6 Ways to Transform Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Let’s set the record straight, so there’s no confusion moving forward. Simply put, workplace diversity is understanding, accepting and valuing differences between people. That encompasses those of various races, ethnicities, genders, ages, religions, disabilities and sexual orientations. It also includes distinctions in education, personalities, skill sets, experiences and knowledge base.

And, that’s all a good thing.

Because, workplace diversity is commonly known nowadays to promote creativity, profitability, efficiency and facilitate better connects with customers. Diversity is also known to have a positive impact on business performance. The expectation is a diverse team helps bring different perspectives to the workplace.

Hands down, more diverse organizations have wider access to market-related insights. They can connect with a diverse base of customers. According to a Glassdoor study focused on job trends, workplace diversity generates a higher job acceptance rate. The study showed that 67% of job seekers believe a diverse workforce is important when considering offers.

Meanwhile, business leaders also realize a diverse workforce brings diverse viewpoints and perspectives to an organization. And, these elements can help your business develop new products and new ways to cater to customers. This allows you to outperform your competitors, as racially and ethnically diverse organizations have shown to surpass industry norms by 35%, according to McKinsey.

Beyond better performance against competitors and higher rates of job acceptance from qualified candidates, recent studies also highlight other benefits of diversity, including higher revenue, more innovation and exceptional decision making.

Stats and Facts

  • Companies with a more diverse workplace make more money, and companies that have more diverse management teams report 19% higher revenue. (Boston Consulting Group (BCG))
  • Workplace diversity leads to innovation, with inclusive companies 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders in their market. (Josh Bersin Research)
  • Superior decision making comes from diverse teams, outperforming individual decision-makers up to 87% of the time. (Cloverpop)

Consequently, many execs have no problem embracing policies, initiatives and tools designed to increase levels of diversity among their employees, even using staff augmentation services to bridge talent needs and diverse candidates.

A diverse workforce, however, is just the first step.

Don’t Forget about Inclusion

That’s because diversity in the workplace does not necessarily mean inclusivity in the workplace. Yes, making diversity a priority is important. But, so is the next logical step: Creating a culture, where people from all walks of life feel welcomed, included, heard and valued.

Inclusivity is the key—it’s crucial!—to maintaining (not just creating) diversity in the workplace.

So, when it comes to establishing and following through on a commitment to diversity and inclusion, as a business leader, you can have a big impact. Here are six tips to guide you through improving and supporting diversity and inclusion in your workplace.

Design a Physically Safe and Inclusive Workspace

Inclusive design is not an afterthought. Instead, it must accommodate and be planned beforehand, rather than as a retroactive measure. It’s also essential the design of your workplace doesn’t segregate any employees based on special requirements and needs, or draw attention to them, in any way.

The design must be efficient, subtle and effective in creating a welcoming and inclusive environment, without putting any undue focus on anyone. The priority is to build a calmer and happier workplace. And, as a result, a more innovative and productive organization.

Designing an inclusive environment doesn’t mean solely focusing on physical differences. Instead, there must be an equal emphasis on various styles of working, as well as on mental health. It’s also important to consider that some employees might be sensitive to noise, light and air pollutants.

Inclusive design is all about putting the users at the heart of the design process. And, it’s about usability. Reducing effort and segregation makes for a happier workplace.

The single step towards designing an inclusive workplace is acknowledgement and acceptance of differences. It’s about offering choices to people. There are things that can be easily done, without much additional cost or effort.

Things to Do

  • Including ramps, as well as stairs.
  • Providing suitable door handles and openings for people with limited manual dexterity, such as levers instead of knobs.
  • Use the “closed-fist rule,” where suitable handles are used that can be operated with a closed fist, allowing access to everyone.
  • Space considerations per anthropomorphic parameters.
  • Ergonomic keyboards and a thorough assessment of workstations and seating.
  • Standing stations for those who prefer to work this way.
  • Different sized spaces for those who like to work alone and others who favor people around them.
  • Auditory and visual multi-sensory safety alarms and large-print instructions for emergency and safety equipment.
  • Textural and different colored walls and surfaces for the visually impaired, and mange changes in elevations along walkways and corridors.
  • Smart technologies and apps that can help staff adjust their ambient environment for their own personal preferences, such as lighting, heating and glare.
  • Spaces for mothers, just returning to work, to pump breast milk for their new baby.
  • Areas and respected times for Muslim employees, who maintain their daily prayer routine on company grounds and during business hours.

By doing some, any, all or more of these ideas, you will make diverse employees feel valued, integrated and included in the workplace, instead of isolated.

Start with Your Leaders

Your organization’s executives and managers are instrumental in applying and cultivating diversity and inclusion efforts.

