Part 3 - The Inclusive Workplace


When individuals feel that they cannot be themselves at work, they will not engage fully as part of the team or in assigned work. This type of ‘closed’ environment can significantly impact an individual’s involvement in the organization, potentially resulting in low staff morale, increased absenteeism, decreased productivity and retention difficulties.

It all starts with orientation for anyone new to your team. You want to make sure people understand the values of your organization.  Ensure your policies and practices have been reviewed for inclusivity and share these with new employees.

You should have a package containing your policies concerning holidays, time off, sickness and bereavement leaves, religious accommodation, harassment and discrimination, and of course accessibility.

Paper policies are one part of the process and then there’s the human touch – your orientation process should include personal welcomes and introductions. Imagine how welcomed new employees feel when the company’s artistic director comes by to get to know them.

Pairing new employees with experienced colleagues (mentoring) is a tried and true method for integrating people. The process should be a confidential and private experience that can provide a safe space for questions. The mentor offers support, feedback, perspective, networking and information. Mentorship supports an employee’s professional development. (By the way, this is also a great technique to integrate new board members.)

Leadership plays an important role in setting the tone for the shift towards diversity and inclusiveness. Open, effective communication as well as clear channels for feedback optimize the opportunity to discuss diversity and inclusion issues. Diversity and inclusion is nurtured in an open workplace where mistakes can be made and used for learning.

  • You can get to know your colleagues better during work-related social events, so it can be helpful to organize some of those. Building relationships through increased understanding and trust helps to foster inclusion.
  • Make sure everyone is heard if you are planning for social activities. Some people may have income issues that will affect their involvement; others may have religious restrictions such as not eating pork or beef, or drinking alcohol. Some people could have health concerns or accommodation requirements. Just be aware and make sure people feel comfortable speaking up.

Be flexible and inclusive with respect to holidays and time off:

  • Be aware of, and provide time off for, culturally significant events and holy days. Such opportunities should also be covered in your policies. Consider offering a float day for employees to use at their discretion to observe such events or days. You may want to create a multicultural calendar to avoid scheduling important meetings or events on major cultural holidays or special community event times.
  • Recognize and acknowledge special days and events such as International Day of Persons with Disabilities (December 3rd), International Day to End Racism, Gay Pride celebrations, etc.
  • Permit flexible schedules so that employees who observe religious practices can arrange their schedules around their beliefs.



Templates of generic policies which can be adapted for your workplace:
Code of Conduct
Conflict Resolution and Communications
Equal Opportunity and Equal Pay

Dig Deeper

WorkInCulture – Watch for occasional mentoring programs from WorkInCulture, specific to the arts and culture sector. Dig into the readable and simple tip sheets and templates useful to mentors and mentees on effective mentoring.

Other mentoring programs include MentorCity, an online mentoring network for companies as well as individuals, and Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) which developed The Mentoring Partnership to link skilled immigrants with meaningful employment.

HR Council - Helpful inclusive language guidelines specific to different groups
Government of Canada - Programs and resources for integrating internationally trained workers

UK Equality and Human Rights Commission – Explore this website which, while directed at the UK workplace, has information applicable to any inclusive workplace.