Diversity and Inclusion: not just buzzwords
Focus on diversity and inclusion has intensified over the years, and for good reason. Companies are beginning to actively factor diversity considerations into their hiring processes. A LinkedIn report found that 78% and 62% of companies consider diversity to be a key factor in boosting culture and financial performance respectively.
Diversity refers to differences in characteristics like age, religion, sexual orientation and ethnicity. Fostering an inclusive work environment means actively and intentionally creating a culture that appreciates these differences and allows companies to actively embrace diverse viewpoints and integrate different approaches into the company's vision.
An inclusive work culture and a diverse workforce are more likely to result in workforce retention, boost employee happiness and productivity and attract talent and expertise from a wider pool of candidates.
This article provides a brief overview of the importance of a diverse and inclusive work culture and suggestions that employers can implement to meet diversity and inclusion targets.
Why is it important to have a diverse and inclusive culture at work?
While the world has come a long way in appreciating and actively seeking to implement diversity, statistics indicate that there is still much to be done.
For example, when hiring managers made hiring decisions based on candidates' cultural fit alone, particularly when the existing workforce is not very diverse, these decisions may unconsciously discriminate against and disadvantage applicants who come from different backgrounds to those of existing employees. This will unnecessarily limit the perspectives that contribute to a business's success and may even deter future applicants.
According to a report from Boston Consulting Group, only 24 Fortune 500 CEOs are women, only three are black and only three are openly gay.
Promoting diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging initiatives in the workplace fosters a safe and inclusive environment that allows employees to thrive. The viewpoints and perspectives that drive a company's innovation are only as diverse as the company's workforce.
Certain industries have had more success than others in implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives. For example, the financial services industry in the UK still lacks adequate representation.
In the UK, diversity often centres on the characteristics protected by the Equality Act 2010. These are age, race, religion, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy, maternity, sex and sexual orientation. However, it is best practice to also focus on other characteristics, such as social background and gender identity.
A focus on complying with the legislation on diversity and anti-discrimination alone will do nothing to address the systemic issues that drive workplace inequality, discrimination and unconscious bias. Implementing a diversity and inclusion strategy should not be done solely for the sake of legal compliance.
How Employers can promote diversity and inclusivity
Employers must be able to take stock of the areas in which improvements can and should be made in their workplace. Reviewing these regularly will allow for a plan to be developed to address issues hindering the development of an inclusive company culture.
Employers should also regularly set targets and annual initiatives, making sure to obtain some input from their employees on these. These targets should permeate every aspect of the workplace.
These targets should be measurable and realistic. Improving diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging will not happen overnight. Some goals will take longer than others to achieve, but employers can try to implement the following measures.
Employers should ensure that their recruitment processes are equitable and fair. This can include setting up blind and institution-blind recruitment, thus assessing applicants on merit and achievements, rather than running the risk of being unconsciously biased by where applicants went to school and universities. Employers should also focus on fostering a culture of inclusion at interviews and assessment centres.
The recruitment cycle should take into account applicants' abilities and cultural differences and make reasonable adjustments where necessary.
Employers should also make sure that the language in job advertisements is inclusive and gender neutral.
Taking these steps to eliminate the effects of the recruitment's team own personal biases should ensure that the employer is better able to recruit and retain diverse talent.
Be Serious about Diversity Training and Targets
Employers should demonstrate that they are serious about wanting to achieve their diversity and inclusivity targets.
It is important that the results of the employer's diversity targets be seen and felt across the entire organisation, including senior and board leadership. This is important for several reasons. It emphasises the employer's commitment to its targets and also ensures that the culture of diversity is carried over into the organisation's succession planning and beyond. Also, those in positions of responsibility have authority over the company's future direction and budget. Diversity in leadership is likely to ensure that the company's culture is maintained and prioritised into the future.
By regularly conducting a leadership assessment that includes evaluating diversity and inclusion efforts, an organisation can ensure that their commitment to these values is upheld by all levels of leadership and embedded in their hiring and promotion practices for years to come.
Targets should not be set and met just for show, or to demonstrate the implementation of ESG measures. There should be real and serious consequences to discrimination and inappropriate behaviour.
Employers should also monitor equality and diversity in the workforce regularly. This allows employers to identify when a certain group is inadequately represented.
Celebrating different cultural and religious holidays, and making active efforts to cater to religious minorities is an initiative that all employers should take. Implementing that can be as simple as creating separate fridge space for halal, kosher and vegan food, and setting up prayer rooms. Employers should also be flexible about allowing employees to take time off for religious practices and holidays.
Implementing these initiatives will contribute to greater engagement and belonging. Cultural diversity fosters an inclusive workplace.
Employee Resource Groups and Committees
Employers should encourage employees to set up resource groups and committees. For example, employees could set up various diversity and inclusion committees, like an LGBTQ+ committee that can organise social events to celebrate Pride Month and to set up organisation-wide celebrations of different initiatives.
To boost equity, employers can establish mentorship programmes and implement pay equity.
Equity is different from equality in that it centres on the recognition of the fact that equal treatment (while it is to be encouraged) often overlooks the inherent disadvantages that some people face. While equality means treating everyone in the same way, equity is about providing more resources to disadvantaged groups in order to minimise the effects of these disadvantages in helping these groups achieve their full potential.
Employers can also choose to offer optional equity and diversity training to employees.
The Bottom Line
Diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging initiatives not only foster better work culture, but they also create happier and more productive employees. The employer's different initiatives should be actively brought to the attention of employees to ensure awareness and participation.
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The opinions on this page are for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal advice on which you should rely.