Leadership & Management

5 Simple Steps for Improving Diversity and Inclusion

| October 19, 2018

Recently, we delved into the aspects of diversity business leaders need to re-examine to better understand the perspectives and needs of all their employees. Now that you have that information, it’s time to make positive changes.

Many cannabis business leaders might feel overwhelmed about where to start. It’s not realistic to think you can overhaul every company benefit and policy overnight. Luckily, small, incremental changes will improve your workplace over time. Stay focused on creating a more diverse and inclusive organization and learn from any missteps that might occur.

Here are four easy and effective steps for taking diversity and inclusion to the next level:

1. Have a true open door policy

One of the foundations of an inclusive work environment is safety. Employees have to feel confident they can come to work without a fear of being discriminated against or mistreated. To ensure this, leaders need to create safe ways for employees to report behavior that makes them uncomfortable.

This means letting all employees know you are available to hear their concerns. Clearly explain to everyone what will happen if they need to report an incident. Layout, step by step, the human resources processes that exist to deal with discrimination. It’s important for everyone to have this information so they know what to expect once they come forward.

Open the discussion up for questions and comments from the entire team. Having an honest conversation about what is considered unacceptable behavior and what consequences will occur ensures everyone is on the same page. It helps show the team that your first priority is their safety and happiness.

It’s also important to have a way for employees to anonymously report issues. Employees are not always comfortable coming forward, but that doesn’t mean negative events shouldn’t be brought to light. Even if there are no names mentioned, knowing the details of an incident allows you to address it with the rest of the team by showing everyone how a line was crossed.

2. Open up parental leave

Traditionally, companies only offer maternity leave for a woman after she gives birth and rarely offer paternity leave. But now many employees — regardless of their gender or sexual orientation — adopt, use surrogates, or start families in less conventional ways. While organizations are trying to catch up, there’s still a lot of work to do.

In fact, a 2018 survey from the Society for Human Resource Management found that only 28% of organizations offer paid adoption parental leave. For foster child parental leave and surrogacy parental leave, it’s just 21% and 12% respectively.

Create a parental leave policy that provides everyone with the same amount of time regardless of how they start their family. Also, be flexible if an employee comes to you with a unique situation. For example, if a child is born with unexpected complications, the parent might need more time out of the office. Be understanding and provide a solution that is beneficial to the employee and your business.

3. Understand all the possibilities of flexible work

Many people think of flexible work arrangements as simply a way to work from home. Since most cannabis businesses need their employees on-site every day, leaders feel flexible work options can’t be successful in their workplace. But in truth, there are many ways to provide employees with chances to care for family members, travel more, or otherwise live their true life. As long as there’s open communication, you can find a solution that works for your employees.

Encourage employees to come to you when they’d like to try a new structure for their workday. Maybe they’d like to work 10 three hour shifts a week instead of six five hour shifts. Or perhaps they’d like to reorder supplies from their home instead of the office. Be open to a discussion of all employees’ suggestions.

When planning out their flexible work arrangement talk about how their time will be clocked and any possible issues with the employee and their manager. By bringing up concerns early, everyone can problem solve issues so there’s no dip in productivity.

Also, look at flexible work as a way to celebrate diversity. Have a wall in your office where employees can share why they’re not always in the office. They can hang pictures from where they traveled or share a project they’ve completed for a class they’re taking. This will help everyone get to know their diverse co-workers better and better support them.

4. Get involved in the community

One of the best ways to improve a company’s inclusion is by volunteering. Working with different organizations in the community exposes everyone to people of different backgrounds. It opens their eyes to different walks of life and helps them be more accepting of others.

Each month, feature a different charity and list ways employees can get involved. While these organizations always need financial support, try to include more hands-on events. A good way to incentivize participation is by giving employees time off to volunteer with these groups. This will encourage employees to step out of their comfort zone and work with a variety of people and causes in the community.