In the modern world, businesses that survive and thrive must look beyond merely creating and selling products and services. Instead, their focus must be on building sustainable value engines that benefit each and every stakeholder who comes in contact with it, right from employees and customers to shareholders.
One of the key factors that can help drive this value is diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
Today, DEI in the workplace is more than just policies, programs or headcounts. Employers that are equitable outpace their competitors because they respect the unique needs, perspectives and potential of all their team members. This is why diverse and inclusive workplaces earn deeper trust and more commitment from their employees, while also becoming more appealing to their customers.
Signs of an Equitable Workplace
A workplace that is diverse and inclusive makes everyone, regardless of who they are or what they do for the business, feel equally involved in and supported in all areas of the business. The “all areas” part here is crucial.
For instance, do you have diversity in your recruiting process, in each of your departments and in your leadership ranks? Do you have a workplace where 50% of your employees identify as women but 0% of those women are managers? Do you have a good representation of employees of color overall, but do they all work in the same department?
These telling questions reveal how equitable an organization really is.
DEI Is Good For Business
Studies have shown many benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace, including:
- Higher revenue growth.
- Greater readiness to innovate.
- Increased ability to recruit a diverse talent pool.
- 5.4 times higher employee retention
Inclusion is one of the most important keys to retention. When employees feel like their ideas, presence or contributions are not valued or taken seriously by their organization, it’s likely that they will eventually leave.
Research by A Great Place to Work found that when employees are treated fairly regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or age, they are:
- 9.8 times more likely to look forward to going to work.
- 6.3 times more likely to have pride in their work.
- 5.4 times more likely to want to stay a long time at their company.
Other than helping you attract top talent from diverse groups, an inclusive culture will also help you retain the diverse talent you attracted in the first place.
5 Ways to Improve DEI in the Workplace
Take an Individual Approach
Inclusive cultures make people feel valued and proud of their culture. Inclusive companies are more likely to create a workforce that reflects a variety of backgrounds and experiences.
So, keep in mind the native Spanish speaking employee who doesn’t feel entirely comfortable speaking any language other than English in workplace common areas. Or the breastfeeding mother returning to work with no space to pump breast milk. Or the Muslim employee that feels insecure about maintaining his daily prayer routine on company grounds. Look at your learners as individuals with unique needs that should be supported by the company, and by your training efforts. When you acknowledge the difference that exists in your workforce, you can more consciously introduce and amplify DEI efforts.
Look at Your Executive Team
Who sits on your company’s executive team (and who doesn’t) tells a lot to the rest of your workforce, not to mention your customers, partners and other stakeholders. C-level leaders, and their commitment to DEI, speak volumes about your culture.
Similarly, it is important to have a diverse top management team. Gender diversity, ethnic diversity and representation from the LGBTQ+ community are all valuable assets to your executive team. Ask yourself: Are men and women equally represented? What about people from various cultural and religious backgrounds?
According to a survey report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), among the Fortune 500 companies, only 24 chief executive officers are women, which represents just 5% of the total number of CEOs. The same report also found that, among the 500 CEOs, only three are Black, another three are openly gay and only one identifies as a lesbian.
You may not have much control over your executive team, but if you do have the means to make a case for DEI training to the C-suite, you should.
Foster a Company Culture Where Every Voice Is Welcome, Heard and Respected
Employees aren’t likely to stay at your organization if they feel that their uniqueness and authenticity aren’t valued. This is why it’s important to create an environment where they feel a sense of connectedness to the company and its people.
Employees should be free to express themselves based on their unique perspectives. Companies must make sure employees feel included and respected regardless of their:
- Gender identity.
- Sexual orientation.
- Physical abilities.
- Cultural background.
- Country of origin.
To support DEI in the workplace, don’t play favorites: Practice basic courtesy, and pay special attention to how you can embrace non-discriminatory practices and policies. Employees will feel included when they feel psychologically safe enough to voice their concerns and opinions without fear of victimization. Freedom of expression without fear also encourages companies to not just listen to but also actively embrace diverse viewpoints.
One way you can do this is by investing in a workforce communications platform. By combining all your communications channels into one platform, you will reach each worker on their preferred channel. Your workforce will feel connected and included in larger company initiatives and goals.
Foster Diverse Thinking
When you hire for diversity, you put your company in a position to think in culturally diverse ways. But for diverse viewpoints to stick, you must account for inclusivity.
This is crucial because people from different backgrounds and generations have vastly different perspectives on all sorts of issues, from what they choose to wear to work to how they compose an email to the kind of feedback they to which kinds of ideas they pitch in meetings.
Diverse thinking yields more innovative ideas and will help you gain useful feedback on your training initiatives, all while creating an environment in which everyone feels valued.
Eliminate Bias in Evaluation Processes and Promotion Opportunities
Research has shown that hiring and promotion processes are unfair and full of bias. Much of it is unconscious sexism, racism and ageism. Iris Bohnet, director of the Women and Public Policy Program at the Harvard Kennedy School and author of “What Works: Gender Equality by Design” explains, “Seeing is believing… If we don’t see male kindergarten teachers or female engineers we don’t naturally associate women and men with those jobs, and we apply different standards when we hire, promote, and evaluate job performance. Managers have to learn to de-bias their practices and procedures.”
Here are some strategies to train your organization on that can help to combat bias:
- Rewrite job descriptions to be gender neutral and use words that strike a balance of gendered descriptors and verbs.
- Create a blind system of reviewing resumes so you don’t “see” demographic characteristics.
- Set diversity goals as an organization, which will help you track your progress.
By following the tips outlined above, your organization will be positioned to be more inclusive and equitable in the future of work.