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5 Tips for Building an AAPI-Inclusive Workplace

With the recent and ongoing rise in violence against AAPI people across the US, many HR leaders are left wondering what they can do to support their AAPI community members. Creating a truly inclusive workplace is a great place to start. 

If you don’t think this is an issue at your organization, think again: according to research from Bain, only 16% of Asian men and 20% of Asian women feel fully included in the workplace – the lowest levels among any demographic. To include and protect your AAPI employees requires meaningful action, not just lip service – and here are five authentic, impactful ways to do just that. 

1. Have clear anti-discrimination policies in place 

This is a basic step, but an important one. As many employees return to the office and all the increased interactions that go along with that (picking up their morning coffee, commuting home via train or subway), the potential for harassment and other racist incidents outside and inside of work increases. 

AAPI employees will feel safer going into the office if there are clear and easily accessible protocols for reporting incidents and raising their concerns. And having an HR policy in place probably isn’t enough – their role is also to protect the organization, so employees may want another channel for reporting and acting on issues.  

2. Create inclusive programming 

Offering your AAPI employees programming that makes them feel seen and included is another positive step. Consider implementing a DEI committee with space carved out specifically for your AAPI community. Introducing programs like AAPI mentorship opportunities or affinity groups can be powerful as well. 

And incorporating inclusive programming into your workplace culture as a whole, such as celebrating AAPI Heritage Month, Lunar New Year, Diwali, and more can help your AAPI employees know that they’re part of an inclusive workplace that sees and celebrates them. 

3. Offer mental health days 

During the pandemic, incidents of harassment and violence against AAPI people increased significantly – the FBI reported a shocking 77% increase in hate crimes against Asian people in the US from 2019 to 2020, even as many incidents go unreported. 

When these acts of violence make the national or local news, AAPI employees in your workplace may feel the effects strongly. In fact, more than 20% of AAPI community members who experienced racism and discrimination report symptoms of racial trauma, which is similar to PTSD. 

Mental health days offer benefits to all workers, but can be particularly beneficial to AAPI employees after they experience racist incidents in their lives or in the news. A day to focus on healing instead of work can help AAPI employees feel supported and part of an inclusive workplace. 

4. Encourage managers to start conversations 

HR leaders can’t check in on every AAPI employee themselves after a national or local incident. But they can encourage managers and leaders to start these conversations themselves with their AAPI team members. 

Lending an ear to listen and offering support by simply acknowledging what happened and asking the employee what you can do to help can go a long way in building an inclusive workplace. 

5. Create equitable systems at work 

While AAPI community members are often stereotyped as a “successful minority,” there are actually very real barriers to their success and career growth at work. The bamboo ceiling means that AAPI employees are underrepresented in managerial and leadership positions, which in turn hinders building a truly inclusive workplace.  

If you truly want to take action to create a diverse and inclusive workplace, for your AAPI employees and everyone else, it’s critical to create more equitable systems at work. This begins during the hiring process by using methods that reduce bias, such as structured interviews and pre-hire assessments, and continues through the employee lifecycle in promotions and more.  
Find out how Cangrade can help you create a more inclusive workplace.