Diversity in the workplace is one of the hottest topics in the HR industry and is a significant goal for most companies. Diversity is important in the workplace and companies must have a diversity strategy to succeed and attract and keep talented employees. Recent workplace diversity shows that 67% of job seekers said a diverse workforce is essential when evaluating companies and job offers.
It’s crucial to include diversity in the workplace. Businesses must ensure they have a broad spectrum of ideas, input, and a range of talent that promotes a more innovative outlook and a more efficient, respectful, and more productive workforce.
What is diversity in the workplace?
Put very simply, diversity in the workplace means that a company hires a wide range of people/demographics usually based on factors such as:
- National origin
- Physical ability
- Sexual orientation
- Socioeconomic background
- Veteran status
- People with disabilities
Some call this representation. And while representation is foundational to workplace diversity, it’s just the ground level for where we should be aiming. The following important piece is inclusion – assessing whether you have an environment that accepts, appreciates, and acknowledges all job applicants and employees.
“Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance. Equity is ensuring everyone has appropriate transportation to the dance, regardless of their starting location.”
–Verna Myers Diversity Advocate
But today, workplace diversity doesn’t just extend to simply hiring those who could be termed as diverse. The critical point is that companies treat employees equally and have an environment that accepts, appreciates, and acknowledges all job applicants and employees.
What are the benefits of a diverse workplace?
Diversity can benefit the employer in many ways. Having a diverse group of employees helps to ensure that there will be a broad spectrum of backgrounds, new ideas, and skillsets. A diverse staff benefits companies by helping to create a more innovative environment and less likelihood of the kind of tunnel vision that comes with focusing too narrowly on a particular type of employee.
- Inspire creativity with an infusion of new ideas and perspectives
- Encourages innovation
- Helps employees relate to your diverse customer
- Aligns your culture more closely with that of our nation
- Attracts talented Millennials and Gen Z to your organization: Potential employees want an employer who accepts and is tolerant of all backgrounds and who treats their employees fairly
- A positive reputation: Companies that have a diverse workplace are perceived as better employers.
“Successful companies recognize the huge value that hiring a diverse range of individuals and personalities can add to their business.”
How to increase diversity in the workplace
Building a diverse workplace doesn’t happen overnight. It takes work, time, and intention. Here are some ideas on how to grow diversity in your workplace.
1. Hire the most qualified people.
Duh, I know you are thinking, “Of course, that’s a given,” but it is easy to fall into the trap “this is how we always do it.” Look into how your hiring managers are recruiting. Do they tend to hire and promote people who mostly look like them? When interviewing, look beyond the usual candidate and hire those with the proper training, education, experience, skillset, and values that fit in with your culture.
2. Recruit over a broader geographic area and look outside the usual box.
Try participating in job fairs in other parts of town or other cities. Also, look at members of professional associations and professional organizations In which candidates might be a member.
3. Enforce a zero-tolerance policy.
Put policies into place that do not tolerate off-color jokes, stereotypical slurs, offensive body language, and transgressions. Your employees need to know that your company will not tolerate this behavior. Managers must be responsible for holding people accountable and their decisions and actions backed by the leadership.
4. Accept feedback.
Leaders and managers should encourage and be willing to take feedback on practices and policies from employees and be ready to make changes.
5. Invest in diversity training.
Diversity training in the workplace encourages employees to embrace people who are different than themselves. Diversity training is about embracing differences among employees and welcoming fresh perspectives to contribute to your organization’s growth. When employees become aware of concepts like unconscious bias in the workplace, they can realize how these concepts show up at work situations.
6. Stay current.
Keep abreast of changing employer-related laws and trends. Be sure your human resources policies reflect the most current information, especially those around harassment and equal opportunity. Laws vary from state to state, and they can change at lightning speed. What’s accepted this month may not be the next.
7. Be strong!
Although diversity in the workplace is a positive addition to your overall strategy, situations will need your attention and your ability to navigate conflict and difficult conversations. Be Strong!
Ways to support workplace diversity
1. Create an Employee Resource Group (ERG).
ERGs are groups of employees who are alike and share traits or life circumstances. Think of them as clubs within the workplace. ERGs give visibility and a voice to certain underrepresented groups in the industry, helping members feel included and valued.
Common examples of employee resource groups include those focused on:
- LGBTQ status
- A specific ethnic
- A specific race
- Remote workers
2. Create a D&I Council
A diversity and inclusion (D&I) council is a group of employees, including senior leaders or executives, that acts on behalf of the company to ensure tight alignment with the organization’s overall business strategy and to help institutionalize human capital practices that support and accelerate D&I goals.
To succeed D&I councils need the following:
- Support from senior leadership
- Diverse membership
- Direct link to the overall business strategy
- Clearly communicated goals and outcomes
- A long-term strategy that drives short term initiatives and activities
3. Create diversity in your leadership roles
When there’s diversity among top leaders, those “at the table,” it signals that all voices, perspectives, and types of people are considered when making decisions.
Achieving workplace diversity means you bring out the very best of your employees and allow them to reach their full potential. By doing so, your workplace benefits as it encourages a more varied and innovative talent pool. In addition, as workforce demographics shift and global markets emerge, workplace diversity is a business necessity. To succeed and be competitive, businesses must embrace the differences and promote change.
Karen McCullough is a nationally known keynote speaker and expert on change, generational opportunities and workforce trends.
Karen helps organizations cut through the generational biases and get back to reality by leveraging their team’s strengths, enriching the work environment, and driving better results. Each of her presentations brings a realistic perspective on workplace trends, employee engagement, while offering actionable content.
For the past 15 years Karen has shared her insights to top organizations such as VMware, Procter & Gamble, US Department of Justice, JPMorgan Chase, Symantec, McGraw-Hill, National Homebuilders, Shell Oil, Mercedes Benz, The World Bank, American National Insurance, Humana, United Way, American Heart Association and MD Anderson Cancer Center.