Not-so-breaking news: Companies are starting to see the value of weaving in diversity and inclusion initiatives in their corporate strategy. Thanks to the shift to digital, workplaces are becoming more and more distributed. This means that it is now crucial to be inclusive of people across the social spectrum.
Diversity and inclusion also have a direct correlation to profit-making. According to a 2019 study by McKinsey & Co., companies that exhibit gender and ethnic diversity are, respectively, 15% and 35% more likely to outperform those that don't. Simply put, diversity can bring forth a variety of ideas that can lead to business success for the company.
Women face obstacles to being heard and valued in the workplace. Faced with a glass ceiling, their advancement opportunities are often limited. According to another McKinsey report, higher representation of women in the workforce enhances the chances of business outperformance.
The report found that the difference in the likelihood of outperformance was a significant 48 percent - between the most and the least gender-diverse businesses.
Individuals of color, people identifying with non-binary genders, people with physical disabilities, etc., all face similar problems.
Today's global business environment is characterized by intense competition for talent, and top talent is scarce. In such a business environment, if businesses are to succeed, they need to attract and hire a diverse workforce. Businesses that fail to hire from a diverse talent pool - run the risk of missing out on top talent.
The best employees, while evaluating workplaces, look for other people like them. They, too, aspire to work for employers that foster workplace diversity by embracing a culture where different perspectives are welcomed and valued, a workplace that fosters equitable and respectful behavior towards everyone.
What is Workplace Diversity?
A widely-accepted definition of workplace diversity was provided in the Gallup Report of 2018. The report defines diversity as the “full spectrum of human demographic differences.” These differences include race, religion, education level, veteran status, gender, political beliefs, age, physical disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, culture, socio-economic class, etc. Workplace diversity involves individuals with many or all of these ‘human differences’.
Why is Workplace Diversity Important?
People from diverse backgrounds bring a multitude of perspectives that enrich the workplace and the work environment. Businesses that hire a diverse workforce benefit from the advantages that follow: enhanced productivity and an edge over the competition. Several studies have found that a business’s success is impacted significantly by its ability to foster an inclusive environment at work where diverse talent can thrive. A McKinsey study reiterated the strong link between diversity and an organization’s business performance. Firms with diverse workplaces enjoy a 33-35% higher probability of outperforming the competition.
Diversity signals the organization’s commitment to providing equal opportunities to every employee. Diversity in organizations enables increased collaboration, greater creativity, and superior quality of work. This creates a favorable perception of the organization - improving its value as a brand and that in turn helps attract top talent to the organization. Also, the different approaches to looking at problems lead to a rounded analysis of the problems.
Five Tips for Building Workplace Diversity
To build a diverse workplace, organizations must focus on recruiting and retaining people drawn from different professional, educational, social, economic, and gender backgrounds.
For building workplace diversity, organizations must foster an inclusive work environment. The work environment must make the workplace a good place to work for people with all manner of differences. A workplace that is accepting of people with differences can attract the best talent.
The five most important steps for building workplace diversity include:
1. Leverage Diverse Job Boards. Organizations must consciously source a diverse workforce to build a diverse workforce and instill a culture of diversity. During hiring, draw up a shortlist that has diverse candidates. Here, targeting gender diversity should not be restricted to the binary of male and female but also include transgender individuals. This can be done by accessing job boards specially meant for under-represented groups. Also, look for people who, for example, list their membership in LGBTQ organizations in the profile. Then institute a transparent interview process to select the best candidate purely based on merit.
2. Diversity in the Interview Panel. The opportunity to work in a diverse workplace is important for many individuals. A diverse interview panel comprising members of all genders and professional, socio-economic, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds signals that the organization has an inclusive workplace that helps attract superior talent. When faced with a diverse interview panel, underrepresented groups feel more comfortable and are encouraged to strive to work for the organization. Even though the interview panel has the greater deciding power in the interview process, while members of the interview panel are evaluating the candidate, the candidate is also assessing the organization. Diversity in the composition of the interview panel is a positive message that enhances the organization’s corporate brand and helps attract and retain the best talent.
