Author: Ruby Blixzen Prado, Wellness Works Canada Intern
Cultural safety has become increasingly recognized as an essential approach in promoting inclusivity and respect, especially in the workplace. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, cultural safety involves creating an environment where individuals feel safe and respected regardless of their cultural background. This approach acknowledges the impact of social and historical contexts, as well as structural and interpersonal power imbalances on health and healthcare experiences. Furthermore, cultural safety promotes recognition and respect for different cultures, values, beliefs, and ways of being, and strives to create a safe and inclusive environment for all individuals. As Visions explains, cultural safety also involves addressing power and privilege in the workplace, which can be a challenging but essential step toward creating a more equitable and inclusive workplace. By adopting a cultural safety approach, organizations can create a more inclusive workplace where employees feel valued and respected, and where everyone can thrive both personally and professionally.
In this article, we will discuss the importance of cultural safety in the workplace, the challenges that companies face in achieving it, and some strategies that can be implemented to promote cultural safety and create a more inclusive workplace.
WHY IS CULTURAL SAFETY IMPORTANT IN THE WORKPLACE?
Cultural safety is an important concept in promoting inclusivity and respect in the workplace. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, cultural safety can help to prevent discrimination, harassment, and bullying in the workplace, which can have negative impacts on employees' mental health, job satisfaction, and overall well-being. Additionally, such behaviours can lead to legal and reputational consequences for the company. By promoting cultural safety, organizations can create a workplace where everyone feels welcome and respected, regardless of their cultural background or identity.
As Visions points out, promoting cultural safety also involves addressing power and privilege in the workplace. This can involve challenging existing organizational structures and practices that may perpetuate inequality and exclusion. By taking a critical approach and actively working to address power imbalances, organizations can create a more equitable and inclusive workplace for all employees. This can lead to greater employee engagement, motivation, and productivity, which benefits both the employees and the company as a whole.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES IN ACHIEVING CULTURAL SAFETY?
Cultural safety is an important concept in promoting inclusivity and respect in the workplace. According to Smith, cultural safety involves creating a workplace environment that is free from discrimination, where individuals from different cultural backgrounds feel valued and respected. This approach recognizes the importance of cultural diversity and aims to eliminate cultural biases and assumptions that can limit the opportunities of individuals from different cultural backgrounds (Smith, 2012). By embracing cultural safety, organizations can create a more inclusive workplace where everyone feels comfortable expressing their opinions, beliefs, and values, which can lead to increased productivity and positive outcomes for all stakeholders.
Resistance to change is a common challenge when implementing initiatives aimed at promoting cultural safety in the workplace. As Tervalon and Murray-García point out, employees may be resistant to changes in the workplace culture that challenge their existing beliefs and values. This resistance can hinder efforts to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace and may also create a hostile environment for those who feel marginalized or excluded. To overcome resistance to change, organizations need to focus on building cultural humility rather than just cultural competence. Cultural humility involves acknowledging and challenging one's own cultural biases and assumptions and being open to learning from and respecting other cultures (Tervalon & Murray-García, 1998). By adopting a cultural humility approach, organizations can create a more inclusive workplace where employees feel respected and valued, and where everyone can thrive personally and professionally.
STRATEGIES FOR PROMOTING CULTURAL SAFETY
Despite the challenges, there are several strategies that you can implement to promote cultural safety and create a more inclusive workplace. Some of these strategies include:
Education and training: Companies can provide education and training programs to employees to increase awareness and understanding of different cultures and identities. This can include workshops, seminars, and online courses that cover topics such as cultural competence, unconscious bias, and respectful communication (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare).
Diversity and inclusion initiatives: Companies can implement diversity and inclusion initiatives that aim to recruit and retain employees from diverse backgrounds, and to create a culture of respect and inclusion. This can include programs such as mentorship, networking, and affinity groups (Brookfield & Preskill).
Policies and procedures: Companies can establish policies and procedures that promote cultural safety and prohibit discrimination, harassment, and bullying in the workplace. This can include a code of conduct, anti-discrimination policies, and a complaint process that allows employees to report any incidents of discrimination or harassment (Sue et al., 2007).
Leadership and accountability: Companies can ensure that their leadership team is committed to promoting cultural safety and creating an inclusive workplace. This can include appointing diversity and inclusion officers, setting diversity goals, and holding leaders accountable for promoting a culture of respect and inclusion (Chang et al., 2011).
Communication and feedback: Companies can encourage open communication and feedback from employees to ensure that their needs and concerns are being heard and addressed. This can include regular employee surveys, focus groups, and town hall meetings (Shore et al., 2006).
HOW TO CREATE A CULTURALLY SAFE WORKPLACE
Creating a culturally safe workplace requires a proactive and ongoing effort. Here are some ways to promote cultural safety in a corporate workplace:
Develop an Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (EDIB) Policy: A EDIB policy outlines the organization's commitment to promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace. It provides guidance on how to create a culturally safe environment and outlines the consequences of inappropriate behaviour or discrimination (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2021).
