How To Create a More Inclusive Workplace

10 July 2018

Diversity is the spice of life, but a staff comprised of a wide variety of people doesn’t mean much if your workplace doesn’t also practice inclusivity. The terms “diversity” and “inclusivity” are often used interchangeably, but they aren’t actually the same thing. A diverse staff — one that includes people representing a variety of genders, cultures, religions, ethnicities, and ableness — delivers a rich history and skill set to a company, but all of these people need to be valued, leveraged, and welcomed into the team as well.

Unfortunately, a lot of companies have policies to hire a diverse staff, and then they stop there. "For me, diversity is ‘the mix’ and inclusion is ‘how we utilize and leverage the mix,’” said Moe Carrick, principal and founder of Moementum, Inc., a consulting firm dedicated to the vision of creating a world that works for everyone using business as a force for good. “It is one thing to have a lot of diversity in a workplace but it is entirely another to actually activate the beauty and power of differences to create better decisions and solutions."

Diverse and inclusive companies promote creativity, are more adaptable to changing business landscapes, and attract new employees who also value these characteristics.

Inclusion doesn’t happen simply because a diverse staff is present, but making the effort to create an inclusive workplace has a number of benefits. Diverse and inclusive companies are more adaptable, promote creative and innovative thinking, and attract additional talent interested in working in such an environment.

In the adventure travel industry, where the most qualified staff members may come from all corners of the globe and potential clients are just as diverse, this is particularly important. Making this a reality may be difficult, however. Here are things your company can do to create a more inclusive workplace and, therefore, a more appealing place to work.

Appropriately Connect with Employees

As the famous saying goes, lead by example. In order for employees to feel comfortable being themselves, leadership should feel comfortable connecting on an appropriate personal level. "Ultimately, every person at work wants to be fully seen in order to do their highest and best work. Being seen means being seen for the ways we are different and the ways we are the same,” Carrick said. “This presents an ongoing challenge for leaders who have to navigate how best to create an environment where people get to know each other for both difference and sameness."

Company leaders — and all employees — should show an interest in and respect for differences. Use terminology such as “spouses” or “partners” instead of making assumptions about employees’ sexual orientation. Hold office functions in locations where people of all physical abilities feel welcome. Be sensitive to religious dietary restrictions when ordering in food for a working lunch. The best way to combat prejudice is to address it, so make it clear that discrimination is not tolerated and employees should feel comfortable speaking up if they are victims of intolerance.

Interact with Different People

Employees often work within silos, whether they mean to or not. Sales and marketing folks hold meetings together, operational teams discuss shared challenges, tour guides solve common problems, and the C-Suite oversees it all. As a company leader, encourage individual employees to bounce ideas off of those with whom they don’t normally interact, and hold brainstorming sessions with unusual combinations of staff members. In an office setting, ensure that all areas are accessible for people with disabilities so everyone can participate in this co-mingling.

Create Employee Resource Groups

Make metaphorical and physical space for individuals with similar backgrounds (such as working mothers, LGBTQ employees, and staff of shared nationalities) to meet, discuss challenges, and share ideas. Take this a step further and create interest-based groups focused on particular topics such as community service and wellness.

Once like-minded individuals have been able to meet with each other, encourage human resources representatives to support these groups. For example, new mothers may need access to breastfeeding rooms, religious followers may need time off on certain days of the year, and those passionate about volunteerism could possibly use support in helping represent the company at local events. Ask for help and input from employee groups rather than simply mandating changes from the top.

Place Importance on Inclusion

State a commitment to diversity and inclusion in the company mission statement, core values, and goals. Not only does this attract a more diverse array of employees, but it also makes your company accountable for its actions. Follow through on these commitments by creating a work environment reflecting these values, and demonstrate that your organization values diversity by hiring a staff representing different races, genders, political affiliations, nationalities, and abilities.

In addition to offering resources and support so all employees can actively practice inclusivity, take action to address specific needs. Support working parents by offering maternal and paternal leave. Instate employee matching programs that allow employees to financially support causes of individual importance, and offer volunteer time off so people can invest time to physically support causes that matter. Consider adding benefits such as tuition waivers and gym memberships to employee packages in order to recruit and acknowledge people with a variety of backgrounds and interests.

Hold Better Meetings

Establish meeting norms that allow everyone to participate freely and consider creating guidelines for all to use and follow. Don’t allow people to interrupt when someone else is speaking — and that includes leaders who may be tempted to speak over other employees. It is important for everyone to recognize their own privileges and listen to those who have different perspectives and challenges. Amplify communication from women and minorities, and give credit to idea originators. Providing an agenda in advance can give those who speak a non-dominant language or are more timid an opportunity to prepare thoughts and questions.

Speaking of agendas, instead of having the same stale meeting every week, rotate who runs them. Give meeting facilitators freedom to be creative while still aligning with the meeting goals. And if you work with a global team, as many companies in the adventure travel industry do, be sensitive to the variety of time zones your diverse staff may live in by rotating meeting times.

Invest in Diversity Training

Whether we realize it or not, everyone carries subconscious biases. Investing in diversity training addressing topics such as overcoming stereotypes and culture barriers, respecting differences, and understanding personal lenses not only allows employees to develop important skill sets, but it also demonstrates your company’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity.

"In the era of #metoo and #blacklivesmatter, relationships at work across race, gender, and other dimensions of difference take on heightened importance. It is all too easy to operate from a level of unconsciousness about bias and difference that limits the ability to truly understand each other and bring out each other's best,” Carrick said. Creating an inclusive workplace is a work in progress, and engaging, interesting training that encourages employees to learn more about these issues is a great place to start.

On 4 February 2021, the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) hosted Come Together, a networking-focused event hosted in partnership with five other diverse global organizations and their communities with a commonality for sustainable, equitable, cultural, and environmental awareness in adventure travel.

To learn more about creating a more inclusive workplace, and to be notified in advance about events like Come Together, we welcome you to join the Global ATTA Community (it's free!)