If you want to attract and maintain the best talent on the market, you need to create a diverse corporate culture that can embrace everyone. Encouraging employees to explore ideas from different views and allowing people to be themselves leads to higher levels of engagement and retention.
Yet, a lot of corporate diversity programs fail. Why? What can we learn from these failed programs of the past — and present?
In this article, we’ll explain why promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace matters and how to promote it in a sustainable way.
What is Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace?
Vantage Circle defines diversity and inclusion as a set of strategies, policies, and missions adopted by a company to create and encourage an inclusive workplace that attracts a diverse pool of talent from various cultural backgrounds.
It’s important to note that, while often grouped together, diversity and inclusion are two separate ideologies.
Diversity refers to the difference and characteristics that make individuals unique and the concept of bringing people of various backgrounds together. Diversity cannot be successful without inclusion.
There are four different types of workplace diversity:
- Internal – these are things that a person has no control over such as race, age, ethnicity, national origin, or cultural diversity
- External – these are characteristics related to a person that can be modified or changed such as education, skills and interests, religion, geographical location, relationship status, socioeconomic status, experiences, or citizenship
- Organizational – these are characteristics that affect or are impacted by an organization such as work location, job function, department, management status, or seniority.
- Worldview – this type includes our political beliefs, knowledge of history, or cultural events.
Inclusion is the conscious efforts, behaviors, policies, and norms that help to make everyone feel seen, heard, and valued. Supporting inclusion is critical for a diverse workplace to become a reality.
Companies have realized that, in order to be the best, they need to have the best. This cannot evolve without including people from a variety of diverse backgrounds and worldviews.
By creating a corporate culture that truly promotes diversity and inclusion and puts people first, you help to make your employees feel comfortable bringing their true selves — and ideas — to work.
The Benefits of Diversity and Inclusion
Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity in the workplace have many major benefits, including:
- Variety of different perspectives
- Increased creativity
- Higher innovation
- Faster problem-solving
- Better decision making
- Increased profits
- Higher employee engagement
- Reduced employee turnover
- Better company reputation
- Improved hiring results
When you show your employees that each and every one of them matters, they are more likely to support your mission and stay long-term.
Also, by being upfront with your company’s values and commitments, you’ll attract the right people for your business, decreasing the time spent in the hiring and initial training processes and lowering employee turnover.
Why Valuing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Matters
Besides the fact that diversity will, in the long run, help your bottom line, workers are making it clear that embracing differences and outwardly supporting their varying worldviews is key to long-term employee retention and work satisfaction.
In a recent CNBC/SurveyMonkey Workforce Survey, nearly 80% of workers say that they want to work for a company that values diversity, equity, and inclusion.
While this shift towards a more equitable workplace is long overdue, the pandemic and recent social movements can be credited for the sudden sense of urgency in promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace. In fact, nearly 40% of workers surveyed said that the events of the past year have made D&I more of a priority.
Shift Away from Old — and Failed — Corporate Diversity Programs
Promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace is not a new idea. But the most common approaches are simply not working.
In fact, Harvard Business Review notes that, among all U.S. companies with 100 or more employees, the amount of black men in management has only increased from 3% in 1985 to 3.3% in 2014. White women in management have grown at a faster pace but still not quickly — from 22% in 1985 to 29% in 2000. And the numbers haven’t grown much more in the twenty-one years since then.
If we’re promoting diversity and inclusion, why are these numbers not rising more rapidly?
Because the control tactics we’re using don’t work.
Relying on corporate diversity training to reduce unconscious biases often backfires. In fact, it can drive people in the other direction. Trying to force someone to think or do something one way will often push them towards asserting their independence by doing it or thinking of it the opposite way.
Harvard Business Review also notes that the majority of the tools we rely on to promote diversity and inclusion are not intended to lead to any real change but rather are designed to preempt lawsuits surrounding racial and sexual discrimination.
How to Promote Diversity and Inclusion
So, what’s the right way to go about promoting diversity and inclusion?
To start, I recommend forming an Inclusion Committee.
The team members on this committee will be the ones to receive organizational feedback, serve as the liaison between staff and leadership, and develop goals for how the organization will promote D&I going forward.
In order to build an equitable company culture that works for everyone, you need to listen to everyone’s ideas and experiences. To facilitate this, open up the committee to all team members — regardless of seniority or managerial level.