3. Safe Space for Diverse Voices. Besides the stereotyping of individuals’ physical and personality traits, stereotyping also happens in workplace communication. Commonly, during meetings at work, women’s opinions are not sought. If the women share an opinion/thought, it is often not given the same consideration as that of a male peer employee. Organizations striving to build workplace diversity must reflect, identify, and eliminate the underlying causes for such biases. You need to create an environment in the workplace that presents a safe space - where diverse minority voices can safely articulate their views and all views are given the same consideration and weightage.
4. Diversity Training. All of us carry some unconscious biases without even our realizing it. Identifying and eliminating such biases is essential in building a diverse workplace. Even an unconscious bias created by a first impression could persist through the interview process and negatively impact a candidate’s chances of selection. Such biases can skew the selection decision leading to the selection or rejection of a candidate based on biased criteria. To guard against the negative impacts of biases, the leadership and hiring teams should learn to recognize these biases and base their hiring decisions exclusively on a set of objective and fair criteria.
5. Design the Right Diversity Policies. Diversity and inclusion impact every stage of an organization’s growth. Workplace diversity helps attract and hire the right employees and provide them with the best experience. In the design and implementation of diversity policies, every detail, including the seemingly minor ones, such as the language used in the job description, can not be ignored. The job description must be audited to ensure that it contains inclusive language. While designing diversity policies, set strategic goals that clearly define what the organization aims to achieve. These goals could include - increasing diversity at all levels of the organization, providing opportunities for professional development among marginalized and under-represented groups, and fostering an equitable and inclusive workplace environment.
Promoting Diversity in the workplace
Promoting diversity in the workplace requires the organization’s leaders to be open to new ideas, listen to varied perspectives, and solicit company-wide collaboration.
Big ways to promote workplace diversity
1. Make diversity a priority while hiring
Workplace diversity starts from the hiring stage. When you’re hiring for a particular role, ensure that your hiring manager has a diverse set of candidates to shortlist for the interview. Give your recruiters clear metrics about the number of diverse candidates to source on LinkedIn or other job boards. Another important aspect to consider is that you have a diverse interview panel. That is, if your interview panel is all men, there are chances they might lean into hiring more men. Conversely, if your panel is representative of all genders and gender identities, you are more likely to mitigate any unconscious or implicit biases.
2. Create an inclusive onboarding process
Onboarding is all about getting new hires ramped up and contributing to their teams. But before you know it, it becomes a process-oriented experience, rather than letting employees connect with their team, role, or the company’s larger goals. A simple way to make new hires feel included is to share your company’s commitment to diversity during the onboarding session. Contextualize their experience via a buddy system or one-on-one lunches with their teammates. Ensure that onboarding content - documents about processes, the employee handbook, or an email outlining your company’s vocabulary - is available easily.
3. Build a bias-free performance review process
Unconscious biases are hidden within a blind spot in our brains. We might be influenced by these hidden biases toward members of particular social groups. Here are some examples of unconscious biases:
Small ways to promote workplace diversity
1. Infuse diversity into the company culture
If diversity is truly a priority, make sure that you turn it into a foundational element of your business strategy and company culture. Show your commitment by including a statement on diversity in your organizational values. Educate your employees on stereotypes and raise awareness about unconscious biases. Set expectations and let teams know that you are prioritizing bias mitigation. A great way to start off would be by using inclusive terminology. You could also host regular lunch-and-learns on topics like how to collaborate with diverse team members.
2. Positively reinforce diverse experiences and perspectives
Rather than having a speaker come over to talk about diversity in the workplace once a quarter, it might be more effective to create a culture of open, diversity-based conversations. Not only does this educate and build trust among your employees, but it also reinforces your company’s values. You should also make meetings inclusive - make all employees feel listened to. If you disagree with a person, make sure to respond constructively. Most important of all, have your leaders be responsible. When decision-makers stay accountable to the company values, it will demonstrate to your employees the importance of an unbiased work culture.
Reducing the impact of unconscious biases can take time, effort, and a lot of strategizing. But it is increasingly becoming important to women, Gen Z, and Gen Y workers. Taking concrete steps to mitigate such biases will yield positive results such as increased retention and employee engagement, and a healthier balance sheet.
The business case for workplace diversity continues to be strong. Although building workplace diversity and effectively leveraging that diversity to enable business success are challenging, companies that approach the task deliberately and methodically have realized significant business success.
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