Age, gender, religion, race, background…. All of these characteristics have the potential to cause division among coworkers; however, it is possible to use the unique and diverse characteristics that your employees possess to form a high functioning and highly productive team. After all, diversity in its various forms can start dynamic conversations and bring different ideas and perspectives to a team. The key to creating a team that is rich in diversity, yet cohesive, is to be proactive in building inclusion rather than reactive. The following five tips will help you to form an accepting and inclusive environment for your employees to work in.


  1. Form diverse teams: As you are deciding which employees to group together, or even who to hire for an open position, strongly consider forming cross functional teams from diverse individuals. By doing this, you will have employees working together who boast a wide range of experiences that, when combined, will lend themselves to creating a strong team. You will also provide your employees with opportunities to learn from one another and have constructive conversations regarding how to complete projects and tasks in the most efficient way possible.


  1. Change the scene: Office cliques can be extremely detrimental to the goal of office inclusion. The exclusivity that accompanies cliques creates animosity among coworkers, in addition to creating low producing teams. Get ahead of this issue by changing the seating arrangement in the office periodically. By physically changing where an employee sits, you are providing opportunities for employees to develop relationships with coworkers that they may not normally talk to. You never know, an employee may start asking the opinion of a new coworker simply based on their proximity to their desk, which can spark a positive work relationship.


  1. Create social situations: Without a push in the right direction, an employee who is 25 years old will most likely avoid hanging out with their 60-year-old coworker (and vice versa), making it necessary for you to stage social situations that encourage socialization and comradery between even the most diverse coworkers. Try some fun mandatory workshops based on inclusion and diversity to get conversations started; but don’t forget that while workshops can be fun, it is important to allow your employees to socialize in a more casual setting such as a weekly Taco Tuesday event.


  1. Facilitate feedback: In a team full of individuals with diverse experiences, it is important that you facilitate feedback between employees to avoid conflict, especially if you have employees with strong opinions and beliefs. Again, to build an inclusive workplace you need to make every attempt to stay ahead of issues or conflicts (especially those based on gender, age, background etc.) and resolve them immediately as they arise. The best way for you to facilitate feedback between coworkers is to make yourself available to your employees if they run into a situation that requires a manager’s attention.


  1. Survey employees: You should periodically check in with employees by conducting surveys to find out how they view diversity and inclusion in their work life. Building office inclusion is a continuous process full of trial and error. It is important that you are aware of what is working for your employees and what isn’t so that you can adjust appropriately. Let employees know that you are dedicated to making an inclusive workplace by addressing issues that are brought to your attention and taking their surveys seriously.


By following the tips above, you can start the process of building an inclusive workplace where ideas are accepted and utilized regardless of age, gender, religion, race, or background.