7 strategies to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Inclusion is not just a hiring issue, but goes to the heart of your organization’s processes

7 strategies to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace

More companies are looking for ways to improve diversity and inclusion in their workplaces – and for good reason. Countless studies show organizations that give more attention to diversity and inclusion (D&I) – also known as diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) – are able to boost employee engagement, innovation, and industry profitability.

However, effectively improving your organization’s diversity and inclusion involves more than just writing up policies. Below, we look at seven strategies on how to improve DEI in your workplace.

Read more: Diversity in the workplace: How to lead as an ally

1. Make diversity and inclusion a part of your core business strategy

Sixty-five percent of the senior executives who participated in a Forbes Insight survey said that hiring a diverse team is their D&I priority.

While that aim is laudable, it reveals that many leaders think that DEI is simply a hiring issue –a problem that can lead to tokenism, or the perception that the effort is merely symbolic.

As such, a good diversity and inclusion strategy shouldn’t stop at just hiring and retaining diverse employees, because without sufficient ongoing support after the hiring process, your employees will eventually leave.

A better approach would be to incorporate diversity and inclusion into your core business strategy. This means placing D&I front and center in all organizational activities. Some ways to do this include:

  • Ensuring that there’s diversity and representation across all employee levels
  • Providing all-gender bathrooms
  • Providing a nursing lounge for working moms
  • Providing meditation and recreation areas where employees can de-stress and disconnect
  • Using gender neutral pronouns such as “they” in all official documents and policies

2. Make high-level executives accountable

Giving each executive leader formal accountability for diversity and inclusion outcomes is a great way to encourage top-down awareness and participation. It also serves to remind everyone that DEI is not just an HR concern.

You can do this by having each leader plan, execute, and assess two sets of DEI results applicable within their business roles. For example, diversity results can come from representation within hiring and promotion outcomes. Inclusion results can come from daily practices such as employee engagement and psychological safety outcomes.

You can assign weekly, monthly, or quarterly reports to keep track of everyone’s progress. After assessing the outcomes, have each leader decide on how they will reinforce the positive outcomes and how they will rectify the poor ones. Make sure you give them access to DEI resources and that their plans are attainable and time-bound.

Lastly, ensure that they do this as a fundamental part of their jobs and not something done off work.

3. Mitigate instances of implicit bias in your processes

Research from Princeton University reveals that everybody has implicit biases, which is when a person has an unconscious positive or negative reaction or emotion to something or someone.

Implicit bias has been prevalent in HR leaders and managers for decades and can interfere with recruiting a diverse workforce.

Many human resource decision-making processes are influenced by unconscious biases particularly in talent management. For instance:

  • Listing jobs for a narrow range of candidates
  • Only reaching out to specific universities for job applicants
  • Giving more promotion opportunities to people you know or are friends with
  • Ranking referrals higher than job performance

Because implicit bias is innate, it’s almost impossible to completely eliminate it. You can, however, mitigate biases by investigating talent management requirements and procedures.

Make sure your recruiting process isn’t narrow or limited to a small pool of talents and review your promotion requirements to certify that positions are open to all employees.

To make HR leaders more accountable, consider hiring a C-suite executive who will oversee all DEI strategies – such as a chief diversity officer (CDO). The CDO can countercheck your measures and catch any blind spots during your assessment.

This move isn’t new – according to Harvard Business Review, at least 60 US companies have been hiring their first-ever CDOs since last year.

Read more: Longer shortlist can help hiring gender bias says academic study

4. Acknowledge and honor different cultural and religious practices

This is a great way to show that the organization values diversity and inclusion especially to a global remote workforce.

You can start by acknowledging and honoring the different holidays and celebrations of different countries and cultures. You can also make company holiday celebrations non-denominational and have non-alcoholic beverages available for those who don’t want and cannot drink.

You should also look into providing a special menu for people with dietary restrictions. Startup Institute, for instance, has a special fridge exclusively for Kosher food. You can follow their lead and have special fridges or pantries for gluten-free, vegan, Kosher, and halal food items.

5. Embrace the philosophy of “culture add” instead of “culture fit”

“Culture fit” refers leaning on employees to conform or adapt to the norms of an organization. It’s when, for instance, employees are encouraged to speak in one language, notably different from their mother tongues, at all times – even during lunch breaks.

“Culture add,” on the other hand, is a philosophy of acceptance and is when an organization actively embraces employees from all backgrounds and demographics.

You can practice the “culture add” philosophy by doing the following:

  • Allowing employees to talk in their mother tongues whenever possible
  • Hiring translators during company speeches and events so employees can understand and feel included
  • Hiring and promoting multigenerational candidates

6. Be transparent with pay raises

According to Forbes, female workers make as little as $0.75 for every $1.00 that male workers make – and the pay gap increases the higher their position is.

Discrimination in wages based on gender, race, and ethnicity has been illegal since 1963, but companies can sometimes get away with it because of a lack of transparency in wages and pay increases.

Women of color are the most prone to this kind of mistreatment, and it can have huge negative effects on their financial and mental states.

“A lot of our self-esteem and self-confidence is derived from our work — after all, we spend a great deal of time and invest a lot of energy in the workplace,” says Kim Churches, chief executive officer of the American Association of University Women. “It’s pretty upsetting to think that we’re undervalued and underappreciated. And what better indication of that is there than our paychecks?”

Investigate by tracking your employees’ salaries and performance and checking whether gender, race, and ethnicity influences them. Be transparent about your findings and be prepared to open talks about any pay inequality that you might find.

7. Start measuring D&I efforts and communicating goals

When Nielsen’s CEO David Kenny also took on the role of chief diversity officer in 2018, he said he did it so he could “set hard targets for ourselves and make those transparent to our board and measure them like we measure other outcomes like financial results.”

Creating strategies and executing them is great, but your efforts won’t go anywhere if you can’t improve on them.

“To ensure you are moving the needle, start measuring – once you start measuring, you will know how you are moving the needle,” says Rohini Shankar, chief HR officer of CIOX Health. “If you don’t have metrics that you look at and review, you will not know how you are making a difference and moving forward. Define the metrics, communicate them and then measure progress.”

You can use employee surveys to measure DEI goals and formulate statements that reflect diversity and inclusion practices and have participants agree or disagree along a rating scale.

It’s also a good idea to allow a third-party entity to oversee and audit the study to remove possible bias. However, always remember that only way to show that your organization truly advocates diversity and inclusion is by constantly assessing, reviewing, and improving on its policies and best practices.

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