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You’ve heard leaders talk about the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. You've read about its alleged benefits, range of talent, and profitability — but what does diversity and inclusion truly mean? Why is it important, and how can you put diversity and inclusion into practice at your workplace? Let’s start with the basics.
Diversity differentiates people from one another in terms of their age, gender, ethnicity, race, religious preferences, level of ability, sexual orientation, education, personality, marital status, and nationality. According to Global Diversity Practice, “diversity allows for the exploration of these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment. It means understanding one another by surpassing simple tolerance to ensure people truly value their differences.” True diversity in the workforce goes beyond recognizing differences; it celebrates them with inclusion.
Inclusion refers to the efforts and practices of an organization to accept and welcome people from different backgrounds. It ensures that employees are treated equally, and without bias. As per the Harvard Business Review, the seven key dimensions of inclusion are “fair treatment, integrating differences, decision-making, psychological safety, trust, belonging, and diversity.”
Put simply, diversity is the mix of people you bring into the workplace, and inclusion is the supportive culture that makes sure everyone is working well together. This culture, when implemented successfully, sees employees feeling supported and motivated, performing their best, and leads to higher performing organizations at large.
A diverse workforce is commonly touted as the secret to success, but why is that? Data from Market Watch shows us that racially diverse teams provide a 35% higher earnings before income tax, and a 33% increase in long-term value creation. They also achieve 19% higher revenue than monocultural companies with predominantly white, male employees.
Diversity in the workplace statistics show us that inclusive companies are more likely to meet the needs of a diverse customer base; their cash flows are 2.3 times higher than companies with monocultural employees.
The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education reports that the American workforce is becoming more diverse. As the white portion of the working-age population declines and the minority population increases, talent from under-represented groups is more likely to seek employment at diverse companies. Now, according to a recent survey from Deloitte, 80% of employees consider inclusion an essential factor in choosing an employer.
A lack of diversity can negatively affect business metrics. Increased diversity, on the other hand, leads to a wider range of skills, greater innovation and creativity, increased productivity, reduced employee turnover, better customer understanding, a diverse talent pool, and higher revenues. In other words, D&I isn’t just “good for business”, it’s essential.
So, how do we get there? Set an action plan for diversity in the workplace. Here are 5 ways you can start.
In the workplace, diversity is crucial. But D&I is more than a check off the list — creating a culture that is truly inclusive requires a whole new level of investment. True D&I begins with educating the leadership at your company. If managers and employers do not know how to handle a diverse workforce, it will prove difficult to teach employees how to recognize and unlearn their conscious and unconscious biases.
In April 2018, Starbucks reckoned with an instance of implicit bias when a manager at a Philadelphia franchise called the police on two young African-American entrepreneurs, Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson. Robinson and Nelson were subsequently arrested and led out in handcuffs — simply for waiting on their business partners before placing their order — and a video of the incident had gone viral.
Thereafter, Starbucks’ executive chairman Howard Shutlz led the coffee chain to deeply examine its company-wide mindset.
Starbucks then partnered with a consulting group to lead 175,000 employees in more than 8,000 stores across the United States through anti-bias training programs on the same day. “It’s not solely diversity training,” said Roz Brewer, Starbucks’ COO. “We’re addressing issues around leadership. We’re offering new tools.”
To prevent further incidents of racial bias, it is critical to train management and staff on diversity issues in the workplace. These include mindful decision making, discrimination, and any triggers so management can make thoughtful decisions that allow them to move beyond their biases.
Try partnering with consulting agencies and external experts such as HRDQ and Compliance Training Group to host diversity and inclusion workshops. Training managers at your company will help them get a better understanding of inclusive culture.
D&I training, of course, is accessible at all price points. If you don’t have the budget to partner with an agency, global D&I leaders like Microsoft have their learning and training support materials available online for free. Don’t think twice — start race, ethnicity, and age diversity training in the workplace today.
We’ve discussed the importance of employee engagement, but what does it mean to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace through employee engagement? Creating a better employee experience for all employees — regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, age, socio political and cultural backgrounds — creates a happier and productive work environment.
You can follow in BlackRock’s footsteps by creating diverse employee communities and specialized networks for Asian, Black, Mid-Eastern, Latinx, LGBTQ+, Abilities, Veterans, and women professionals. By doing so, members will have access to a community of experienced employees they can gain inspiration from, and look up to. This shows them that their differences are recognized and celebrated by the company. You can also pair existing employees with diversity mentors to take team-building to the next level.
Ask your employees what’s best for them — conduct employee pulse surveys to see how diverse employees would like to experience diversity and inclusion in the workplace!
It’s important to remember the difference between equity and equality, equity meaning going beyond providing equal resources and instead ensuring that resources and opportunities specialized to each individual employee’s success are available to them.
Since the median age of workers in advertising and public relations is 40.8, equitable practices for age diverse workforces would be hiding the age of applicants from their resumes. This helps in removing unconscious biases. Similarly, to promote racial and ethnic diversity, removing names and pictures of applicants from their resumes would be an equitable hiring practice.
Start with rethinking your company’s policies. Workplace celebrations are an effective way of boosting employee engagement, but when planning end of year celebrations, are you decking up the office with flagrant Christmas decorations? Are major celebrations of non-Christian cultures and religions such as Hanukkah, Diwali, Kwanzaa, and Eid getting the same recognition?
Diversity celebrations in the workplace play an important part in acknowledging employee differences. They can show diverse members that you pay attention to cultural nuances and truly care about them as human beings.
Try to incorporate some fun ways to celebrate diversity in the workplace by using a multicultural calendar. Festival celebrations at the workplace can be a great way for employees and teams to get to know each other better, and celebrate their differences in culture.
You can encourage diversity and inclusion activities in the workplace by taking small steps such as having lunch catered for the team on Diwali. Or, by kicking off Pride Month with a significant donation to support the community, like Nordstrom. Remember: celebrating diversity success in the workplace not only makes employees feel valued and included, but is also key to better business.
Leadership is a conversation. According to the Harvard Business Review, engaging with employees in “ordinary person-to-person conversation” is more successful than a series of commands. This “initiate[s] practices and foster cultural norms that instill a conversational sensibility throughout their organizations.” In other words, by talking and listening to your diverse employees, you’re showing flexibility, and reaping high levels of employee engagement strategically.
Structured listening sessions with under represented and marginalized groups can help employees feel supported and lead to a psychologically safe work environment. With the help of a professional, structure time for employees to discuss their experience, offer constructive feedback, and let you know what they need in order to perform better.
Hiring a diverse workforce, or creating inclusive policies can feel like lip-service without any follow-up. To facilitate real change, it’s important to communicate goals and track progress. Make sure that your diverse employees feel comfortable talking to management about any issues or concerns they might face by opening up channels of communication. Regularly ask for feedback though scheduled meetings or surveys to ask about their employee experience at your company. If your employees are remote, try creating a dedicated Slack channel to ensure that employees have transparent access to HR and management.
It’s equally important not to let communication issues get in the way of feedback. Not all employees feel comfortable speaking up, so it's important for them to have access to anonymous surveys. This enables them to voice any discomfort or race, ability, or age discrimination they might be facing at work.
It can take a lot of work to forge a truly inclusive work environment. But if you rejoice in getting to know your employees as human beings, the process can be just as rewarding as the uptick in your business metrics.
SmartGift’s Team Engagement Series aims to spotlight how small interactions can have big impacts on company culture. Over the course of the forthcoming weeks, our Team Engagement Series will define challenges and pain points for employees while offering solutions for different work environments.