“At the end of the day, it’s the leader who’s on the front line with our employees,” says Dianne Campbell, vice president of global diversity and inclusion at American Express in Washington, D.C. “It’s the experience that the leader is creating that is going to make or break” your diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Leaders must be expected to demonstrate a commitment to diversity. They must be responsible for the environment in their respective departments. Employees need to see that inclusive behavior is a core competency of your organization.

Similarly, the makeup of the executive team is a signifier to both the workforce, customer base and other stakeholders. It’s a clear indication of how the organization values diversity and inclusion. So, it’s essential to practice diversity within the leadership team.

Celebrate Employee Differences

One of the most important ways to show your employees your organization respects their individual backgrounds and traditions is to invite them to share and celebrate those in the workplace.

Make a habit of honoring a variety of cultural and religious practices. Perhaps offer “floating holidays” to accommodate the religious preferences of all your employees.

When employees feel satisfied with and supported within their work environment, your organization will benefit from higher employee retention rates.

Foster a People-Centric Culture

What does that mean? Your organization must set out to have every voice within the business feel welcomed, heard and respected. This starts by creating a work environment where people sense a connection to the organization. Additionally, to its mission, vision and people.

Encourage your employees to express themselves based on their unique perspectives. Don’t ever play favorites. Exercise respect and basic courtesy. And, uphold nondiscriminatory practices and policies. Employees must feel safe to voice their opinions and concerns, without fear.

To accomplish this, organizations must both listen and embrace diverse viewpoints. It’s better to follow what’s now known as the Platinum Rule (upped from the former Golden Rule): Treat others how they want to be treated.

Pay Attention to Pay Inequality

You know there’s an obligation (legal even) to institute fair pay practices. The pay you offer employees must not discriminate and must strive to equally pay employees who do the same work.

Of course, there will always be allowances for differences in performance and other permissible factors. But, pay differences can’t ever be based on discriminatory reasons—not even inadvertently.

So, be sure to review and address any potential pay disparities. Particularly, if the disparity is due to gender, national origin and/or other protected classes.

And, after you address and resolve any immediate discrepancies, your organization can take steps, so this situation doesn’t repeat itself. This may take many forms, depending on the problem at hand.

Prevent Pay Inequality

  • Provide better training for hiring teams to reduce or eliminate the ways pay discrimination gets into the hiring process.
  • Implement ways across the organization to create fair pay scales or pay grades for each role, where pay is based on position, role responsibilities and experience level.
  • Assess other reasons why the pay gap existed in the first place and put policies in place, as needed.
  • Examine making pay more transparent, so it forces everyone to be more careful and fairer in making pay decisions.
  • Be clear about the requirements for getting a raise or promotion and be consistent in using established guidelines.
  • Consistently conduct compensation assessments to find issues and fix them before they become worse.

Incorporate Policies Supporting Employee Diversity and Inclusion

It can all start with a Diversity and Inclusion Policy.

Remember, no matter what separates you from those you pass silently on the street, each person deserves equal opportunity. No matter what background they may come from or what attributes they may possess, everyone deserves to be treated fairly.

But this doesn’t mean simply treating everyone the same. It’s about ensuring you and your organization are receptive to the needs of those with unique characteristics. That you are supportive and inclusive of them. This is what a Diversity and Inclusion Policy represents.

Adopt a policy (or policies) that solidify your commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion in your workplace. Particularly in areas like recruitment, training and pay. It demonstrates you value every individual. That you’re willing and prepared to fulfil their needs. That you will stand by them and combat discrimination.

Specifically, such policies will state your organization aims to safeguard those who may face inequality or harassment.

And, make sure such diversity and inclusion runs across your organization’s mission, core values, strategies and practices. Integrate diversity and inclusion strategies in recruitment, performance management, leadership assessment and training procedures.

Doing so spawns an inviting, comfortable and productive work environment for absolutely everyone.

Conclusion

Using technology and staff augmentation services to gauge and help promote workforce diversity and inclusion is a growing trend for hiring leaders, managers and recruiters. Talent leaders like System Soft Technologies can build diverse talent communities through sourcing from diversity groups and partners and focusing on understanding a client’s company culture and values. It means aligning the best people to the right organization and roles.

It can completely change the way your organization operates day to day—in a positive, productive and profitable way.

About the Author: Sabreen Dimero

Sabreen Dimero serves as the HR Manager at System Soft Technologies. When Sabreen isn’t traveling, frolicking in the mountains, snuggling up to a good book or hunting for the best donuts in town, she often shares her knowledge about HR Administration, Diversity and Inclusion, Benefits Management and Employee Relations, among other people-in-the-workplace topics. Her dog, Finn, approves.


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