Promoting Diversity in the Workplace
There is a fundamental principle in the study of genetics, which has been shown to be true time and time again…genetic diversity leads to greater resiliency and a higher chance for long-term survival. While this scientific principle may sound isolated to the realm of education and research, this is further evidence that a diverse workforce will make an organization far stronger and increase the opportunity for success than a more homogeneous organization.
Diversity in business is a hot topic right now. A diverse team brings unique perspectives, experiences, and ideas to the table, which in turn, helps create better products and services for customers. The more varied your team members are, the more likely they will develop solutions that address problems from different angles. Many companies recognize the value of a diverse workforce; they are looking for ways to be more inclusive and want to learn how to best recruit and maintain diverse talent.
But how do you make it happen? Here are a few tips to get you started.
Discuss the need for diversity
To foster diversity in your workplace, openly discussing the need for diversity is essential. When people fear being punished or seen as “too political,” they may not speak up about ideas that challenge the status quo. You want to ensure you create an environment where people feel comfortable sharing differing opinions and ideas. This is especially true with diversity, as many people who may have felt marginalized in the past may be uncomfortable voicing their thoughts, as they don’t want to be interpreted as offensive or not being a team player.
Start with a conversation
If you’re new to diversity initiatives, seeing how you can incorporate diversity into your plans for growing and evolving your company can be challenging. The process will seem more manageable if you start with a conversation about your intentions and goals rather than making plans in a vacuum. Start by talking to people from different backgrounds and have different experiences than yours. This will help you discover what your employees want from their workplace and how you could align the company’s goals with their goals. During those conversations, you may learn about what your employees encountered at past employers regarding diversity initiatives and learn from those experiences.
Acknowledge unconscious biases
Everyone has biases; while some are conscious choices, others are unintentional and subconscious. We need to be self-aware and humble enough to acknowledge that we do indeed have biases and that they do affect our behavior and decision-making; remember that just because a bias is unintended does not absolve us of responsibility for that bias. Be open-minded about what makes a great employee; are your criteria reliant on outdated and traditional ideas about education and work experience? Could those factors inadvertently exclude people from consideration who would otherwise do an excellent job in a role on your team? Ask yourself what characteristics are absolutely essential for your field of work. Challenge yourself to look for these traits in candidates from a wide array of backgrounds.
Build sustainable solutions
Involving your current employees is critical; you want their collaboration and engagement as you strive for increased workplace diversity. Emphasize that all your employees are valued and respected, improving your inclusion practices and not leaving anyone feeling left out. Remember that diversity comes in many forms, so be ready to adjust work arrangements, benefits, and even your development programs to accommodate diversity in all its forms.
As you introduce new initiatives or policies, keep track of any changes or results that follow, figure out what is or is not working, and adapt. Build in checkpoints and feedback loops as a standard part of your process – there is nothing worse than launching an initiative and then failing to monitor how people are receiving it. Adjust your hiring practices, rethink your strategies, and be open to your teams’ opinions (and sometimes criticism) willingly and frequently. This is a key step in this process; following up, engaging your people consistently, and setting up check-in points are critical for diversity and inclusion initiatives to be successful.
Measure your results
One surefire way to understand how to plan for, promote, and incorporate diversity in your workplace is to measure data points. Find underrepresented groups across every level of the organization and measure changes to their level of engagement, progress throughout the organization, access to growth opportunities, pay differences and other previously identified inequities. If there were quantifiable imbalances before the initiative, it’s critical that you measure after the changes are implemented to assess success, failure and opportunities for further changes. Never stop seeking improvements and innovation to your workforce management practices.
Diversity is essential to the health of your business. With it, you increase your chance of survival and success by leveraging differing perspectives and experiences. Innovating is always vital to growth, but having diversity of thought when building something new makes it far more likely that you’ll create something sustainable. We owe it to the shareholders of our organizations to deliver strong results and a resilient business – diversity is key to making that happen.