was such a high turnover. And one of the things that I kept saying to the client is after these focus groups, you’ve got to do something with this information because if you don’t, or it appears that you don’t, then the people who spent their time and these focus groups are going to be disillusioned and that disillusioned is going to carry over into the rest of the organization. And so, listen and do something with the information. Next, just communicating goals and measure progress in order to make things happen, we usually need to set goals. And if we don’t set specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based goals, things have a way of not happening. So, setting specific goals on making the environment more inclusive and measuring progress and communicating that progress to people. So, again, if you don’t, it feels like nothing’s happening and if nothing’s happening, people get disillusioned. Communicate on a regular basis what these goals are, such as your meetings and celebrate differences. So, when we have an inclusive workforce, as I said before, we tend to have people who are different. And how do we celebrate those differences? By making people feel included. So, what would that mean? What specific steps again, could we do here to celebrate differences? Well, one is to tell people to share their differences in the workplace, and part of that is celebrating holidays. And so, people are invited to celebrate whatever holidays they celebrate based upon their background, their religion, their what have you. And so, when we’re celebrating people’s holidays with them, it makes them feel included. When we celebrate only one holiday, it makes some people feel excluded. Another way, if we ever get to get together and have potlucks again, is to invite people to bring food from their background, food that is important to them to share the story behind it. Now, in celebrating differences, here’s one of the things that helps me feel included in my workplace. I’m a vegetarian and most people who I work with know that I’m a vegetarian. I’ve been in the organization for eight years, and so people pretty much know that at this point. Whenever we would have a potluck, people always made it a point to bring something vegetarian for me. And so, that really meant a lot to me because for the most part, when I go to things, meat is in just about everything, even the salad, but people making a point to make something vegetarian just for me made me feel included. And so, that’s something that you can do. Another thing when you have people who have a religion that requires them to pray throughout the day, perhaps you establish a room that they can do that in, or a meditation room, or something so that people don’t have to go into a closet, or a break room, or something to do it, that there’s a room just for them to do those types of things. So, when you are inviting people to be who they are at the workplace and not have to hide who they are, that makes them feel included. Now, you might not be in a position where you can take these steps. You might not be able to educate your leaders. You might not have the influence to have an inclusion committee put together. You may not lead the meetings, etc. What can you do to make people feel included? Well, personally, ensure that the people you work with are included in your good mornings. I mediated a conflict once upon a time between two staff members, and the main source of conflict between them was the fact that one of the members would go into the workplace and tell everyone good morning except the other person in the conflict. And she felt tremendously excluded. On top of that, she was gay and she felt that that’s the reason he was excluding her. Well, that’s not the reason he was excluding her. Unbeknownst to her, he felt slighted by her at some point earlier in the relationship. And he felt if he said anything to her, it would make the matters worse. So, you see how these little perceptibly little slights end up being much bigger than that and affect productivity in the workplace. And so, what you can do personally is to make sure that you are trying to include all of your coworkers in your hellos and your goodbyes, in your joking around, in your birthday celebration, and whatever it is that you do. You can’t do anything else, at least do that. And I want to leave you with one more thing that I think would help you in your effort to be more inclusive. I highly suggest reading a book called “Caste.” C-a-s-t-e, “Caste,” just like our caste system. And the rest of the book is called The Origins of Our Discontents. So, the full title is “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” and the author is Isabel Wilkerson. And what this book is about is how people have been excluded in our country’s history because of their race. And while it’s a difficult book to read again, I finish where I started. It’s important for us to know our history in our country, and how people have been deliberately excluded, and the deliberate steps that had to be taken in order for people to have the same opportunity. We still have a lot more work to do to make everyone feel included. Hopefully, these are some tips that you can take. And now I’m open for questions.

Laura Wist

I have a few questions to go over. “Is affirmative action still in existence?

