Studies show that businesses that hire diverse candidates and emphasize inclusion have a leading edge in innovation, global perspective, and revenue. However, the benefits of developing a diverse and inclusive workplace far exceed helping an organization take the lead competitively – they'll also foster an environment of respect, equity, and empowerment among employees.
Read on to learn why you should focus on diversity and inclusion for HR and how to implement a program that makes an impact.
What does a diverse and inclusive workplace mean?
First, let's break down the meaning of "diversity" and "inclusion." The terms are often used interchangeably but are, in fact, separate concepts. Companies that lack one won't reap the full benefits they offer as a pair.
Diversity is the makeup of your organization. Instead of a homogenous environment, where people come from similar backgrounds and have common attributes, a diverse workplace is like a "melting pot" where workers are dissimilar and varied. When considering diversity, here are some characteristics to consider:
- Physical abilities
- Veteran status
- Sexual orientation
Although striving to create a diverse workplace is an important step, it’s inclusion that really moves the needle. Inclusion is the practice of including and accommodating groups that have historically been excluded. An inclusive workplace ensures that diverse individuals are valued, have a "seat at the table," and have equal opportunities for advancement.
Studies show that organizations that are both broadly diverse and strongly inclusive tend to have the upper hand when it comes to market reach, innovation, and growth.
What are the benefits of having a diverse and inclusive workplace?
Building a diverse and inclusive workforce goes beyond "checking the diversity box." It's a smart business strategy that can impact your bottom line in many ways.
Innovation.Companies often use innovation as a differentiator. It's not hard to see that organizations with innovative ideas – foresight and creativity – typically lead the pack. However, organizations that lack a diverse workforce, and continually employ workers from the same background, are at a high risk of producing narrow, even stale, ideas. On the contrary, put a group of diverse individuals together in an equitable environment, and you're guaranteed to gain fresh perspectives that challenge the status quo. Varied points of view improve the outcome of collaboration and are key to innovation.
Global Perspective. Businesses are no longer bound to their local geographies. With the help of the internet and technology, the world is one giant marketplace. However, if you have a homogenous workforce that shares a similar culture, location, and/or socioeconomic status, it may be more difficult to capitalize on opportunities outside your comfort area. A diverse workforce can help a company take a wider view of the world and make their ideas relatable to markets in different cities, states, regions, or countries. A diverse team is a building block for gaining a global perspective.
Higher Revenue. It should come as no surprise that with innovation and a global perspective come higher revenues. According to the (BCG), diversity in the workplace is a key driver of innovation, and diverse groups of employees are responsible for driving 19% higher revenue. The reason is attributed to diverse companies being better able to align their products and ideas with the changing needs of consumers. If a workforce mirrors the diversity in the marketplace, it's better able to capture, in real-time, the feedback necessary to adapt quickly and find solutions for a wide range of customer needs.
Ways to improve diversity and inclusion in your workplace
Your HR department can implement diversity initiatives right from the get-go by setting a goal for the recruiting process. Start with a practical metric that your organization can use for hiring diverse talent. Dig into the current makeup of your workforce, determine where there is underrepresentation, and focus on correction over time. Defining a specific goal allows your company to track success.
In addition to setting goals for experienced hires, focus on entry-level positions to develop a long-term strategy for diverse career advancement within the organization. For example, set a goal of increasing the percentage of qualified entry-level females by 10% within 12 months. Within a few years, these women will advance in the company and further diversify the ranks of management and leadership.
If diversity and inclusion are to flourish in your workplace, you'll need to arm your workers with education and training, just as you would for any other skill set. Unfortunately, according to a , 48% of employees said they do not receive any form of diversity and inclusion training at work.
Multi-faceted training is best, focusing on bringing awareness to diverse perspectives and building skills such as communication and reducing levels of unconscious bias in decision-making. A well-planned diversity training program does more than ask people to tolerate differences – it teaches them how to embrace, value, and respect individuals for their differences.
Before you start worrying whether your training program will be successful, consider a few best practices:
- Get employees to “buy in” by explaining why the training is important and emphasizing the positive aspects
- Mix training types such as unconscious bias tests and privilege awareness exercises like role-playing scenarios
- Mandatory trainings often seem punitive and are perceived as another work demand; offer training on a voluntary-basis for better results
- Embed inclusion into other forms of work training
- Make sure your training program itself is diverse and doesn’t focus too heavily on a single group or characteristic
website hosts quizzes related to diversity issues. Encouraging employees to complete a quiz can fuel your HR department with data related to diversity and bias within your organization. Gaining measurable insights can help guide diversity and inclusion initiatives.
It's one thing to hire diverse candidates; it's another to actively implement inclusive practices. Here are a few ideas:
- Strengthen anti-discrimination policies
- Form an inclusion council
- Educate leaders and hold them accountable
- Allow flexible work schedules
- Accept and honor religious and cultural practices
- Allow workers to take off for religious holidays that are not officially observed
- Make non-gendered bathrooms available or print inclusive bathroom signs
- Be strategic when planning meetings to ensure everyone has an equal chance to contribute
Having a diverse workplace and implementing inclusion initiatives will earn your organization respect – internally externally. Besides, it may even be the secret weapon to giving your organization the upper hand in innovation and global success.
Reach out to us for more insight and help developing diversity and inclusion initiatives in your organization.