Offering accessibility and equality to all individuals is critical. No one should find themselves restricted in their ability to participate in their daily life activities, especially not due to where they were born or their religious beliefs, nor if they’re navigating life with a disability.
This sentiment is critical for businesses and their leadership teams as well. Providing equality and accessibility in the workplace means a company is effectively offering all employees the same treatment and growth opportunities. Ideally, businesses should aim to provide employees with environments free of victimization, harassment, discrimination and bullying. The result is clear; it makes for a happier and more productive workforce. Workers will feel more compelled and dedicated to their work when they feel they and their colleagues are supported.
While the importance of taking on these initiatives is evident, how to actually enhance equality and accessibility effectively is the tricker matter. With the right tips and knowledge business leaders can learn how to promote equality and diversity in the workplace.
Send clear messages to employees
An essential step business leaders can take is to send out clear messages to all of employees. Make sure employees know and fully understand what language is appropriate for the workplace, as well as sensitivities to be aware of. Certain expressions and words can evoke negative emotions based on their connotations about race, upbringing, disabilities and more. While often said unintentionally, the bar is much higher for employers who are seen as fully responsible for the way their employees conduct themselves.
The right workplace etiquette isn’t just about what is said, either. Body language can also convey a great deal. It’s important to enlist workplace training and guidance to ensure all employees are fully aware of your workplace’s expectations, terms to be aware of and avoid and more to ensure all are offered a comfortable work environment which meets their needs.
Track and eliminate bias
While an employer may attempt to send clear messages and establish guidelines for employees, unfortunately some employees will not heed ‘the rules.’ Oftentimes employees may think they understand, but not fully understand when they are in fact acting with bias. Biases can exist both consciously and subconsciously, and employers must be aware of how to address these biases should they come up.
It is the leadership team, as well as HR’s responsibility to ensure workers with specific needs or disabilities are never seen or placed with disadvantages to prevent them from doing their job successfully.
To do so, employers must keep close track of employees and their actions. If a worker is acting in a way that can come off discriminatory toward a certain employee, ensure there’s a process and system in place for action to be taken.
It’s critical to work to eliminate any biases as quickly as possible, but also understand when eliminating them is not possible. Employees may not fully understand or want to change their behaviors. Employers must have a clear system and process in place and hold workers accountable or even look to terminate them should their behaviors not change. It’s critical that a uniform system and process is created to ensure this process itself is not discriminatory or that loopholes do not exist within it as well.
For a workplace to be a vital one, each and every employee must take accessibility and equality seriously.
Embrace assistive technology
Assistive technology is a sure-fire way to guarantee your workplace becomes a more inclusive and accessible one. A variety of technology is available to assist employees with a range of requests, disabilities, such as hearing impairment, and needs.
There are various technology options to choose from when considering workplace accessibility. From Braille keyboards to screen reader software to more advanced technologies, setting aside a budget to offer these to employees when they can benefit from them is critical.
One of the most effective technologies being enlisted in workplaces and with the new world of remote work is video captioning and transcription software. This software – like Verbit’s – is powered by Artificial Intelligence to work in real-time and ensure all employees can engage and participate in town halls, calls, meetings and more with equity. Having a captioning and technology solution in your arsenal – such as live captions and interactive note taking or transcriptions of calls, conferences, and other audiovisual-based corporate content – can help to provide effective means for employees to work with and engage with each other.
Additionally, captioning and transcription technology is proven to not only be helpful for employees who require assistive technology. These engagement tools are beneficial to many subsets of employees with varying needs and in specific scenarios. For example, an employee may want to participate or complete a training while commuting and can therefore benefit from the ability to participate with video captions when the audio cannot be played out loud.
Extending on from the previous point, employers would be wise to localize their corporate content, learning materials and other information. This is especially important for international and global organizations where multiple languages are spoken and used by employees and customers.
Accurately captioning and translating content prevents it from being lost in translation. It also ensures employees can fully comprehend each other and pick up on different terminologies being used based on different regions more effectively.
Listen to your employees
Most importantly, employers need to listen to their employees. They must take note of employees’ individual concerns. They must understand how they can, and often are, being discriminated against in the workplace. Employers must not only listen, but then act on suggested improvements. They should also create opportunities for feedback to be submitted anonymously so as not to place employees in a situation where they don’t feel comfortable disclosing facts, but should be notifying leadership of situations.
Employers must make sure not to play favorites and must report incidents to leadership as they occur. Precedents for certain behaviors must be set to serve as an example for all employees.
There are several ways to listen to what one’s employees have to say. From conducting regular meetings with team leaders or going with an approach of polls and anonymous questionnaires, channels for two-way feedback must be established. It also makes sense to track company reviews posted by employees on the likes of Glassdoor and on social media.
There are many ways in which employers can cultivate a more inclusive workspace. It doesn’t need to be costly, but it does take serious time and investment in workplace culture change. Change also comes from the top, so the onus is very much on leadership to set a precedent, attend and set up training sessions and provide employees with tools and communication channels they need to ensure equity is being offered.
To start, the addition of assistive technology into the workplace, such as embedding captions into your online events and calls, is one great way to start offering more equity to employees. Verbit can help set you up with these tools or explain more about their use cases in the workplace.
Finally, doing the research about what other companies and peers who work within diversity and inclusion are suggesting can also help. Employers should take note of small, yet important moves to make to help their employees succeed professionally and feel supported personally.