For a workplace to be considered diverse, it has to be welcoming to people of all ages, gender, religion, cultural background, sexual orientation, races, physical disabilities, etc. The urge to surround yourself with people you’re familiar with is human, but it’s also a slippery slope to discrimination.
In today’s workplace, diversity is more important than ever. With a global economy and an increasingly connected world, organizations need to tap into a wide range of perspectives and skillset to be successful.
However, many companies struggle with creating a diverse workforce. In some cases, this may be due to unconscious bias or a lack of understanding about the importance of diversity. Whatever the reason, it’s clear that more needs to be done to improve workplace diversity.
In this blog post, we’ll explore how companies can start to improve workplace diversity. From the increasing representation of underrepresented groups to fostering an inclusive culture, there are several steps that organizations can take
The Importance of Workplace Diversity
So what are the benefits of building a diverse workforce?
A diverse workplace has been proven to boost productivity because it allows the organization to take advantage of a broader range of talent and skills. Pairing a person whose cultural, gender or religious influences value hard work with a person who is comfortable not doing anything and taking home a paycheck can positively influence or challenge the latter. Just be strategic to ensure the reverse influence doesn’t occur.
Increased Cultural Awareness
A diverse workplace is a microcosm of the larger world, and as such, it can help employees develop a better understanding of different cultures. Employees can learn about different customs, beliefs, and values by working with people from diverse backgrounds. This increased cultural awareness can lead to greater tolerance and acceptance of others, which in turn can lead to a more productive and harmonious workplace.
Moreover, an increase in cultural awareness enables the organization to be a global player and do business in different global markets. Some businesses are full of potential but highly guarded by their cultural or religious beliefs. In this case, diverse employees become even more of an asset because of their understanding of a specific culture and language.
Increased Creativity and Innovation
When different people with different backgrounds and perspectives come together to work on a problem, they are more likely to develop innovative solutions. This is because each person will bring their own unique set of skills and knowledge to the table, and this variety of viewpoints can help spark new ideas.
A Good Company Reputation
Now more than ever, the public is invested in the public reputation of the organizations they interact with. Job seekers, especially millennials and Gen-Z, are especially interested in working for companies that demonstrate that they are tolerant and treat their employees fairly.
With social media, it’s easy for this kind of information to get to the public. Even potential investors and customers want to be associated with socially responsible companies. In addition to that, a diverse workforce enables you to reach new markets and business partners because more people can relate to your brand.
Improved Employee Retention
Employees stay where they are happy and valued. Creating a safe environment for employees of all backgrounds will enable them to be more productive because they don’t spend their energy worrying about protecting themselves from discrimination—the more inclusive your organization, the lower your employee turnover rate.
Variety in Views
A diverse workplace means employees are from all walks of life and have unique experiences that enable them to have unique approaches to life. These differences in perspective would allow employees to better tailor products or services to a broader customer range. Celebrating these differences encourages cohesion and collaboration.
Tips for Employers to Improve Diversity in the Workplace
Here are a couple of ways in which your organization can work towards being more diverse:
Provide Unconscious Bias Training
It’s part of the human condition that we all hold certain biases, but when those biases are at the expense of the inclusion of others, then it becomes harmful. It’s not surprising that conscious and unconscious biases affect the recruitment process, leaving untapped potential in the talent pool.
To remedy this, including diversity training for all staff members, including senior management. However, this cannot be a one-off training because studies show that with time people regress to the opinions they held previously. Instead, make a continuous effort to create cultural awareness.
This ensures employees stay informed and encourages them to respect their cultural differences. Eventually, it goes from being ‘strange’ to be the norm. This way, all employees feel included because it’s not enough to hire diverse candidates; you also have to create an inclusive culture.
Introduce Anti-discrimination Policies
Generally speaking, a lot of the language used in many anti-discrimination policies is politically correct yet bears little to no fruit with regards to cultural changes in the workplace and the protection of minorities. Therefore, for there to be effective change, organizations must fully commit to having zero tolerance for discrimination.
This includes creating proper channels for reporting and investigating discrimination claims and protecting the victims from retaliation and victimization. Employees are more likely to toe the line when they see that the organization takes anti-discrimination seriously. Consider investing in an outside organization to handle these claims to maintain neutrality.