Robin Paggi

Affirmative action was established by President Kennedy in order to make federal agencies more inclusive. So, affirmative action is required for federal agencies and for contractors who receive a certain amount of federal funding. What affirmative action is at this point is that employers need to have a plan. And again, these are federal contractors. Employers need to have a plan for how they’re going to reach out to all people in order to provide them with an opportunity for employment. Now, a while ago, affirmative action did mean for employers that you needed to hire a certain amount of certain people. That is not the case at this point. Private employers are not bound by affirmative action. They don’t need to hire certain people. They don’t even need to have an affirmative action plan unless they receive federal funding. But what affirmative action plan is designed to do is to reach out to as many people as possible about job opportunities. It’s to cast the net as far as you can so that people will be aware that there are opportunities for employment. And one of the things we have to be really careful about this, because
in our day of technology, a lot of people require applicants to apply online, and that is not inclusive. If you have to apply online, you only have certain people who are able to apply. And so, you want to make sure that you have a mindset of affirmative action and that we need to cast the net as wide as we can, and it means looking at your practices to determine are we as inclusive as we possibly can? So, affirmative action is only in existence now for federal contractors. And sometimes when employers are sued for discrimination, a court may say that they need to have an affirmative action plan. Again, it is not quotas. It is not hiring so many people of this color or that it is simply saying you need to have a plan to demonstrate that you are trying to be as inclusive as possible.

Laura Wist

Why don’t all states have the same protected class?

Robin Paggi

Okay, so I mentioned protected classes a while ago and they were established with the Title VII of the Equal Employment Act. And so, the five protected classes at that point were race, color, religion, national origin, and sex. And those were the original protected classes. Now, states are able to establish their own laws in order to have their own protected classes. And actually, I did some research on this. Oregon has more protected classes than any other state. I figured California would, but Oregon beats us. And so, because of what happens in individual states, because of the legislators in those states, then separate legislation is made in order to establish protected classes in those states. So, one of the things that frequently happens

in California is that we have protected classes long before the federal government does. And that’s one of the things that happened. I mentioned that the federal government finally made sexual orientation and gender identity a protected class. Well, those have been protected in California for decades. And so, states are allowed to have their own legislation and create their own laws surrounding their population. And so, that’s how protected classes are established is through legislation. And so, that’s why we have different protected classes in different states.

Laura Wist

How do you create a more diverse workplace without discriminating against white men?

Robin Paggi

Well, that is one of the things I said, that a diverse, or excuse me, an inclusive workplace often has people who look differently in it, different races, different sexes, different ages, all of those types of things. And so, it may sound like I’m implying that
you should hire people because of their color or their sex. And that is not true. That is a form of discrimination. Discrimination is treating people differently because of being in a protected class. And it’s frequently making employment decisions about people because of things such as their race or their age, et cetera. And so, you can’t make employment decisions about people because of those things, including hiring people who are in a minority race in order to have a diverse workplace. So, it’s really tricky to have goals around creating a more diverse workplace and not making hiring decisions based upon race, sex, age, et cetera. So, how do you do it? Well, one of the things that you can do is when you have an applicant who fills out an application or sends in a resume, that you mark out that person’s name, and you have a variety of applications that hiring managers, that supervisors who, whoever are looking at and when they don’t see somebody’s name, then they cannot then have bias about someone because of their name. Now, does that happen? Sure it does. One of the things that I discovered through research is that people who have names that are difficult to pronounce are more discriminated against than people who don’t have those names. Or when you have a name that looks like a white person would have it, such as Jeff, then people are more likely going to choose that applicant over somebody whose name is something like Jamal. So, there’s plenty of research that demonstrates that people’s names in itself lead to biased decisions in employment. And so, one of the things to equal the playing field is to cross out people’s names. And that way people are just making decisions based upon the information on the application or the resume. So, that’s one way to try to have a more diverse workforce without making
hiring decisions based upon protected classes that you don’t get to make hiring decisions on. So, it’s, it’s things like that that employers can do. In order to try to bring people in, one of the things that we have a tendency to do is hire people who are
like us. And so, if you are the person who needs to hire someone, you want to make sure you are not the only one making the hiring decision, that you bring other people in to help you have a different perspective of that applicant. And so, just a couple of things like that is what employers can do. Any other questions?

Laura Wist

That is all we have for today. Thank you, everyone, again for your time, and have a great rest of your day.

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