here is no longer any doubt: diverse and inclusive companies have countless competitive advantages, such as greater capacity for innovation, better performance, more effective collaboration, an increase in people's motivation and even greater profitability. Together, these are factors that make an organisation more competitive, but also more attractive to talent. Some studies even show that, in the moment of choosing, candidates increasingly value companies that put diversity on the agenda.

Promoting a more diverse and inclusive environment in organisations has been, for this very reason, a task in which many more companies are engaged. But what to do? Where to start and how to promote a diverse work environment?

These are the seven tips we give you, based on studies on the topic, as well as on expert opinions:

1. Listen to your people

Start by practicing active listening. Listen to your employees to understand their needs, expectations and desires; or to collect input and ideas from everyone involved in a project. This is a key characteristic of truly inclusive leaders, who gather valuable information to support better decision-making, as well as to drive improvements in global workplace processes.

You can opt for regular one-on-one meetings between employees and managers, promote anonymous and/or informal feedback, or take advantage of team meetings to, more than know what employees are doing, understand how they feel.

2. Give feedback 

While listening to teams and colleagues, provide constructive feedback. How to do it? Adecco Portugal, a specialist in human resources, gives some examples: offering methods for improvement or giving the team a new strategy to apply in their work.

3. Develop empathy and compassion

These are fundamental characteristics, both in top managers and employees. Having a compassionate approach to communicating and working with others allows for all sides and perspectives of an issue to be considered, the so called "helicopter" or "360-degree" view that businesses sorely lack and that is critical before making important decisions.

In addition, empathetic and compassionate leaders are usually more willing to be flexible with the needs of their team members, a key feature in the path to employees' happiness.

4. Be aware, anticipate the risks

The ability to predict and anticipate risks is a very important skill, especially at the leadership level, and it can even avoid certain problems in the team. Pay attention to what is going on between colleagues, between teams and managers, see if there is any kind of discomfort between them, if everyone feels good in the company. This is even before the active listening that we also suggest to you.

Coverflex's VP of People, João Franqueira, says that, when recruiting, he tries to build around what he already has. In other words, “first I try to know who we already have and then add blocks, as if they were pieces of a puzzle, to make a big picture”, he explains. “The principle is to think about the individuality of people and how they fit into the team. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts”. Afterwards, it is also necessary to see if all the pieces are really forming the puzzle and if they all fit together, without friction.

5. Encourage teamwork

Promoting a diverse and inclusive work environment also involves getting all people to work together, with a common goal. This way, all elements work and train the ability to listen to others, put themselves in others' shoes, manage possible conflicts and create a respectful and healthy work environment.

6. Value difference

It is necessary to speak openly about diversity, equity and inclusion in companies. Only when organisations begin to appreciate the uniqueness of each other, value diversity as the key to success, adopt inclusive practices and ensure equal opportunities, will they be able to unlock their full potential. An organisation is only truly inclusive when it is able to make everyone feel that they can be themselves, feel welcomed, involved, supported and, above all, valued.

Author Verna Myers explains that “diversity is being invited to a party”, while “inclusion is being invited to dance”. We all want to be called to dance and this implies that the environment in which we are inserted is guided by a feeling of belonging that guarantees us the emotional security that we will be accepted and valued when we bring our complete and unique “me” to the business or team.

7. Don't be afraid to create discomfort

Last but not least, whatever your degree of responsibility in the company is, make this your cause and don't be afraid to create discomfort. That's how you evolve. This is also the opinion of Ana Sanches, VP of diversity, equity and inclusion of Teleperformance Portugal, which welcomes almost 100 nationalities and 20 languages.

In an interview with People by ECO, the people manager said that “when you work on issues of diversity and inclusion, you work a lot in changing the mindset, the status quo, processes, behaviours, an uncomfortable situation for most people. I have no problem with creating discomfort, in the sense that we all evolve, realise that we have our own bias, that we are privileged, so we move on to how we are going to create a more inclusive culture, where people feel good, no matter where they come from, how they speak, or their gender identity", she argues.