It’s safe to say that in 2022, workplace diversity is among one of the biggest hurdles that Heads of People or HR Managers have to surmount. But diversity itself doesn’t need to be an impediment to fostering better working conditions that will ultimately be beneficial both internally and externally.
Organizational leaders across industries largely support the idea of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in the workplace. However, many leaders aren’t as familiar with these terms as they’d like to be. But inclusive language principles are the building blocks of DEI, and understanding the nuances of each term can create greater awareness for those responsible for cultivating and encouraging optimized working environments.
If you want your diverse employee base to feel like they belong, and provide a way for those at your workplace to reach an increasingly diverse customer base, creating an inclusive environment is the first step in this process.
In the following guide, we’ll provide a brief overview of inclusive language fundamentals and the tools you’ll need to promote DEI in your workplace.
What is Inclusive Language?
When you use words, phrases, and expressions that are welcoming to individuals of all backgrounds, this is what inclusive language is all about.
Inclusive language acknowledges diversity, promotes equitable exchanges and opportunities, and removes the negative impact that language can have on a person of a different background.
At the end of the day, when inclusive language is part of company culture, you create a safe space for employees of all backgrounds and encourage individuality, expression, and raise tolerance to new standards.
Efforts for Accommodation
Before you can begin using inclusive language principles, you have to be accommodating to employees of all backgrounds.
In the old days, a line of workers filed into a warehouse carrying a lunch box and punched the clock, much like the automatic marching of ants. During the day, work was expected, but accommodation wasn’t exactly on the top of a supervisor’s to-do list. Today, times have changed significantly.
Accommodation requires implementing policy (or policy changes) that enable your workplace culture to be more inclusive and respectful for employees of different backgrounds.
For example, accommodating policies regard each person’s gender identifier, ethnicity, physical and mental ability, religious preference, or any other grounds to which diversity can apply.
A few examples of accommodation in the workplace include the following:
- Language translation software
- Wheelchair ramps
- Transgender bathrooms
- Handicapped parking
- Prayer areas
- Quiet rooms
- Privacy rooms
- Company safe spaces
Accommodation efforts vary considerably. And the nature of your accommodation policy may have to shift based on the diversity of the employees at your company.
How Can You Use Inclusive Language to Create a Better Work Environment?
As mentioned, inclusive language forms the foundation for a workplace that nurtures diversity. And when you begin with a proactive approach to creating belonging, you’ll find that your work culture becomes anticipatory instead of reactive to those of differing backgrounds.
The following offers 3 solid principles to follow to create a greater awareness of inclusive language:
Avoiding gender-bound terms like “guys” or “chics” is becoming more of a norm in the modern 21st century. And as more people are identifying themselves with pronouns, an important reference point to promote inclusion that all should consider in the workplace is including pronouns in their introductions.
For example, upon greeting a new person, “My name is X, and the pronouns I identify with are he/him, she/her, them/they, etc.” This breaks the ice for anyone who may prefer plural identifiers.
It’s part of human nature to assume that other people are like you. And though this may be the case more often than not within similar cultural groups, beginning conversations based upon assumptions may be the wrong starting point when looking to promote diversity.
For example, assuming that someone has a traditional family unit with a father and a mother can cause those who were raised differently to feel uneasy. Their father and mother may not have ever married, or they could have been raised by a caregiver, a single parent, two men in partnership, or two women in partnership.
Grouping Ethnicities Together
In the United States, it’s exceedingly common to lump members of specific religious groups or ethnicities together. But when we do this, we invite stereotypes and erase the nuances of that particular culture or religious group.
For example, when you refer to a particular group as “the Natives,” or “the Muslims,” you’re grouping people together that only share one common attribute when the fact is, there are many attributes of these groups that make them unique. Further, these communities are diverse in themselves and should be understood as such.
How Inclusive Language Can Help Externally
A recent survey by Mckinsey & Company shows that not many employees feel included at work and wish that their company would do more to advance inclusion. And just as using inclusive language can help to bolster camaraderie and partnerships within your work culture, this also enables your employees to effectively broaden their spheres, and to reach across cultural divides into diverse customer bases.
As the American consumer cannot be identified by one singular profile, promoting inclusive language teaches your employees that each individual has his or her own story. Further, inclusive language teaches employees that individual backgrounds do matter when attempting to promote products and build brand awareness across a wider and more diverse market.
Inclusive language also teaches employees to empathize to a greater degree and to take into consideration all factors which make a customer unique. And the better you know and can empathize with a potential customer, the greater your chances are at landing a sale and generating greater revenue.
Diversity on the Rise
We live in times that are constantly changing. And while diversity wasn’t taken into consideration years ago, today, companies across all verticals are beginning to see the huge impact that inclusive language and DEI can play on productivity and brand recognition.
If you want to learn more about inclusive language and begin implementing these fundamentals into your core work culture, check out our inclusive language tool and sign up for a free trial of AllyBot today.