Juneteenth: An employee-first guide to building an inclusive workplace

Stéphanie Grawehr June 09, 2021

In this post:

What is Juneteenth? 12 ways to build an inclusive, diverse workplace Buddy systems Security, support, and psychological safety policies and guidelines Optional giving and volunteering program Inclusive software & content Recognise bias Practice inclusive leadership Consider sponsorship programs Fair pay and growth opportunities Gender-neutralize content Recognise diverse holidays Create a flexible working environment Educate your staff Commitment is key

In recognition of Juneteenth, we’re diving head-first into diversity and sharing actionable ways you can create an inclusive and diverse workplace for employees. There are more areas of diversity than what often comes to mind when you hear the word—thirteen areas of diversity, to be exact. 

What is Juneteenth? 

Juneteenth is an annual holiday commemorated since the 1800s marking the end of slavery in the United States.

“On June 19, 1865, about two months after the Confederate general Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Va.,   Gordon Granger, a Union general, arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform enslaved African-Americans of their freedom and that the Civil War had ended. General Granger’s announcement put into effect the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued more than two and a half years earlier on Jan. 1, 1863, by President Abraham Lincoln.” – New York Times, here

In recent years, the day has seen a renewed sense of purpose in light of anti-racist movements, and many businesses are now marking the day of celebrating freedom as a public holiday. Some of the world’s leading businesses now use Juneteenth as a day for their employees to educate themselves on African-American history—promoting a more inclusive workplace.  

An inclusive and diverse workplace increases employee engagement, employee purpose, productivity and fosters a more positive company culture. Some companies leading the charge in diversity and inclusion are Johnson & Johnson, Salesforce and IBM

Salesforce, in particular, is setting some noteworthy DE&I goals

  • Doubling U.S representation of Black employees in leadership (VP+) by 2023.
  • Increasing U.S. representation of Black employees by 50% by 2023.
  • Investing $100 million in black-owned small businesses.
  • Investing $200 million and one million volunteer hours for nonprofits focussing on racial equality and justice. 
  • Dedicating $10 million in software addressing the inequality of black communities in the US. 
  • Advocating at federal state, and local levels, for policies to address the equity gap. 
  • Working to advance laws to protect people against racism and hate crimes. 

Research shows that gender-equal companies earn 41% more revenue, racially and ethnically diverse companies perform 35% better, and diverse teams are 87% better and decision-making. Lastly, inclusive cultures can generate 2.3x more cash flow per employee. 

Yet, 41% of managers say they are too busy to implement a diversity and inclusion framework. 

Let’s change that today. By reading this article, you’re already one step closer to creating a more diverse and prosperous workplace for your employees. What’s more, we’re about to guide you through how to maintain an inclusive culture as you diversify your talent. 

12 ways to build an inclusive, diverse workplace

Building a diverse workplace comes via your recruitment processes and employer branding efforts. Mitigating bias by using fair technical recruitment tools, promoting a diverse work culture, and creating empathetic recruitment processes are all ways to build a diverse workforce. 

However, maintaining that workforce is another matter, and this only comes via building an inclusive workplace culture. So, let’s dive into 12 practical methods to create an inclusive workplace for all types of diverse people. 

1. Buddy systems

Cross-culture, department, and diversity area buddy systems are the perfect first steps for inclusive employee onboarding. They enable people to meet others they would not normally cross paths with, for employees to share stories and understand each other better. 

Buddy systems promote a sense of inclusiveness and belonging from an employee’s first day. A buddy system can be something as simple as an organized 1-1 with a long-serving employee and the new starter, and they can continue throughout both employees’ time at the company. Supported by regular catch ups, joint volunteering efforts, lunches, and more. 

2. Security, support, and psychological safety policies and guidelines

Best represented via open-access company policies, so new employees know you take these issues seriously and they’re entering a safe place. 

Make your policies and guidelines accessible and part of employee onboarding. At the same time, if an employee breaks these policies, deal with the situation seriously and swiftly. 

For example, Uber is taking great strides to eliminate racism for drivers and customers. Among many efforts, they’ve created inclusive community guidelines, with one of the core pillars being “treat everyone with respect.”  


3. Optional giving and volunteering program 

A corporate giving program is a great way to promote an inclusive workplace. They are a core pillar to building more empathetic teams and give people something to connect over. It’s all too easy for teams to work in silos, especially if they’re busy with upcoming projects. If teams can’t work together on work-related tasks, find innovative ways to bring them together and promote a flat workplace culture. 

They also help to build more diverse mindsets as volunteers are faced with problems, cultures, and challenges they would not normally have in their day-to-day lives. 

Make sure you tie your giving pillars to DE&I . If your company does choose to host a corporate giving program, then it’s important your initiatives tie into diversity, equity and inclusion. 

Pick areas that resonate with your company mission and employees. From there, you can source nonprofits that will help champion your pillars and unite employees toward a giving goal they all agree with and understand. 

