Wes Combs


June 01, 2022


Whether your organization is a large multinational or has only a single location, there continue to be encouraging signs that the economy is coming back to life. However, ask any business owner and they will share a similar story: the labor shortage impacts their ability to reap the rewards.

As we have highlighted through U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Incorporating Inclusion work, employers large and small capable of creating inclusive workplaces where everyone – including LGBT employees – feels valued and welcomed are ahead of the curve when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. Our LGBT Inclusion Hub for Small Businesses provides small employers with the resources and inspiration they need to create a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace for LGBT employees.

As employees return to the office, it’s critical that business owners and leaders ensure their work environment is an inclusive one that empowers everyone to thrive. Whether a business is small or large, here are steps you can take to deliver on a commitment to being an employer of choice.

Recognize Performance: Ben Zweig, CEO of small business Revelio Labs and an adjunct professor of economics at New York University’s Stern School of Business, was part of a team that analyzed more than a million Glassdoor reviews to learn why people were leaving their jobs. They found that “employees are more likely to leave companies that fail to distinguish between high performers and laggards when it comes to recognition and rewards." What they learned was it was about feeling valued and seen, and not compensation.

Experts have suggested companies host fun activities at work as well as outside the office to show their appreciation. This can be as simple as organizing happy hours or group activities, such as visits to a museum during the workday to celebrate the team and how hard they have been working. For those who work remotely, consider offering an all-virtual option that begins with attendees give a “shout-out” to a colleague who went above and beyond or helped a project succeed.

Make Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) a Priority: The pandemic’s disparate impact on segments of the community, combined with highly visible examples of inequity based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity at work, has forced employers to deliver on DEI objectives. A one-sized fits all approach is likely not sufficient in today’s multicultural marketplace.

This starts by assessing current policies and benefits against best practices to understand what’s missing or what tweaks will better support those who work for you. For example, consider “lunch-and-learns," where co-workers (both onsite and remote) can share stories about their backgrounds or historical events that have impacted their lives to raise awareness and educate others.

Community Engagement: Now more than ever we see examples all around us of people supporting their neighbors and colleagues in the face of adversity. The need to stay safe and isolate during the pandemic had a silver lining – people not only got to know those around them better, but more importantly, how the transition to remote school and work affected their livelihoods. In some cases, we saw how employers responded to the need by making financial contributions to nonprofit organizations filling important gaps, from helping employees be more financially secure to addressing the digital divide.

Research shows that people want to work for companies that make giving back a priority. According to Benevity, companies that encourage and engage their employees in both charitable giving and volunteering had 57% less turnover.

Volunteering and community service is a great way to create connections among the workforce especially if the workforce helps select where and how the organization will support a cause. At the end of a designated day of service, invite employees to post pictures and share stories about the nonprofit they helped and how it made the employee feel to volunteer. Allowing each employee to choose where they will spend their day builds trust and demonstrates an authentic commitment to giving back.

Be flexible: Returning to business as usual has a totally different meaning in 2022. Employers who have required workers to come back to the office are losing them in some cases, including top performers. The pandemic has changed how each of us live and work in ways no one could have predicted. Research shows remote work is likely here to stay in one way or the other. As you consider what options exist, it is important to involve your employees in the decision-making process, so you know what matters and why.

Start by understanding what types of meetings are necessary and who is required to attend. Then, poll the group to see what dates and times work best for everyone, enabling all voices to have a seat at the table when making team decisions.

Flexibility goes beyond working from home. For some, it may mean a change of pace or different role in another part of the organization. HR experts recommend looking internally for candidates even if it requires reskilling. The reason a worker stays or leaves may be as simple as having the opportunity to take on new responsibilities.

We hope these tips provide you with practical solutions in an ever-changing world. For more insights on how to foster an inclusive workplace culture, visit our website: uschamberfoundation.org/incorporating-inclusion.

About the authors

Wes Combs