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How to make an impact with diversity in your workplace

7 min read
Everyone’s different. Everyone has their own perspective. Everyone brings something unique to the company table. This is why workplace diversity enriches modern businesses.

What is workplace diversity?

A diverse workforce represents the world around us. This includes but is not limited to people from across the spectrum of different genders, ethnicities, religions, ages, sexual orientations, physical abilities, neurodiversity, ideologies, and lifestyles.

Every employee will bring a different life experience, a different approach to problem-solving and a unique cultural contribution to your company. A diverse workplace offers an enriching experience for employees.

Benefits of creating a diverse workforce

There’s strong evidence that a diverse workforce directly correlates to business success. One study found that racially and ethnically diverse companies outperform their industry medians by 35%, and those with high gender diversity by 15%.

Diversity not only improves the bottomline, innovation, and overall employee value proposition, but as more millennials join the workforce, they categorically seek out employers that value diversity.

They want to work for organizations that are diverse, inclusive, and socially responsible and failure to keep up might result in losing the war for talent. In fact, 67% of jobseekers said workplace diversity was an important factor when choosing jobs to apply for.

There are numerous other benefits to workplace diversity, including:

  • More employee engagement: people who find their colleagues interesting and stimulating, and are included and treasured, will feel they belong, and engage more with their work. And engaged employees serve happy customers who in turn boost revenue.
  • Greater retention: Diverse workplaces are less likely to descend into toxic company cultures that alienate people and drive them to leave. Included, valued, loyal employees stay longer.
  • Higher productivity: More diversity brings in people with wide-ranging experience, skills, perspectives, and backgrounds, helping teamwork, problem-solving and cooperation to thrive. People learn from each other, leading to greater innovation and efficiency.
  • Deeper talent pool: Talent is equally distributed in the population so having a homogenous workforce means that you are losing out on top performers in the job market creating an echo chamber.
  • Better customer relations: Employees who speak different languages, understand other cultures’ norms and values, or have had similar life experiences to your customers will be in a unique position to market your business to those sectors.
  • Brand equity: Your employer brand must be a positive one if it is to succeed. You may not be seen as an employer of choice if the culture is seen as biased. You’re more likely to attract bad press and be passed off as irrelevant, or worse, tone deaf.
  • Fewer skills shortages: When you employ a variety of people, they’ll bring a broad range of skills, some of which will surprise you. Many will be happy to retrain or upskill to make maximum use of their prior experience.

How to impact diversity in your workplace

1. Ensure that your recruitment team is diverse: so that they can have access to informal networks to advertise jobs and invite candidates through word of mouth/informal relationships.

2. Lead from the top down: It’s critical that you have role models in leadership positions. After all, you cannot be what you cannot see. Diversity in the C-suite tends to trickle down and run throughout the rest of the company. It’s essential (and even necessary for compliance) that your board is diverse, to represent all employees and experiences.

3. Listen to your people: If you want to know what’s important to your people, ask them. Continual listening is crucial to identify and understand the areas that need improving. You can demographically segment your employee engagement surveys by minority groups, to make sure you don’t miss important issues affecting those groups.This is especially important when you conduct exit interviews, pay particular attention to the reasons why women and minority employees leave. The reasons women and minority groups leave are often left as ambiguous, e.g. for “personal reasons, in order not to burn bridges.Our DEI Solutions help you to assess if your processes are fair when you’re at the point of hiring, rather than waiting until your people leave.

4. Communicate actions and results. Once you’ve identified the areas of your DEI program that need improving, you must action them and communicate the actions you’re taking to improve. According to our global study with more than 11,800 people, listening without action has been shown to be more detrimental to employee engagement than not listening at all.

5. Implement diversity and inclusion training: A diverse workforce begins with education, so equip your teams (and their leaders) with knowledge and skills. Focus on addressing things such as bias, workplace privilege and the experience of marginalised groups as well as the usual legal and compliance requirements.

6. Emphasise benefits that attract diverse applicants: The opportunity for flexible or remote working, for example, may appeal more to working parents, students or people with disabilities. Floating holidays, where employees swap traditional public holidays for days that are culturally or religiously significant for them, are another diverse benefit.

7. Thread inclusion throughout your company culture: Diversity is not just about creating a mix of people but actually getting them to feel at home and working at their best, bringing their authentic self to work. To make sure every employee is welcome, respected for their uniqueness, and heard, you need to foster a feeling of belonging.

This starts on the candidate’s very first day with a warm welcome, and throughout their time with the company. Ask your people what they like to do, and include these in team building activities, always mindful of any accessibility issues.

When catering, take religious, cultural and medical considerations around meat, alcohol, dietary requirements and food preparation into account, to make sure everyone is included.

8. Include diversity in your company policy: Get your company approved as an Equal Opportunity Employer (EEO) and highlight this in your job ads. Don’t let your diversity policy reduce to small print: it should be a living document. Shout it loud and proud in company communications, newsletters, and on PR and social media channels.

9. Communicate: Make sure there are two-way communications set up, either with always-on feedback or regular pulse surveys that use inclusive language. Employees can keep conversations going, report diversity-related issues and make suggestions for improvements.

10. Build cultural agility: Invite speakers to share their stories and set up lunch and learn from different cultures. Let them share their history, stories, traditions, and what is important to them to educate others and initiate a deeper dialog about cultures and inclusiveness.

Research shows that women and minority employees found mentoring to be an important aspect of their career development, and important for attracting and retaining diverse talent.

Design a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive organisation