It isn’t just a human resources (HR) thing anymore. Today, executives across all industries are increasingly interested in promoting and managing diversity in the workplace.
A diverse and inclusive culture is shown to increase a company’s bottom line, mainly through its all-pervading effects of stronger innovation and higher productivity levels.
What Is Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace?
Anti-discrimination laws make it illegal for businesses to discriminate against employees and job applicants based on race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, age or disability. Given the benefits of having a policy for recruiting a diverse representation of employees, many companies do just that.
The term “workplace diversity” goes beyond “equal employment opportunity” and refers to a workforce made up of employees with varying characteristics, such as varying races and cultural or social identities.
Diversity and inclusion in the workplace go hand-in-hand, but these terms aren’t interchangeable. Diversity refers to a company’s make-up, represented most clearly in its executive team, but the employee pool at large as well.
Inclusion is the company’s fostering of a culture that makes all employees feel included. Whereas diversity is typically addressed by HR in the hiring process, inclusion is often all-pervasive through a company and can involve anything from training to events celebrating different cultural or social identities.
The Bottom Line: How Promoting Diversity Benefits Your Company
A successful diversity strategy in your company benefits its culture, performance and image. Here are some of the benefits business owners can expect from increased diversity and inclusivity:
Higher Employee Retention
Diversity in your workforce leads the way to feelings of inclusivity as various cultures are represented. Employees are happier working for a company that values their wellness and empowerment. Your diversity policies could raise your employee retention rates, saving you overhead on employee-turnover costs.
Better Hiring Results
When you’re casting your net into a wider talent pool by being intentionally more inclusive, you can actually identify better hires. Instead of looking in the same places for candidates to fill positions, try new job boards that could help you build a more diverse team.
Diversity Reflects Positively on Your Brand
A diverse workforce represents your brand in a positive way, speaking to its ethical standards. That said, a diverse team can improve your brand’s external perception and reputation. Indeed, diversity and team building demonstrate your company cares for the wider community as well as employee satisfaction.
Diverse Teams Are More Innovative
In a research study from London published in “Economic Geography,” 7,600 firms participated in a diversity survey. Not only did it look at race, immigrant status and cultural diversity, but organization-level management traits such as innovation. The study found that companies run by more diverse executive teams were more likely to innovate new products for the market compared with companies run by homogenous teams.
Diverse Teams Bring in More Profit
In addition to innovation, diverse companies are also said to benefit from higher productivity levels, which trickles right to your bottom line.
The more different your employees are from each other, the more they tend to focus on where they all come together: the work at hand. When there’s a healthy mix of employees from different backgrounds, there’s less likely to be feelings of isolation that reduce a team’s productivity.
How to Increase Diversity in the Workplace
Your approach to promoting diversity and inclusion in your workforce must be all-pervasive. It may require policy edits, employee training and other activities that call on different sectors of the company to take action.
Here are 9 steps on how to build a diverse workforce:
1. Strengthen Your Anti-Discrimination Policies
Just because you have anti-discrimination policies doesn’t mean discrimination can’t still take place. Strengthening the policies can help you enforce them to ensure they result in the diversity you want to have in your workforce. In your employee handbook, clearly define discrimination and list potential acts that count as discriminatory.
Include a protocol that employees can follow to file a discrimination complaint against any superior. Describe how these complaints are handled, from the point of their discreet reception to the potential event of disciplinary action. Once changes are made to the guidebook, be sure to distribute the new copy and discuss what was added.
2. Give Internships and Training Opportunities to Underrepresented Groups
Once you’ve identified the groups underrepresented in your executive team and among all employees, you can create opportunities for them like internships and free training.
One program you could initiate is to give internship opportunities to people who are underrepresented in your current team. Also, give free training to help advance the careers of those who are eligible for promotions within these underrepresented groups.
3. Post on a Diverse Array of Job Boards
Posting your available positions on different job boards can help you glean candidates from a wider pool.
For example, Diversity Working is a huge job board that employers can use to find recruits from diverse backgrounds. Hire Purpose is a job board for hiring veterans and spouses of people in military service. Make sure you mention your commitment to diversity and inclusion wherever you post jobs, which helps attract people with different backgrounds to apply.
4. Evaluate Your Executive Team for Inclusivity
Inclusivity matters most at the top level of a company. Evaluate your executive team not just for diversity, but for inclusivity. But how is it assessed?
Anonymous questionnaires from executive team members can help reveal what needs to be known. Ask employees if they feel like they belong at the company and whether they feel the workplace is inclusive of their culture. Ask if they feel that members in HR and the executive office deal with employees objectively with respect to their social identities.
5. Offer Diversity Programs in the Workplace
With the help of outside training, everyone in your company can get on the same page with inclusivity at work. Bias training helps employees be aware of unconscious biases that could affect their work and the workplace environment.
Another option is inclusivity training, which trains employees on how to work with people of differing cultural heritage, ethnic backgrounds and gender identification. Employees learn how to be sensitive to stereotyping and cultural identities. Anti-bullying and conflict resolution are also discussed, making it a great training for improving everyone’s work environment.
6. Observe Various Holidays and Cultural Celebrations
Organize small events around holidays from different cultures and religions, especially those represented in your team.
U.S. companies have traditionally often celebrated Christmas at the end of each year, but having a holiday party instead lets employees of different religions feel included. Celebrate cultural identities by organizing events around International Women’s Day, National Coming Out Day, Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month.
7. Emphasize Diversity and Your Inclusion Strategies on Your Website
If your website features a career page with open positions listed, be sure it includes a note about your diversity and inclusion strategies. Or, give this topic its own page on your site.
Mention the policies you have for hiring a diverse team and practices for maintaining inclusivity. For example, an internal communication channel dedicated to diversity or required employee inclusivity training.
Write about why your company believes diversity and inclusion are important, referring to the mental health and well-being of employees and the positive work environment it fosters. This appeals to a huge sector of the workforce. According to a Glassdoor survey, 89% percent of Black respondents and 70% of Hispanic respondents said diversity is a critical factor for them in workplace satisfaction.
8. Start a Mentorship Program
Part of fostering a culture of inclusivity is creating a mentorship program that allows all employees to pursue mentors. Some employees may be more connected through their family’s network, or otherwise more privileged.
A mentorship program can help employees with less advantageous backgrounds or who immigrated to the U.S. get connected with someone in their field with experience. Not only can they learn a lot, but they get connected to other opportunities or networks through their mentor. Team members with more experience can take on mentees, and it can help them develop leadership skills that prove highly useful in the workplace.
9. Measure Diversity and Inclusion Progress
Find a way to track the effectiveness of your diversity and inclusion programs. If you’ve set up an internal communication channel for the topic of diversity and inclusion, it can point out how many inclusivity problems were reported in a given month.
Build a Stronger Company Through Diversity and Inclusion
When you make diversity policies and inclusion programs a priority in your company, you hire people who believe in inclusivity and anti-discrimination.
When employees at all levels value their work environment and respect their teammates, you create a highly productive work environment with high employee retention rates. Casting your net to a wider selection of job candidates, you end up with a unique, talented team capable of creative thinking and innovative problem-solving.
With a few tried-and-true practices in play, you can increase diversity and inclusion measurably in your workforce.