Employee Engagement

10 Ways to cultivate diversity and inclusion in the workplace

diversity and inclusion

Diversity and inclusion is one of those topics that has pretty much everyone talking at the moment. This includes plenty of very smart folks who are writing all sorts of impressive papers like this one, and this one, and this one. It’s a veritable maelstrom of information out there and yet it seems we are barely scratching the surface at this point.

Palms feeling a wee bit sweaty yet? Let’s get real for a moment.

Sometimes the theory of a thing can be so completely overwhelming that it can seem almost impossible to make it work in practice. As an HR professional in South Africa, it can be very easy to get so wrapped up in the day-to-day struggle of smoothing over relations between people from vastly different cultures and backgrounds that you can completely lose sight of the woods in among those many metaphorical trees. 

As with most important things that are super complicated but 100%  worth doing, it helps to eat the elephant bite by bite (or wash it inch by inch if you prefer vegan-friendly analogies). This is why, instead of drowning you in more information about the importance of having a diverse workforce to drive business performance or sell you on the competitive advantage of gender diversity, we'll give you some real, how-to advice on actually making it happen. 

At first glance these little changes and improvements we suggest you make around the office may seem like it won’t make much of a difference, but we can assure you that it’s seemingly modest moves like these that set the wheels of organisational change in motion. Start by applying these tips in practice, and take it from there. You’ve got this!

10 Tips for cultivating diversity and inclusion at your business:


1. Get serious about pronouns

Pronouns may seem like a trifle, but it's not. Start by going through your company's job descriptions and changing any straight-up he’s and she's to be inclusive. You can opt for a 'he or she' approach, or simplify it all by going for 'they'. 


2. Leverage tech to address team comms

We live in a wonderful age of ever-evolving technology. Use it to your advantage in the inclusion and diversity space by adding an open-source tool like Alex to Chrome or Slack, where it can pick up on potentially hurtful language and remind users to rephrase when necessary. 


3. Understand every employee's working style

When coworkers understand their colleagues' working and communication styles they can use it to smooth over their own interactions. Turn the assessments into a bit of a team-building activity where everyone can discuss their styles and find ways that it might be applicable in day-to-day office situations. 

READ MORE: The top 7 benefits of diversity and inclusion in the workplace


4. Create a platform to chat about diversity and inclusion

If your business uses a communication platform like Slack, you may want to think about devoting a channel to open-ended conversations regarding diversity and inclusion. This way, employees can post links and share helpful information they find without having to send out a company-wide email or targeting certain individuals with the info specifically. 


5. Celebrate all the things

Diwali, Christmas, Eid, Gay Pride Week, International Pancake Day - celebrate it all! Make a point of being inclusive of more than just the ‘obvious’ holidays to show your employees that all the cultures are valued equally. 


6. Give props for inclusive behaviour

Include inclusive behaviour as a metric in your overall recognition and reward programme to give props to employees who live these ideals, and inspire those who haven’t quite embraced it yet. 


7. Check those waiting-room magazines

If your waiting room coffee table is all Men’s Health and GQ; or Huisgenoot and Sarie; or Cosmopolitan and Glamour, you need to mix things up. People (including competitors, clients and prospective employees) are spending a fair amount of time paging through these reading materials, so be sure to send out a more inclusive vibe. 


8. Put up visual reminders

Don’t underestimate the power of the humble work-place poster. Put up visual cues to remind your workforce to be inclusive with recommendations like 'make an effort to understand different viewpoints and work with those who think, act and believe differently than you', or 'say something when someone is being treated unfairly or left out', etc. 

READ MORE: Employee experience should be a top business priority - here’s why


9. Don't be weird about breastfeeding

Create a comfortable, non-toilet space for breastfeeding mothers to express while they are at work. Yes, for some reason it’s currently viewed as strange that lactating women prefer to carry on feeding their children magic boob elixir (seriously, read up about it) even though they’re back at work, but it’s time we all got over our squeamishness and made it a little less awkward.


10. Loosen up some budget for ergonomy

Every person in your office has different needs when it comes to a comfortable work space. Some may prefer a standing desk; others may detest air-conditioning and prefer to be in a space where they can open a window for some fresh air. Others may have back issues that could really benefit from a chair with proper lumbar support. Loosen up some budget to address these concerns within reason - comfortable workers are productive workers!

Scrolled down for the recap?

Here’s the short and sweet summary for our much-loved speed readers. If you want to drive organisational change by cultivating diversity and inclusion at your workplace in 2020, you can start by: 


  1. Don't underestimate the importance of pronouns.
  2. Employ apps to manage gendered language. 
  3. Get to grips with every person's unique working style.
  4. Make diversity and inclusion an ongoing conversation.
  5. Include underrepresented minority holidays on the celebration lineup. 
  6. Recognise employees who make inclusive behaviour a lifestyle. 
  7. Send the right message with your waiting-room reading matter. 
  8. Put up some posters with cues and reminders to be inclusive in the workplace. 
  9. Make room for nursing mothers on your workforce. 
  10. Spend some money to make your employees' workspaces comfortable. 

Following these guidelines will lay the groundwork for an inclusive culture and a true commitment to diversity at your business as we make our merry way into the next decade.

In the meantime, if you want to start celebrating the achievements of diverse talent at your company to make the recognition circle bigger, we would like to invite you to take a look at our eBook "10 Steps to building a successful employee recognition program" Simply click the button below to get started 👇

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