Volunteering opportunities or company-wide events are perfect for this! Look to volunteer at local and global events. Find those causes that are either physically close to home or close to hearts and organise a mass volunteering push to tie people together

4. Inclusive software & content 

It’s all well and good promoting inclusive initiatives, but if your business isn’t reflecting inclusivity and diversity with its tools and content, your efforts can be in vain. Conduct a deep dive into your content and ensure your visuals and language represent all

At the same time, ensure your software is accessible to all types of people. This includes those with learning difficulties, disabilities or impairments, or those with limited internet access. 

For example, give options for larger fonts, add text-to-voice options, or avoid certain color combinations that may be a struggle for people. 

5. Recognise bias 

Bias is part of human nature. Often it’s something we don’t even realise we’re applying until it’s too late. However, recognising bias is a huge step in combating that. Call out where your business and its people have been biased in the past and brainstorm ways you can overcome this bias, be it with tech, education, or other resources. 

6. Practice inclusive leadership 

It’s so essential your leaders lead by example when it comes to inclusivity. However, this is not something you can expect to come naturally from leadership. Build out educational resources or source courses for your leaders to become more inclusive and diversely aware. 

A few good resources for this are


Continue to educate your leaders and hold them accountable for their actions. Set diverse accountability goals within departments and offices that senior members of staff need to stick to. 

7. Consider sponsorship programs 

If you’ve got the resources, sponsorship programs and grants are a fantastic way to show you take diversity and inclusion initiatives seriously. 

For example, IBM offers 1,000 paid internships to prepare diverse students for STEM careers, and Google hosts a black founders fund of $2 million.

8. Fair pay and growth opportunities 

For as much progress as businesses have made in leading diverse and inclusive workforces, it’s still failing to translate into equal pay and opportunities for different minority groups. 

Payscale’s ‘The state of Gender Pay Gap‘ report shows women still make significantly less than men at work, and women of colour face even wider pay gaps and growth opps.


Hold your business accountable for equal pay and growth opportunities. The good news is, it’s never too late for change. Conduct a company-wide salary review of your employees, adjust pay accordingly and make up for any unfair loss over an employee’s time with your business. 

9. Gender-neutralize content

It may be surprising to you the number of times you have used he/she in your job advertisements and employer branding content. Take time to conduct a review of your live content and switch up he/she pronouns for they/them to include non-binary people. Take a look at this example from Chameleon:

Chameleon Slack Channel

10. Recognise diverse holidays 

Different cultures and people celebrate at different times throughout the year. To build an inclusive workplace, accommodate everyones’ holidays. This doesn’t mean to say these holidays are company-wide but certainly granted for those individuals celebrating them. They can also serve as educational and reflection opportunities for those that don’t practice them—Juneteenth, for example. 

At the same time, try to steer clear of one-sided holiday messaging. For example, wishing an entire workforce “Merry Christmas” does not include those who don’t celebrate Christmas. Here’s a great resource for diverse holidays to know. 

11. Create a flexible working environment

Inclusive workspaces are those with empathetic work options. For example, does your company accommodate new parents? Are you booking meetings that are conscious of your team members’ time zones? Do you allow work from home or work from office options that give employees something that fits them and their needs? 

If you do have a remote work setup, are you conscious of people’s lunch hours and end of day? 

Find ways to build an empathetic work culture and include people and their environments. 

12. Educate your staff 

Yes, it’s important to lead top-down and set an example, but if you’re not following this up with the rest of your workforce, your inclusive push can only go so far. Provide ongoing training and resources and dedicate time per quarter for your workforce to educate themselves on diversity. 

Another idea is to promote self-education. To build a greater sense of purpose among your workforce, give employees the mic/pen/keyboard and have them contribute towards a terminology glossary for the rest of the workforce. 

This way, you maximise joy and minimise fear of people being discriminated against or misunderstood. 

Take this a step further by hosting staff-led education meets. Hand the mic over to your workforce, amplify minority voices and allow employees to speak for themselves and what they represent. 

Enable your workforce to learn and unlearn.

Commitment is key 

Closing out 12 ways to build a more inclusive workspace, what matters most is that your business remains committed year-round. Set diversity and inclusion goals transparent for your employees, report on your efforts, and remain dedicated to achieving those goals. 

You’re creating a culture of belonging in your workplace, and some argue that belonging is the third chapter to diversity and inclusion. You want all employees to feel like they belong in your work force, and you can do so by using some of the ideas we’ve mentioned above. 

Stay open-minded, honest, and lead with intent. If you launch inclusive workplace initiatives with intent, you have the power to move the needle and set a leading example for businesses to follow.

Go back to blog >

The Ultimate Guide to Corporate Volunteering

Learn how to build a winning corporate volunteering program


Engage employees while making an impact

Get a demo

Related Content

What is Corporate Volunteering? Benefits & costs in 2022
How to write a corporate volunteering policy: with examples
How To Create A Corporate & Employee Volunteering Program