Workplace Diversity means different things to different people. However, by the broadest definition, workplace diversity includes all characteristics and experiences that define each of us as individuals. Diversity goes beyond visible differences, equal employment categories, and legally protected classes.
Workplace Diversity Initiatives
Sometimes people think that workplace diversity initiatives are about the people who are hired or diversity training. However, successful diversity initiatives emphasize creating a positive work environment and a high performing work culture. This allows everyone to succeed.
A company’s commitment to diversity should be a part of the company culture and strategic goals. Moreover, Diversity practices shouldn’t be about the various required federal reports. Rather, they are about a deeply held organizational value of having a diverse team and creating a culture of respect for all workers.
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Workplace Diversity is Good Business
Kristyn Scott, the lead author on a major diversity study, says, “When you have an inclusive corporate culture, recruiting top talent becomes easier, group processes are enhanced, and employees are more likely to stay, which, in turn, increases the company’s bottom line.”
The study states that the more organizations embrace diversity elements in their corporate culture, the more prosperous the company becomes. And the happier and more loyal it’s workforce. The researchers emphasize that commitment to diversity must be more than superficial. That is to say, organizations with a name only commitment to workplace diversity don’t get these benefits.
Workplace Diversity and Innovation
According to another study, the growth and buying power of non-majority communities has greatly outpaced white consumers.
For example, women’s choices impact up to 85% of purchasing decisions. Women are considered the single largest economic force in the US and the world. The LGBT community also spends more on luxury items on a per couple basis and is brand loyal.
Certainly, understanding these customer bases is critical for a company’s success. Recent research indicates that forging these connections depends on having an employee population that reflects the population’s overall and specific communities.
That is to say; workplace diversity is increasingly linked to innovation and competitive advantage. When you have varied and differing perspectives in a workplace, you access a broad range of experience, generating new ideas about company products. Likewise, where leadership lacks diversity, top managers may fail to see the value in these ideas.
Debbie Storey, the Senior VP of Development at AT&T, once said. “We couldn’t have gone through all of the mergers and acquisitions and continue to be successful without having a diverse workforce. It’s important to our business strategy, and it makes us more innovative and competitive.”
Components of Successful Workplace Diversity Program
In a successful workplace diversity program, diversity becomes a valued partner to the organizational culture. Therefore, there must be buy-in from the top of the organization.
The most successful diversity initiatives have actively engaged executives who commit to diversity and respectful treatment. Subsequently, executives and senior management must treat all employees respectfully and not act in ways that promote exclusivity instead of inclusion.
Workplaces that foster diversity include employees. Workplaces that commit to diversity care about employee satisfaction and seek staff input. For instance, employers might have employee resource groups for employees who share commonalities. These organizations provide a voice for employees, allowing them to communicate diversity concerns to senior management.
Diversity initiatives must further a company’s strategic direction, goals and initiatives. It’s important to look first at the organizational goals and objectives and design the diversity program to support them. Not the other way around.
Commitment to Inclusion
A commitment to inclusion is necessary for a successful diversity initiative. Diversity is more than recruiting a diverse workforce. It’s keeping your team engaged and productive and creating a healthy company culture where everyone can succeed.
In the same vein, without an inclusive environment, diversity efforts aren’t likely to succeed. Diverse individuals are hired into an environment where they don’t feel welcome and are unlikely to stay. Inclusion provides a sense of belonging to all organization members, so they feel welcomed, respected, and valued. Therefore, they can contribute at the highest level of their individual and team capabilities.
Characteristics of Inclusive Workplaces
Human beings possess a fundamental need for inclusion and belonging. As a result, when you include employees in a work environment, they’re more likely to share information and participate in decision making.
Some characteristics of an inclusive workplace include:
Periodic open dialogues such as focus groups and employee surveys.
- Rewards for risk-taking and out of the box thinking
- Managers and executives recognize unconscious bias.’
- An engaged workforce
- Cross-cultural communication. For example, people from different cultures and backgrounds interact and share ideas and resources.
- Diversity conversations include all employees.
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Diversity in Your Workplace
“If you do not intentionally include, you unintentionally exclude.” – Neil Lenane.
We all like to think that we are neutral and objective, but everyone sees the world through their own subjective lens, even with the best intentions. However, research says that we are far better at checking our biases if we admit our lens.
Suppose your company isn’t as diverse as you would like to look at your HR systems for hidden bias. What policies, practices, and procedures unintentionally perpetuate inequity at the institutional level?
Workplace Diversity in Hiring
For instance, do you require degrees or advanced degrees for your open positions? By definition, this will limit your applicant pool’s diversity to those with the privilege to be able to attend college or graduate school. Instead, ask, “Does this job actually require a degree? Making degrees preferred instead of required and accepting equivalent work experience will broaden your applicant pool.
You can also broaden your definition of qualified work experience and recognize that transferable skills can come from a variety of work experiences. Also, consider where you post positions and implement a new strategy that targets places where more diverse groups will see your ads.
Workplace Diversity in Promotion
Furthermore, people are more comfortable with people like them. The similarity makes people like and identify with each other. In organizations, leaders often hire and promote those who have shared their own attitudes and behaviors. Because of this, companies can unintentionally perpetuate a similarity bias and limit the pool of potential candidates for positions, important assignments, and promotions.
To counteract this natural tendency, leaders must focus on the systems in place, look at basic statistics, and ask deeper questions, such as, “who is getting hired and promoted?” and “why don’t we have more diversity in various positions or on teams?”
Workplace Diversity in Your Brand
Finally, what message does your company’s website and promotional materials send about diversity? What message do candidates get about who works at your company? Do you have pictures of a very homogenous group or a diverse workforce on your website? Do you have positive messaging about your inclusive culture on the career section of your website?
Getting Help with Workplace Diversity
A diverse workplace doesn’t just happen. It takes a strong commitment from the top. If you would like to reap the benefits of a diverse workplace, consider getting some help evaluating your current HR systems and practices. Someone outside of your organization may be able to recognize things that you can not. Our HR partners can help. Find one near you here.