Your Inclusion Committee should also include an experienced Diversity and Inclusion consultant. This consultant will help to facilitate training sessions for leadership and team members that will teach and guide rather than dictate changes. Through a gentle, guiding approach, your team members will be more open to changes within the corporate culture.
It is also very important that your leadership teams demonstrate commitment and accountability to these new changes. If your leadership does not “walk the walk”, the rest of your team won’t either.
Your leadership team, Human Resources department, and Inclusion Committee should work collaboratively to create and implement a communications strategy that places inclusivity as a core value within your organization.
Make your expectations clear and demonstrate how diversity and inclusion performance impacts evaluation results. Ensuring that your leadership team, directors, and supervisors are all adopting the measures that you’ve put into place is one of the first steps towards success in improving your corporate culture.
While drafting your strategy, include goals for things like hiring, employee retention, addressing employee engagement issues with underrepresented team members, and advancing a diverse company culture.
Go into the drafting of this strategy with the mindset that promoting diversity and inclusion is not a one-and-done thing. Rather, your strategy is a living document and should be reviewed and edited frequently. As the world changes, your strategy and processes do, too.
Build a Diverse Talent Pipeline
While high turnover is something to be avoided, it is important to acknowledge that turnover does happen within any organization.
Staying on top of recruiting efforts will help to minimize holes in your company’s workforce. Collecting and analyzing applicant flow data will help your organization track and monitor employment trends.
After analyzing your data, develop a strategy that will build your organization’s presence in the community and secure your talent pipeline.
Do things to maximize your ability to attract a diverse pool of applicants such as establishing and maintaining partnerships with professional and alumni organizations dedicated to minority and women applicants. Tap into applicant pools that were historically underrepresented and ignored.
When building your diverse talent pipeline, don’t go into it thinking that this is a requirement. Think of it as an opportunity for your business and your team to address unconscious biases and evolve together.
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Keep Lines of Communication Open
The most important part of building an inclusive corporate culture is to keep the lines of communication open.
Emphasize to your team that all employees’ voices are honored and will be listened to. Not only will this help your company to grow and evolve while finding a place in our ever-growing global economy, but it will also encourage and support your employees.
People that feel encouraged and supported are often more likely to work harder and be more open to learning new tactics and strategies.
Celebrate and Acknowledge Diverse Leaders
Part of creating a positive corporate culture is letting your employees know that their contributions matter.
Publicly acknowledge their cultural, political, and socio-economic achievements, as well as the achievements of other diverse leaders in your field.
By giving underrepresented professionals a voice, you are helping to reinforce that they are acknowledged and valued while also giving others an opportunity to see someone who looks or acts the way they do in positions of authority and power.
Being represented in the media or workplace goes a long way in encouraging the next generation of workers to keep working harder to achieve their goals.
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How to Measure Diversity and Inclusion
Now that you’ve identified ways to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace, how do you know if it’s working?
Most of the ways you’ll be able to measure your efforts’ success are through small, but noticeable changes. Track things like representation and retention. Is your organization actually hiring and retaining more diverse candidates? What does your workforce really look like?
Let your diversity and inclusion strategy evolve over time. As you learn and grow as an organization, so should your strategy. If you notice that this is not happening, that’s a good sign that your efforts need to be improved.
The biggest piece of the diversity and inclusion puzzle is to ensure that your leadership team is being held accountable for your new improvements. While your team members’ actions are a huge part of creating corporate culture, you will not achieve sustainable change if it does not change from the top down.
Biggest Changes You Can Make Now to Promote Inclusivity and Diversity
Overhauling your corporate culture may seem like a large undertaking, but there are steps you can take to manage the process.
Focus on these few things first and take it step-by-step.
- Acknowledge your own unconscious biases.
- Look at your diversity data. You may preach diversity and inclusion but what does your workforce actually look like?
- Accept that some things will need to change. There is no fault in admitting a process you’ve had in place is not working anymore.
- Accept that the world is evolving and the corporate workplace must do the same.
- Dedicate yourself to listening more than talking.
- Develop an inclusion committee and actively work towards improving the corporate culture of your organization.
Even taking the small but important steps forward will help your organization promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace, encourage and support your team, and make your company among the best places to work.