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Guide to inclusive work practices: tips for employers.

What is an inclusive workplace?

 These days, the communities we live and work in consist of people from various walks of life; people from different cultural backgrounds, with various religious beliefs, different genders, and people who live with disability, injuries or health conditions. An inclusive workplace is an environment that welcomes people from various backgrounds to bring their true self to work, and allows everyone the same opportunities to grow, develop and progress within their organisation. While at the same time, being treated as an equal, respected for their views, opinions and differences.

The Australian Network on Disability recently listed questions employers should ask themselves prior to recruiting an inclusive workforce. This list of questions could also be helpful for employers who already hire people living with disability:

  1. Is your organisations physical location accessible?
  2. Has your organisation expressed a commitment to access and inclusion?
  3. Does your organisation ask people living with disability what adjustments they need to perform their roles?
  4. Can people living with disability participate fully and equally in work-related training and events?
  5. Does your organisation use inclusive language?
  6. Does every person in your workplace enjoy equality of opportunity and career development?

Answering each of these questions, and giving your workplace a rating of inclusivity, is an effective tool to see how your workplace is doing, how you could improve and what changes might have to be made.


Why are inclusive workplaces important?


Besides the obvious answer to this question, because it is the right thing to do and everyone deserves equal opportunities, there are many additional benefits for a business to create an inclusive workplace.

  1. Increase creativity: Organisations that recruit from a diverse talent pool attract talent from diverse backgrounds, with diverse thoughts and experiences which ultimately increases creativity and innovation within the business;


  1. Greater employee engagement: Businesses that adapt an inclusive workplace have a greater chance of attracting and retaining quality employees. People want to feel welcome and be able to bring their true self to work. This improves employee well-being, overall happiness within the workplace, and leads to improved employee engagement;


  1. Lower turnover: Employee turnover is front of mind for many business leaders. When an employee feels happy and valued, they are more likely to want to stay within the business; and


  1. Attract more talent: Organisations who develop a strong inclusive culture will build their reputation as a great place to work. This reputation will attract and retain quality talent within the business.


Inclusive hiring and recruitment practices


More and more, employers are struggling to find suitably skilled and qualified staff, which is increasing recruitment costs, reducing productivity, and hampering expansion plans.

But with some simple changes to recruitment practices, businesses can significantly widen their talent pool to take in people living with disability, a massively untapped component of the Australian workforce. Remember, when it comes to disability, injury, health condition or disadvantage, the very strengths and skills that help people live with their circumstances are also the skills that are highly valuable in the workplace.

By making your recruitment processes more inclusive, you can attract candidates from all backgrounds, find skilled and qualified candidates, and deliver fair recruitment for all. Here are a few tips to make the recruitment process more inclusive:

1. Rethink the job description

A useful guideline for employers to think about is that if it can be learnt on the job, consider leaving it out of the job description.

A simple way to make your job description more inclusive is to reconsider the requirements of the role. By focusing on the essential, rather than the ideal requirements, you’ll cast your net wider and attract more candidates from a broader range of backgrounds.

2.Shortlist as a group

When people with varied perspectives filter candidates, the group can challenge things like bias, myths or stereotypes, and you’re less likely to miss out on a potentially valuable employee.

3. Change up the interview

When booking the interview, employers can consider the following tips:

  • Check the candidate’s résumé for the preferred method of contact, whether it is by phone, email or other method, and contact them using this preferred method;
  • Provide the candidate with any accessibility information they may need, and enquire if they need any adjustments to attend the interview, such as a certain time for the interview; and
  • Provide details on the expectations of the interview, such as whether it will be online or in person, which platform will be used, whether captioning will be provided, and how many people will be present.


4. Make onboarding easier

Embracing diversity in recruitment also means reviewing your onboarding processes. Don’t assume that everyone will fit your mould, rather, change the mould to fit your people. If you are looking for more information and/or education on creating a diverse and inclusive workplace, check out atWork Australia’s Diversity Webinar Series.


Inclusive training and development initiatives


It is no secret that for businesses to progress and evolve, they must invest time and resources into training and developing their people. As mentioned earlier, the modern-day workplace is now made up of employees from various backgrounds. Therefore, the training and development opportunities offered by an organisation must be inclusive of all their employees, so that everyone within the organisation has equal opportunity to participate in the training. Some inclusive training and development initiatives may include; having resources available in multiple languages, providing transcripts of recordings, and providing an audio alternative to reading resources. These are just a few examples of initiatives that can be implemented to make training and development more inclusive.

It may be difficult to develop resources to meet everyone’s needs. So here is a few thoughts to keep in mind when determining which initiatives to implement in your workplace:

  1. Look at the people who are currently in your organisation and identify how the training can be more inclusive of their needs;
  2. Observe the learning space and determine the preferred learning styles of your people; and
  3. Co-design the training and development packages with your target audience.


Creating an inclusive workplace culture


The culture of an organisation can be a critical element and influence the success or failure of a company, an organisation with a toxic culture is destine for failure. The culture of an organisation guides employee behaviour with their colleagues, customers, and clients. The organisation’s culture sets the foundation for how they conduct business, and it is established at the executive level based upon the business leader’s values and vision for the organisation.

To create an inclusive workplace culture, executive leaders need to develop organisational values, vision and mission statements that are focussed on inclusion. However, this is just the starting point, it is easy to develop organisational values that reflect inclusion or write a vision statement outlining their goal to be a truly inclusive employer. For the values to impact the organisations culture, the leaders must live and breathe these values at every level of management. When this is achieved, new people joining the organisation can then see and feel the culture and will adapt their behaviours to fall in-line with the rest of the company.


Designing inclusive policies and procedures


If you want your workforce to take inclusion seriously, then you need to set up clear policies and guidelines regarding the topic. You could write out the procedures in clear language and distribute them to all employees. Adding these policies and guidelines to your company’s core values is a great way to ensure the success of inclusion strategies. Be sure to set clear goals for all employees and encourage participant feedback. Additionally, to give life to the organisations core values, they must be demonstrated by the leaders within the company, it’s their behaviours that set the standards for all employees.


Inclusive employee support practices


Employees are the backbone of every organisation. So, implementing inclusive support practices is a must to ensure all employees feel valued, supported, and happy within their workplace. This does not have to be complicated; it is about being aware of people’s individual needs and knowing what supports they need to best perform their role. A couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Ensure all resources are accessible for all team members. For example, this may include having resources available in multiple languages, digital version or have an audio option;
  • Be aware of unconscious bias;
  • Acknowledge holidays of all cultures; and
  • Provide equal opportunities for training and development.




Creating an inclusive workplace doesn’t have to be a difficult process and it is something every organisation can achieve. The most important thing to do is to listen and focus on the needs of your employees and determine how you can best support them. In return, the organisation will receive a more committed and productive employee. For more information or to get support to develop a more inclusive workplace, reach out to atWork Australia.

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