The start of the new year – or, in this case, the new decade – is a good time for reflection and resolutions. For employers, it represents an opportunity to review current policies and procedures to ensure all aspects of the business run smoothly as you move forward into the new year.
One important element to evaluate is whether your current company practices promote diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace. There are a number of benefits associated with implementing progressive D&I policies, and a growing number of businesses are seeing positive results as they move towards building a more inclusive workforce. However, there is still plenty of room for growth and innovation when it comes to workplace diversity. Here’s an overview of some of the steps you can take to clarify your company’s vision for D&I as you move into 2020.
In order to create the most effective D&I policies, it’s critical for employers to understand how these concepts are defined and how they can help benefit a company.
Diversity ensures that a workplace is comprised of individuals with different backgrounds, characteristics and experiences. Similarly, inclusion ensures that individuals with different voices are heard and valued. This creates an environment where “barriers are knocked down so all employees can bring their true selves to work and realize success and their full potential in what they do.”
There are many benefits to successfully implementing D&I in a company’s everyday culture and values – all of which lead to a positive impact on organizational productivity and success.
To start, multiple perspectives can lead to increased creativity and innovation, faster problem-solving, and better decision making. The acceptance and appreciation of diverse worldviews can also lead to higher levels of collaboration. This means that employees feel more empowered to present fresh ideas that can help contribute to a company’s overall success.
In addition, D&I can lead to better retention and recruitment rates. If employees are feeling welcomed and accepted, the level of employee satisfaction and engagement increases. This helps reduce employee turnover, and boosts retention. In terms of recruitment, workplace diversity and inclusion can help enhance a company’s reputation and brand. Additionally, the perception of good corporate social responsibility can help attract a greater pool of potential talent.
While many companies are beginning to realize the importance of incorporating D&I into their culture, there is still room for improvement in a number of areas, particularly around the hiring process.
Although organizations typically make an effort to be inclusive during the hiring process, many still encounter what is known as unconscious bias, which causes employers to view applicants in certain ways without even realizing it.
For example, featured website imagery and job descriptions are often biased towards certain genders, ages, and backgrounds. When it comes to job descriptions, an internal report from Hewlett Packard found that men generally apply for a job when they only meet 60 percent of the job qualifications, while women apply only if they meet 100 percent. To combat this, it’s a good idea for employers to review their website to ensure there is equal representation in photos and gender-neutral job descriptions that focus on results rather than simply a checklist of skills.
Unconscious bias can also appear when employers are reviewing resumes and see ethnic or female names. A solution to this issue – one that companies like Deloitte and the BBC have implemented into their processes – is “blind hiring,” where candidates’ names are removed from resumes so employers can focus on applicants’ experience and skills.
During the interview process, unconscious bias can also appear when interviewers assess whether potential candidates would fit into their company culture. For example, younger tech startups often offer perks, like games or beer kegs, that are more catered towards applicants from younger generations. When hiring for roles in these types of organizations, interviewers may overlook older applicants who have the necessary skills but may not fit in with the overall culture. Instead of disqualifying candidates based on “culture fit” or a “gut feeling”, it’s a better idea to provide clear and specific explanations around hiring decisions.
Successful incorporation of D&I into a workforce continues beyond the hiring process. Sometimes, companies can run into issues resulting from the combination of inclusive recruitment practices and post-hiring policies that may not necessarily be as up-to-date.
For example, companies that focus too heavily on diversity – and not enough on inclusion – run the risk of subconsciously labelling employees and placing them in separate groups. It is important that employers go beyond simply hiring someone from a marginalized group; they also need to place an emphasis on developing a workplace that is inclusive of everyone. This starts with developing an understanding of the different experiences and perspectives that exist in your work environment.
In order for D&I initiatives to thrive within a workplace, it needs to be deeply embedded in the values and culture of a company, and “the culture that you want starts with the leadership that you have.” This means that it’s important for D&I plans to be prioritized by the leadership team, as they are responsible for making key decisions and shaping the development of workplace culture.
One way to better understand and appreciate the differences among employees is for leaders to participate in professional development training and structured one-on-one meetings with their employees. Leaders may also want to develop employee surveys and focus groups to gain constructive feedback and insights from workers. This can help leaders better understand how to play to each employee’s unique strengths, and help them develop the appropriate knowledge and empathy to approach certain groups.
Overall, leaders who are willing to put in the hard work and acknowledge their mistakes (even if their intentions are good) are able to show employees that they genuinely care, and this will go a long way towards making a positive impact on the company culture and morale.
In order to develop a diverse and inclusive culture, employers also need to ensure that their employees are receiving frequent training, shared knowledge, and consistent communications regarding D&I.
At the end of the workday, the most important aspect of D&I is that all employees feel welcomed and appreciated. While the initial road to successful D&I implementation may not always be smooth, companies that take the appropriate steps to improve their current processes are certainly on the right path.
For more information on D&I in the workplace, feel free to get in touch with WorkWithUs.