Toward a More Inclusive Workplace

By: Gerald Goh

Even as Singaporeans celebrate Racial Harmony Day this weekend, it’s worthwhile to take a step back and reflect on Singapore’s increasingly-diverse working environment.

Employees from other countries are joining the country’s workforce in ever-increasing numbers. With this growing ethnic diversity in the workplace, organisations should formulate and implement policies and practices (if they haven’t done so already) that foster an inclusive workplace, one that understands and appreciates the differences between employees while helping them maximise their potential.

Importance of Employee Inclusiveness
Building an inclusive workplace does have its concrete benefits. 87 per cent of employers surveyed by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in 2010 agreed that workplace harmony in a diverse group of employees was the key factor toward determining overall organisational productivity.

Organisations which succeed in creating an inclusive working environment are also naturally more attractive to jobseekers and usually experience lower employee turnover, as employees who are valued and rewarded appropriately are more engaged and motivated.

Furthermore, scientific research has indicated that well-managed, diverse teams tend to outperform homogeneous teams due to the former’s greater potential for creativity and superior problem-solving. Communication and trust are two key factors in the effective management of diverse teams, helping them to function in an optimal manner.

Fashioning an Inclusive Atmosphere
On a day-to-day basis in the workplace, employees can and should embrace an inclusive atmosphere where no judgments are passed on an employee’s physical characteristics, be it age, nationality, race or gender.

Even the simple everyday activity of having lunch out of the office can be an opportunity to build cohesiveness among diverse employees. One way would be to have co-workers who rarely interact with each other go for lunch as a group, to promote personal and professional bonding.

Organisations can also practice an open-door policy where employees can freely raise concerns or challenges faced at work, thereby ensuring an effective channel for possible employee grievances.

Employers should also embrace the concept that there is more than one right way of doing things in the workplace, as well as demonstrating their commitment and accountability to employees by clearly spelling out relevant performance measures to preclude any possibility of workplace discrimination.

The Big Picture
Outside of the workplace, organisations can also organise activities around common interests to encourage employees of different ethnicities to mingle and interact, while making allowances for employees with certain restrictions (e.g. dietary).

These can include sports activities (e.g. jogging, football), children (e.g. family day excursions, talks on parenting by guest speakers), or hobbies (e.g. cooking classes). The effectiveness of these activities on encouraging an inclusive atmosphere will be significantly enhanced by all-round participation, especially by senior management.

Last but not least, organisations can also consider designating spaces for employees to interact and meet informally (e.g. office pantries), while creating an open-office environment with minimal visible barriers and include facilities for employees with special needs (e.g. nursing rooms for mothers, handicap toilet access for the physically-impaired).

What other suggestions do you have for building an inclusive workplace? Share with us in the comment box below!

The JobsCentral Group, a CareerBuilder company, is the owner of, one of Singapore's largest job and learning portals. Get a free career personality test and more career- and education-related articles at JobsCentral and JobsCentral Community. Alternatively, Like us on Facebook or Follow us on Twitter for more career-centric content!

Career Central Tags: