The push for diversity, inclusion and workplace equity isn’t a fad; it’s a sea change that all businesses need to be a part of. It’s not enough for companies to use social media or websites to embrace Black Lives Matter, gender equality and similar causes. What matters is weaving diversity and inclusion seamlessly into the company culture.
HR executives can play a crucial role by implementing initiatives and leading the C-suite and managers away from unconscious bias or inadvertent racism or bigotry.
How important is workplace diversity?
Equity in the workplace is vital if your company wants to reach its true potential. Studies have shown that workplaces with a diverse workforce up and down the organizational chart reap rewards: increased innovation, stronger appeal on the global canvas, a richer bottom line, more engaged workers, better retention, higher-quality applicants and less vulnerability during a crisis.
Ignoring diversity and inclusion can lead to the opposite of all these benefits and can create a number of problems, from employment discrimination lawsuits to devastating PR. In short, diverse companies with diverse workforces simply allow for a wider variety of perspectives, experiences and opportunities for learning.
What is the difference between diversity and inclusion?
It’s a mistake to think workplace equity is just a matter of hiring more Black employees or promoting a woman or two. Diversity relates to people who often are discriminated against based on age, class, disability, gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, religion or sexual orientation. Be aware that different generations may define equality or diversity differently.
Inclusion refers to colleagues who are supportive, respectful, tolerant and willing to engage and collaborate, writes Somen Mondal, CEO and co-founder of job-screening technology firm Ideal.
How can I infuse my company with workplace equity and inclusion?
Some tactics — such as reaching out to historically Black colleges and universities in recruiting efforts — are important but aren’t overnight solutions. Here are six actions you can take right now.
1. Eliminate pay stub discrimination
Break down salaries by race and gender to see where your company stacks up, and tap other types of analytics as well. Offering equal pay and actively eliminating pay gaps are two essential steps to eliminating discrimination in the workplace. All employees deserve fair compensation and benefits.
2. Talk the equitable talk
Learn more about disparities, then line up a speaker or a workshop on passive racism and provide ongoing follow-up — but do your research to ensure you’re not ill–advisedly tapping into a fad. Suggest employees take Harvard‘s Implicit Association Test.
3. Find the homogenous gaps
Talk to managers about the makeup of their reports to pinpoint the less-inclusive areas of the company, and discuss the need for diversity, inclusion and equitable hiring efforts. Share with other managers some best practices for working with and promoting inclusion on a diverse team.
4. Seek out diverse partners
5. Broaden your audience view
Task your advertising and marketing departments with including a variety of demographics and cultures with ad photography, commercials and social media. Check your collateral, including annual reports and training videos, for workplace equity.
6. Get an outside opinion
Well-meaning but tone–deaf efforts can ruin collateral, media and presentations compiled by a homogeneous team. Until the HR department has worked internally to broaden representation, consider using a sensitivity reader/consultant. Typically used for books, they can be beneficial in business, too, to ensure that what you think is inclusive and welcoming isn’t actually offensive.
Strategies to consider in the long term
- Create a role for a diversity and inclusion specialist who will develop and monitor programs and results — and set this person up to succeed. Ideally, as Josh Bersin writes, this person should be a manager overseeing an all-encompassing management philosophy and not just an HR department spearheading a hiring initiative.
- Develop a complete diversity and inclusion program if you’re unable to hire a diversity officer. Hiring a consultant to help may be wise.
- Ramp up diverse and inclusive hiring efforts to expand your talent pool. Solicit referrals from existing nonwhite staff or recruit at HBCUs. Tap specialty headhunters for everyone from veterans to those with disabilities to people of different races.
- Fund employees’ continuing education, such as professional development or a master’s degree related to cross–cultural business and communication.
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