Provide Diversity and Inclusion Training: Provide diversity and inclusion training to all employees, including managers and leaders. This training should cover topics such as cultural sensitivity, unconscious bias, and effective communication in a diverse workplace (Chang, Eagan, Lin, & Hurtado, 2011).
Promote Cultural Awareness: Encourage employees to learn about different cultures, languages, and traditions. This can be done through cultural events, workshops, or guest speakers (Smith, 2012).
Foster Inclusive Communication: Encourage open and respectful communication among employees. This includes active listening, acknowledging, and respecting different perspectives, and avoiding assumptions and stereotypes (Brookfield & Preskill, 2016).
Address Incidents of Discrimination or Harassment: Develop a clear and transparent process for reporting incidents of discrimination or harassment. Ensure that all employees are aware of this process and that it is followed consistently (Sue et al., 2007).
Embrace Diversity in Recruitment and Promotion: Ensure that the recruitment and promotion process is fair and inclusive. This includes avoiding unconscious bias and considering candidates from diverse backgrounds (Knight, 2017).
Provide Support and Resources: Provide employees with support and resources to help them navigate cultural differences and challenges. This may include access to counselling services or employee resource groups (Tervalon & Murray-García, 1998).
CREATING A CULTURALLY SAFE WORKPLACE: A PROACTIVE AND ONGOING EFFORT
Cultural safety is an important concept that should be a top priority for companies. It is an essential aspect of diversity, equity, and inclusion in a corporate workplace. It involves creating a safe, respectful, and inclusive environment for all employees. Promoting cultural safety in the corporate workplace is not only the right thing to do, but it also makes good business sense. By creating a culturally safe workplace, companies can benefit from increased employee engagement, productivity, and retention rates. While there may be challenges in achieving cultural safety, companies can take proactive steps to create an environment that is welcoming and respectful to everyone. By implementing strategies such as education and training, diversity and inclusion initiatives, policies and procedures, leadership and accountability, and communication and feedback, companies can make meaningful progress toward creating a culturally safe workplace. Ultimately, creating a culturally safe workplace is an ongoing effort that requires the commitment and participation of everyone in the organization.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2021). Cultural safety. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/indigenous-australians/cultural-safety-health-care-framework
Brookfield, S. D., & Preskill, S. (2016). The discussion book: 50 great ways to get people talking. John Wiley & Sons. https://www.perlego.com/book/992938/the-discussion-book-50-great-ways-to-get-people-talking-pdf
Chang, M. J., Eagan, M. K., Lin, M. H., & Hurtado, S. (2011). Considering the impact of racial stigmas and science identity: Persistence among biomedical and behavioral science aspirants. Journal of Higher Education, 82(5), 564-596. doi: 10.1353/jhe.2011.0037
Knight, R. (2017) Harvard Business Review. “7 Practical Ways to Reduce Bias in Your Hiring Process,” June 12, 2017. https://hbr.org/2017/06/7-practical-ways-to-reduce-bias-in-your-hiring-process.
Shore, L. M., Tetrick, L. E., Lynch, P., & Barksdale, K. (2006). Social and economic exchange: Construct development and validation. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 36(4), 837-867. doi: 10.1111/j.0021-9029.2006.00037.x
Smith, L. T. (2012). Decolonizing methodologies: Research and indigenous peoples. Zed Books. https://www.msd.govt.nz/documents/about-msd-and-our-work/publications-resources/journals-and-magazines/social-policy-journal/spj17/17-pages214-217.pdf
Sue, D. W., Capodilupo, C. M., Torino, G. C., Bucceri, J. M., Holder, A. M. B., Nadal, K. L., & Esquilin, M. (2007). Racial microaggressions in everyday life: Implications for clinical practice. American Psychologist, 62(4), 271-286. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.62.4.271. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2007-07130-001
Tervalon, M., & Murray-García, J. (1998). Cultural humility versus cultural competence: A critical distinction in defining physician training outcomes in multicultural education. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 9(2), 117-125. doi: 10.1353/hpu.2010.0233. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10073197/
Visions. (2016). Cultural Safety: Addressing Power and Privilege in Health Care. Visions Journal, 11(4), 29. https://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/sites/default/files/visions-indigenous-people-vol11.pdf
About the Author
Ruby Blixzen Prado is a graduate student in the Workplace Wellness and Health Promotion program at Centennial College doing her practicum placement at Wellness Works Canada as a Resource Coordinator. With a background in Nursing, Ruby is passionate about promoting healthy living and helping others improve their well-being. She is dedicated to staying up-to-date with the latest health research and practices and is committed to applying her knowledge to help others achieve their health goals.
In her free time, Ruby enjoys watching documentaries, particularly those that feature innovative strategies related to health and wellness, as well as those that explore the animal world and outer space. Her curiosity and love of learning inspired her to continue exploring new topics and ideas in health and wellness. With her education and passion for health, Ruby is poised to make a positive impact in the field of wellness promotion.