The topic of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is pervasive in today’s business world. Many of the world’s largest organizations have taken on D&I initiatives to ensure that their workforce is made up of diverse talent at all levels of the organization.
Diversity and inclusion are different but interconnected concepts. An employer may have a diverse workforce without it being inclusive. Diversity is a mix of differences and similarities, including beliefs, values, backgrounds, experiences, behaviors and preferences. Diversity also includes views and perspectives arising from differences in gender, race, culture, national origin, religion, age, sexual orientation, as well as educational status, marital status, background, upbringing, geographical location, socioeconomic status, and politics. Inclusion is what an organization does through its actions and policies to ensure that all individuals feel welcome and valued as team members for the different skills and ideas that they offer. Inclusion in the workplace is a supportive, collaborative, and respectful environment that increases the participation and contribution of all employees. In a diverse and inclusive workplace, all employees are focused on working together and equally contributing towards a common goal.
Statistics show that by 2050 there will be no racial or ethnic majority in the United States so recruiting a diverse workforce and building a diverse workplace should be at the top of employer’s list today. While diversity is not required there are federal, state, and local laws that exist to promote a diverse workplace. There are equal employment opportunity laws that require employers to treat all fairly and provide equal opportunity with regard to hiring, promotions, compensation as well as other areas, with the equal opportunity being based on merit, experience, skills, qualifications and performance.
Organizations should ensure that they develop, implement and enforce policies and practices that encourage diversity, tolerance, and equal access in the workplace. All individuals in the workplace must be held to the same standards of conduct and no one is provided with special treatment.
One way to help create a diverse and inclusive workplace is by making a company’s D&I efforts part of the recruiting/hiring process. Assess your current hiring processes to see if there are any areas that are potential red flags. Expand your candidate pipeline to bring in more diverse candidates, review your job postings to ensure the language used is more friendly to diverse candidates, and update your website to show that you are a diverse/inclusive organization. Finally, set achievable goals to increase your hiring metrics.
Providing harassment and diversity training to both employees and supervisors is an important way of maintaining a diverse workplace. Organizations need to encourage their employees to be tolerant, respectful and accepting of differences and values and support the ideas and opinions of others.
Numerous studies have shown the business benefits of employing a diverse and inclusive workforce. One study done in 2018 showed a positive correlation between company performance and gender, ethnic and racial diversity at all levels of the organization. When employees do not feel that their ideas, presence or contributions are valued or taken seriously by their organization, they will eventually leave. Being able to draw from a large pool of ideas, perspectives, opinions and approaches can drive innovation and growth.
In today’s competitive job market, employees have high expectations of their employee experience. As the movement towards belonging in the workplace continues, leaders and HR will need to ensure their efforts to create an equitable workplace are effective, innovative and ultimately, as successful as they can be.