Respect and Honour Different Cultural and Religious practices
Most workplaces celebrate Christmas and Eid al-Fitr as a standard, but there are employees from different backgrounds who may feel left out since their cultural and religious beliefs aren’t being acknowledged. However, it would be difficult to celebrate every single cultural or religious holiday. But there are steps that organizations can take to ensure employees feel taken care of.
You can offer employees a floating holiday which they can use outside of company holidays to celebrate any holidays that aren’t on the standard calendar. Alternatively, you can provide employees with holiday hours off, which they can use at their discretion. You can also have different themed celebration months such as Black History Month, Pride Month, etc. this helps employees feel seen and included and creates awareness in others of their various practices and beliefs.
Set up Mentorship Programs to Grow Diversity
Availing inclusive mentorship programs can help marginalized employees advance to key roles that they otherwise would have difficulty accessing. Another example would be a cross-training program. Often, you find that people from marginalized backgrounds are sequestered into a particular role.
Cross-training programs allow employees to explore different roles in the organization and interact with different employees. This encourages collaboration and cohesion because people are able to understand each other’s jobs and challenges better. It also allows employees to learn soft and hard skills from each other. Such programs have been found to help increase upward mobility for marginalized employees.
Use Skill-based Assessments
Again, in order to limit bias in the recruitment process, you can partner with services such as Unbiasify Chrome Extension to make the recruitment process blind and encourage recruiters to assess candidates based on their skills and qualifications. 75% of job-seeking millennials believe that an organization is more innovative with a diverse workforce. That is the kind of workforce they’re looking to join.
On top of focusing on skills, recruiters should ask every candidate's same standard set of questions. When advertising open job positions, using gender-neutral language can also help even out the application pool. Recruiters can also administer online personality tests to ensure the candidate is a good personality fit. The goal here is to move towards anonymous applications so that every candidate that applies can get a fair shot.
Build a Multilingual Multigenerational Workforce
With diversity comes inclusion challenges such as language and communication barriers. It’s crucial for your organization to find a way to enable employees to communicate in the language they find most comfortable or encourage all employees to use a specific company language. On top of that, ensure that the communication channels are ones that people of all ages can grasp and adapt to easily.
Bigger organizations invest in translation services and custom communication software; it seems expensive but ultimately contributes to cohesion. Long-term, you can introduce language lessons to encourage employees to learn and get out of their comfort zones. While this seems excessive, it may come in handy when your company expands to new markets (probably because of your diverse workforce) and on to global markets.
Show Transparency in Pay and Raises
For every dollar a man makes, a woman makes 82 cents, and a minority woman makes 75—the more senior the position, the wider the pay gap. A crucial part of ensuring your workforce stays diverse is ensuring that every employee is compensated based only on the role and their competency.
You can do this by publishing the average salary for each position in your company and delineating what it would take for employees to move up the ladder. Additionally, keep track of all the raises and promotions given to determine if your organization is inclusive or if biases are still at play.
While it may be difficult to change long-standing attitudes and perceptions, the benefits of workplace diversity are evident. Organizations that embrace workplace diversity reap a number of rewards, including increased innovation, creativity, and productivity. By creating an inclusive environment where everyone feels valued and respected, businesses can tap into the unique perspectives and experiences of all employees.
While the benefits of diversity are many, it is essential to remember that achieving a diverse workplace is not easy. It requires hard work and a commitment from all levels of an organization. But the effort is worth it. These efforts include ensuring that recruiters are trained to check their unconscious biases and the hiring process is made more anonymous and gender-neutral so that candidates can be assessed based on their skill. Additionally, transparency in pay and the promotion process helps reduce avenues for discrimination.
Mentorship programs and strong anti-discrimination policies help keep the workplace diverse by assisting employees to feel valued and included. You can also show your employees that you care by honoring their religious and cultural beliefs, thereby creating cultural awareness.
While there is still more work to be done, we believe that the strategies and tactics highlighted in this blog post can help your workplace become a more welcoming and inclusive environment for everyone.