10 Ways to Improve Diversity and Inclusion at the Workplace

Most people think diversity in the workplace merely extends to treating everyone equally. However, it involves a lot more than that. The lack of representation of women or people of color in top management roles across the United States indicates the gap. Unconscious biases creep into how we interact with people or make decisions, whether evaluating performance or hiring for a new postion. Being aware of unconscious bias when making decisions is just half the battle won. Organizations must have in place strategies to improve diversity at all levels.

1. Start by acknowledging the lack of diversity

A culture that doesn’t acknowledge the need for diversity, or create an environment that treats employees from underrepresented groups equally, will result in high attrition of employees. The top management must communicate how the organization can benefit from diversity and ensure the representation of diverse employees extends across all levels.

2. Evaluate the current candidate screening process

Most positions in most organizations are filled through internal hires or referrals. Therefore, if most of your workforce belongs to a specific demographic, the new hires will be unfairly skewed towards the same demographic. Also, the process of screening applications is often affected by unconscious bias, resulting in specific demographics being underrepresented in the candidate pool. Assessing the current screening process will present the reasons why diverse candidates are not being hired. Accordingly, measures can be taken to post jobs online instead of depending solely on referrals or internal hires. The process of screening applications can be altered to include a more diverse pool of candidates.

3. Offer diversity training

A mandatory diversity training program once a year might not work as expected if employees feel compelled to attend it. Instead, a better strategy would be to organize several events or programs throughout the year that will help spread awareness of the benefits of a diverse workforce, increasing the prospects of employees accepting the need for it.

4. Create mentorship opportunities

While altering the candidate screening process can increase diverse hiring at the entry level, it’s equally important to ensure that diverse candidates get the opportunity to grow within the organization and take on leadership roles in the future. Establishing mentorship programs can help candidates from minority groups learn invaluable leadership skills from their mentors, preparing them for taking on top management positions in the future.

5. Communicate with sensitivity

It’s not enough to announce policies that talk about diversity and inclusion. All communication should be delivered in non-biased terms, using the correct terminology when referring to a specific group. Similarly, images in brochures, on the website, or any other mode of communication should include people from diverse groups to create a more inclusive environment where employees don’t feel sidelined.

6. Non-biased celebrations

While Thanksgiving and Christmas are the most celebrated holidays in the United States, these holidays might not be significant to employees from minority groups. They might prefer to have time off for holidays they celebrate. The best way to resolve this is by allowing flexible holidays or time off, letting employees choose their time off from work. Besides holidays, celebrations at the workplace should cover minority holidays to make every employee feel included and increase awareness and appreciation of different cultures.

7. Create transparency in performance indicators and pay structures

One of the leading factors that reflect bias is the gap between promotions and raises between the majority and minority groups. For instance, a male employee might get a higher raise than a female employee who performs at the same level. Similarly, a Black or Hispanic employee who performs well might be overlooked for a promotion. Defining the average compensation range for each post and communicating the factors that constitute the performance indicators for each role can create a fairer and more equitable environment as employees are aware of what they need to do to become high performers.

8. Encourage cross-training

Bias often extends to specific roles and functions across the organization. For instance, Black or Hispanic employees might be in production, women in sales functions, and white males in management. The best solution for correcting this imbalance is to facilitate cross-training to allow employees to work in various roles across the organization. It will foster a collaborative environment and equip diverse employees with additional skills that help them move up the ladder more efficiently.

9. Facilitate an efficient grievance redressal system

For diversity and inclusion to thrive in the workplace, every employee must have the opportunity to be heard. The best plans can come to nothing if employees avoid speaking up as they are afraid of a backlash. Instead of a formal redressal system, consider adopting a softer mediation approach to resolve issues that don’t violate laws. Hiring the services of an external mediator instead of depending on HR can reduce the risk of bias in the redressal process.

10. Hiring a diversity team

Implementing diversity initiatives cannot be a task handed down to sales, HR or any other function. A company that prioritizes a diverse workforce should hire a dedicated diversity team with a manager to oversee the creation and implementation of initiatives.

Creating an environment that fosters diversity cannot happen in a few days or months. It should be a continuous process that includes reviewing the effect of actions and initiatives to remedy things that don’t work and introduce more effective strategies to make employees feel valued and secure.

ABOUT DIVERSEEK

We help companies take the first step towards building a more diverse Workforce. The Diverseek podcast aims to create a platform for meaningful conversations, education, and advocacy surrounding issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in various aspects of society.