In the wake of the anti-racism and gender equality movements, every workplace is striving to get its diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) policy right.
But, the importance of DEI is not just a matter of getting a policy into place for the sake of it; there is a multitude of benefits that come from having an inclusive workplace.
One of the many benefits is that when individuals feel accepted for who they are, especially in the workspace, they tend to be more satisfied with their jobs and contribute to their roles more meaningfully.
Research from the Centre for Talent Innovation, “Disrupt Bias, Drive Value (2019)” found that 33% of employees who perceived bias, even if it did not impact them directly, felt alienated at work, and 48% looked for another job.
However, on the flip side, a study by Deloitte showed that employees in inclusive organisations felt greater happiness, were 50% less likely to leave, 56% more likely to improve work performance, 75% less likely to be absent, and 167% more likely to be company ambassadors.
With advantages like these, who would not want an inclusive workplace?
It is no secret that diverse and inclusive teams are the key to fresher and newer ways of thinking, innovating, and better overall organisational performance.
Hence, the benefits of inclusivity are no longer up for debate, and companies are striving to build stronger teams, healthier workplaces, and positive experiences for every employee irrespective of caste, creed, disability, or gender.
This is where allyship comes in!
How Does Allyship Help In Creating an Inclusive Workplace?
Let’s first understand the word ally.
The simple definition of the word ally is a person who helps and supports another person. But, if taken a little further in the context of inclusivity, an ally becomes a person who actively and deliberately strives to endorse an inclusive culture through positive action.
Allies usually do not belong to the group whose rights they are endorsing. However, in the milieu of the workplace, allies can champion DEI by advocating and supporting their colleagues who are not heard, undervalued or underrepresented.
They can create safe spaces to express fears, frustrations and voice other needs. They can also help to include their underrepresented peers in conversations and enable them to get opportunities they may not otherwise have had. Hence, they can be formidable advocates of change.
Thus, laying the foundation of allyship can enable the advancement of DEI efforts in an organisation.
But apart from inclusivity, allyship also promotes a positive work culture that supports
- High morale
The brilliant part is that anyone can be an ally. Men can be allies for women, economically privileged people can be allies for the underprivileged, the able-bodied can champion the differently-abled, and the list goes on.
However, to be an ally, actions need to speak louder than words because, without any action, it is all quite pointless.
Creating Allyship at the Workplace
First and foremost, allyship cannot be created without support and encouragement from the highest levels. If a company is truly committed to DEI, there are many things that it can do to encourage and build allyship within the organisation.
Here are a few:
1. Support the calling out of inappropriate behaviour/ disrespect
People from minority groups may not be comfortable in voicing issues they are facing or bringing them up for the management to note. They may fear a backlash or the risk of ruining professional relationships.
Allies can help in calling out inappropriate behaviour or voicing issues for their colleagues when required. Encouraging this as the company norm establishes a no-nonsense culture, and employees will think twice before being disrespectful or indulging in unacceptable behaviour.
2. Make everyone an ally
When each employee is entrusted with looking out for their colleagues and supporting them, it also forces them to become aware of the issues their underprivileged peers face.
The key is to build a strong work culture where colleagues advocate for each other, share growth opportunities, and lift each other instead of tearing each other down in their race to the top. Advancement at the expense of another person is not genuine growth.
Hence, encouraging everyone to take even the smallest of steps can create a huge impact.
3. Educate, educate, educate!
Education is the best way to create awareness. By making employees aware of unconscious biases, discriminatory language, micro-aggressions etc., in the workplace, they will become more adept at recognising inequalities when they see them.
Most importantly, it will help employees listen, support, self-reflect, look objectively at personal assumptions & change their behaviours towards their peers.
It is not easy to change what was previously perceived as normal, and hence constant education is crucial to awareness and change.
4. Applaud the actions of the courageous
It takes an infinite amount of courage to stand up to an established system.
So, applaud those brave enough to call out inequalities and inappropriate behaviour and stand up for their peers. When employees see that the allies’ actions are appreciated and encouraged, they will automatically be inspired to be allies too.
5. Celebrate inclusiveness
Celebrations have a way of bringing people together. Therefore, promote a culture that celebrates being different. An easy way to do this is by observing and enjoying various relevant festivals, special days etc., together.
Use these days to have fun, bond, or pay tribute to the minority groups in the office and learn more about them, their culture, and their issues.
So, as the phrase united we stand goes, a company can only brace itself for change and continue thriving if it is united and has a common goal. And bringing together all its different people and talent through allyship is a critical ingredient in creating this unity and commonality.
When employees feel safe enough to bring their honest views and issues to the table, they begin to feel one with the organisation, which is when dynamic change truly happens.
However, change cannot happen overnight, but it is crucial to start by taking baby steps towards building an inclusive workspace. And to do this, the key is to learn, be aware, educate and introspect constantly.
Allyship and inclusivity are not destinations but an unceasing journey towards creating an organisational environment of trust, compassion and empathy. All that each employee has to do is tap into what they have in common with their colleagues and what binds them all together- their humanity.
And now, it’s your turn! Tell us what your company is doing to create a more inclusive workplace and the changes it has brought about! Go ahead, leave us a comment or get in touch with us- we would love to hear from you!