How to Create a Culture of Inclusion at Work

In the past 18 months, we’ve seen a combination of social unrest, inclusion movements, and labor force non-participation that has been unprecedented in the last several decades.

Young business people are discussing together a new project.

Because of this, some restaurants have started wondering: how can we combine these factors towards the growth of our industry instead of towards our detriment? Many have found an answer in cultures of inclusion.

A culture of inclusion in the workplace refers to a set of customs, practices, and ideas that promotes inclusion among the whole community. The goal is to make employees feel appreciated, heard, and included, such that they feel like significant parts of the organizational whole.

Inclusive culture at work is one of the best ways to maximize the potential of your employees. Companies that prioritize inclusive practices have lower turnover, higher productivity, higher levels of employee motivation, and much more. 

Inclusive Culture within the Restaurant Business

The restaurant industry is a critical place to consider cultures of inclusion. We’ve seen incredible losses in the restaurant workforce in the past couple of years. These employment losses combined with the demand losses from the COVID-19 pandemic have led to a preponderance of restaurant closures across the world.

That has led many of us to start asking what we can be doing to change the trajectory, making potential employees drawn to our industry rather than fleeing it. 

There’s a kind of solidarity among restaurant workers – most know what a typical restaurant feels like to work for, and attractive workplaces end up being shared excitedly among the community. A culture of inclusion makes your workplace much more likely to be that kind of location.

That’s a big part of why we’re passionate about inclusive culture at Ziosk. Our software doesn’t just ameliorate manager and customer experiences; it ameliorates employee experiences too. This is especially true for servers, who no longer need to worry about payment management, order specifics, and much of feedback management.

Servers have so much they’re trying to keep in their minds at a time, which is one of the most significant stressors of the position. By minimizing those granular pressures on each server, we allow them to focus more thoroughly on what they’re best at service, crafting a beautiful experience for the customer.

That’s not to mention the added tip potential that comes alongside our platform’s frictionless upselling and reordering process: in our experience, higher tip numbers tend to boost morale.

Inclusion and Culture at Work FAQs

Now that we’ve established why a culture of inclusion in the workplace is vital for the hospitality industry, let’s get into what that can look like on a day-to-day basis.

What are some inclusive practices?

Specific inclusive practices will vary from workplace to workplace, but some themes tie them together. A fundamental theme here is the consideration of identity. When you’re making schedules, policies, or mandatory events, it is vital to keep the identities of your workers at the forefront of your mind.

Religions will bring different time commitments, so don’t expect an Orthodox Jewish worker to come in on a Saturday. Cultural identities often have different relationships to time and punctuality – set expectations, but be understanding if there are culture gaps at play. 

In short, make your employees feel like you value their identities. When they come to you with a problem of identity, prioritize making them feel welcome over preserving the integrity of your existing processes. Most of the time, that’s an investment that will pay off in the long run, as the worker genuinely starts to believe that you’re in their corner.

Another critical practice is wages, pure and simple. Higher wages bring employees into the mission of the company more than lower wages do. As long as you’re paying them minimum wage, they’ll feel exploited. If you can afford to raise their wages, it’s an investment that will pay off. 

In addition to wages, what other non-monetary perks are you able to provide to the server? Quality examples include PTO, free covid testing, subsidized pay for education and more.

What are the key elements to workplace inclusion?

The most foundational element of workplace inclusion is listening. As a leader, you won’t be as keenly attuned to the needs that exist within your workplace as your employees are. They will know more than you about the progress you need to make.

But this listening will do you no good if it’s performative. More and more, employees are developing a nose for people who are “all talk and no action,” and your listening efforts may end up being counterproductive if your community begins to think that about you. 

You must listen genuinely, with a desire to implement change. Then, you must implement those changes. Many restaurant owners get tripped up at this stage – they often want to prioritize their existing practices over change. Don’t let yourself get intimidated by the possibility of change. Certainly, it can be scary, annoying, and work-intensive, but it is worth it.

Prioritization is another element here that connects to action. If you want your workplace to become inclusive, you may need to prioritize this value over-against some of the other values you hold, like profitability and discipline. 

That, of course, doesn’t mean that inclusive workplace culture is unprofitable or undisciplined. It does mean that workplace inclusion is a longer-term investment, and like any long-term investment, some of the near-term decisions that it requires may clash with your conception of profitability or discipline. 

Some key questions to ask in this process of reprioritization are: “How can we solve this inclusivity problem while minimizing its impact on our profit margins?” or “What steps can we take to make this practice more inclusive without it being a significant detriment to discipline?”

What actions create a better workplace?

We’ve talked a lot about the action here so far, but not very much about what that action is. One of the first actions you should take in the pursuit of an inclusive culture at work is listening sessions. Host an afternoon chat in your workplace where you express your desire to create a culture of inclusion to your workers and then listen well to their suggestions. They’ll likely have quite a few.

Once you’ve hosted a few of these listening sessions, the next action is to prioritize implementing the suggestions you received at the sessions. This might be challenging and/or require significantly more reflection and work, and you may want to establish an Inclusion Committee from among your employees to hash out these issues further.

Creating a culture of inclusion is a challenging investment but an incredibly important one. We know that if you decide to take it on, you will see big returns in the long run. And if you decide to turn to Ziosk to support that work, we’ll be able to make your investments go even further in your community.