Over the last decade, more and more healthcare providers are acknowledging the importance of equity and inclusion (E&I) in the workplace. Various laws, mostly focused on diversity, have been created in an attempt to create more inclusive work environments. Unfortunately, most workplaces don’t become truly inclusive by simply complying with these laws. The internal culture doesn’t truly change until E&I is meaningfully addressed at all levels and embedded into the attitudes, policies, and mission of the company. An inclusive healthcare workplace not only improves services provided and atmosphere for the patient/client, but also can enhance the atmosphere, staff engagement, retention, interpersonal communication, and productivity.
Determine if Your Workplace is Truly Inclusive
If you’re trying to determine how inclusive your work environment is - ask your employees. Allow your employees to share their thoughts and feelings on the subject anonymously. You can also survey your clients and vendors to get the full picture. There are also other signs you can look out for when assessing how inclusive your workplace is. If the answer to any of the following questions is “Yes,” then you might have a problem. First, is it normal and accepted to hear inappropriate jokes regarding someone’s race, gender or sexual preference? Second, do all of your executives look alike? Finally, do employees have a safe place they can discuss concerns without fear of repercussion?
Benefits of an Inclusive Healthcare Workplace
Creating an inclusive healthcare workplace isn’t just good for employees; according to a recent study, it’s also good for business. The study, which included 1,500 employees from Australia, China, German, India, Mexico and the United States, found that “…employees who feel included are more likely to go above and beyond the call of duty, suggest new product ideas, innovate new ways of getting work done and be supportive of one another…” It makes sense that a company is more innovative and productive when it pools the collective knowledge from a diverse group of people.
Moving Towards a More Inclusive Healthcare Workplace
Not only should a healthcare organization’s culture, governance structure, HR policies and business practices follow an inclusive workplace model, but training for staff to learn and apply this model should be a priority as well. Top companies like AT&T and Johnson & Johnson reinforce the importance of E&I with regular training as well as employee networking groups. Taking this extra step reinforces the importance of E&I to all levels of the company.
Saving Lives With E&I in Healthcare
Not only can E&I make better business sense and happy employees, when further integrated into customer care, it can actually save lives. For example, Kaiser Permanente noticed a disparity in healthcare outcomes for patients with colon cancer based on ethnicity. After interviewing the negatively affected population, they learned what the barriers where and how to eliminate them, increasing the survival rate.
Making E&I a driving force of the healthcare industry will create better work environments, healthier patients, and likely more profitable businesses. Imbedding E&I into your culture doesn’t happen overnight, especially for long established companies. To make this change, it takes support from leadership and continual education and training. The key is to make people feel united in a purpose while also acknowledging and celebrating what makes us all unique.