Diversity and inclusion are two ideas that go together. Diversity does not mean that the differences between employees are invisible. Instead, they are appreciated and celebrated. Employers should appreciate their employees for their differences in identity, which can include the following:
- Religious Belief
- Sexual Orientation
Employers can actively recruit diverse candidates for available positions. This is only the first step. Once the new hires arrive and start working, they need to feel like they belong and are welcome. At this point, inclusion comes into the equation. All employees should feel that they are respected and have equal opportunities to succeed in the workplace.
The ideas presented here will serve as a starting point to answer your question, “How to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace?” As you start making changes to your company policies, you will likely develop other strategies to improve diversity and inclusion.
1. Add diversity and inclusion to your company mission statement
If you are wondering, “How to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace?” Start with the company mission statement. It forms the basis for how your business sees itself and how it treats its employees and its shareholders.
When the company commits itself to diversity and inclusion (D&I) from its mission statement through the executive suites on down, it indicates that D&I is a priority.
The company must take care not to give the impression that D&I is only about hiring. Diversity in the workforce is essential, of course, but it is not the whole story. Unless a company incorporates best practices for diversity and inclusion in the workplace, employees who don’t feel supported will eventually move on to other opportunities.
2. Ensure company executives are accountable for D&I as part of their job descriptions
Each of your company executives should be accountable for diversity in the workplace. Making this part of their formal job descriptions means that you confirm to your executive team that having a diverse workforce is not just something you are leaving to Human Resources to handle.
Each executive can plan and execute two types of D&I results within their business roles. The executives will also be expected to assess the effects and report on them at regular intervals.
Executives need to get comfortable with the idea that fostering diversity and inclusion in the workplace is not something they “get right” once, and then they are finished. Positive outcomes will be something that each executive can build on. Any poor results are an opportunity to pivot and make changes.
3. Reduce implicit bias in your hiring processes
Everyone has at least some form of unconscious bias, be it positive or negative. Recruiting decisions can be influenced by these preconceived notions. For example, companies will do the following:
- Write job ads with descriptions that attract a limited range of candidates
- Contacting only specific universities to find job applicants
To reduce implicit bias, review recruiting processes to ensure that open positions are not limited to a small pool of applicants. Review promotion policies to make sure that jobs are available to all internal applicants.
4. Think “culture add” when adding new employees
The philosophy of “culture fit” is tricky to define. Some say that part of culture fit is adding employees with diverse backgrounds. However the term has received criticism from others who say it’s used a covert form of discrimination.
Address this issue by using the term “culture add” in all job ads and hiring communication.
Culture add more clearly indicates that organizations are looking for employees who are truly themselves, high performers, interact well with their colleagues and share the company’s stated values. It does not mean that hires need to be a carbon copy of each other to succeed at work. Making a point of hiring qualified diverse employees is an excellent way to introduce varying points of view and new ideas into the workplace.
5. Hire a Chief Diversity Officer
More companies are deciding to make human resources departments more accountable for equity in their hiring processes by hiring an executive to oversee D&I procedures.
The Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) is responsible for implementing D&I programs and reducing implicit bias where possible. The CDO also helps the HR staff catch any blind spots they may have and improve over time.
CDO hires and DEI hiring in general is trending upward, a recent Glassdoor survey found 64 percent of workers said their company is investing more in diversity and inclusion than in prior years.
6. Update your job descriptions to include gender-neutral language
To make the hiring process fair to all applicants, companies must stop describing jobs using masculine, feminine or stereotypical language. A job encompasses a series of tasks that need to be performed. Simply because specific jobs traditionally have been performed by one gender or the other, it does not mean that they are “men’s work” or “women’s work.”
To correct any sexist language that may be in your job descriptions, review the existing ones carefully for any use of “he or him” and “she or her.” These should be removed and replaced with the gender-neutral pronouns “they and them.” This language indicates that the position is open to all applicants equally.
7. Screen resumes without candidates’ names to reduce unconscious biases
If your company is serious about embracing ways to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace, make a policy that HR screens candidates using a “blind” process. In many instances, job candidates with non-traditional names get rejected based on unconscious (or conscious) bias. Research shows that resumes with female names face a similar struggle.
When your company commits to reviewing resumes without the distraction of names, the candidates’ qualifications can be considered more fairly. As previously noted, it is impossible to eliminate all bias since it’s partly unconscious. But bias should be reduced however possible.
8. Encourage your current employees to refer their friends and acquaintances
Employees can be an excellent referral source for open positions. Put out requests for referrals, create a referral bonus program or implement a social advocacy solution.
Referrals can lead to hiring those without the typical experience, but exceptional drive and talent. There are exceptions, but workers who were referred are often highly motivated due to their friend or family member’s reputation being on the line. Additionally, not everyone presents themselves to their best advantage through their resume. Some candidates shine brighter once they can get face-to-face with a prospective employer.
9. Use a structured process for interviewing job applicants
Another method for making the interview process fair is to have a similar process for all job interviews. It might be a rough script, checklist or operating procedure. If done thoughtfully, candidates are able to share important information about themselves as the conversation flows naturally. Structured interviews can also reduce bias during the recruitment process.
When each job seeker is asked the same or similar series of questions, decision makers can compare responses in a more scientific fashion. The hiring process runs smoother and is expedited.
10. Make diversity training part of your onboarding process
It’s never too early to introduce the idea of diversity and inclusion in the work environment for new employees. Explain that D&I is important to the company and why, how your company defines it, and the specific actions taken to create an inclusive workplace.
The new hire may have questions about D&I and what the company is doing. Their last job may not have been in an environment where creating an inclusive culture was a priority.
Reinforce to new employees that D&I is an integral part of the employee experience in your workplace. When everyone feels comfortable, they can focus on their work. The company and the employees benefit from that scenario.
12. Set up a private room for nursing women
Nursing rooms have become more common in recent years. It should be a clean, comfortable space with comfortable chairs where they can relax. A few things to consider:
- You’ll need a room with several outlets for breast pumps, along with a space where mothers can store equipment.
- There should be a sink and a microwave so that the equipment can be cleaned and sanitized.
- Separate areas with curtains or partitions so that more than one mother can use the room and still enjoy some privacy.
- Add a refrigerator for storing breast milk.
- Bring in a coffee maker or a tea maker to make the experience comfortable and enjoyable. Providing a selection of reading material helps as well.
13. Acknowledge a variety of cultural and religious practices
This is an effective idea to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace, whether your team is working globally or locally. Acknowledge holidays and celebrations of different cultures and social groups.
- If you decide to hold holiday celebrations, consider making them non-denominational.
- Not everyone celebrates traditional holidays
- Holiday get-togethers can be emotional minefields due to grief and loss or strained family relationships. These feelings can extend into the workplace.
- Have non-alcoholic beverages available for those who don’t drink. “Not drinking” should never be an issue. An employee could be abstaining for religious, medical, or personal reasons. They could be pregnant, breastfeeding, in recovery from addiction, or simply not like drinking.
14. Start an internal blog
Blogging is a great way to build company culture and boost employee engagement. It is a less-formal way for the CEO and the company executives to communicate with employees. Workers can also post their own content onto the employee experience platform. The employees can comment, share their opinions, like, and repurpose the content elsewhere (if appropriate).
The blog is a place to post company and industry news, as well as surveys and polls. Employees should be encouraged to share the content they like with their personal networks as a way to become company ambassadors.
When employees share blog posts indicating that your company is committed to D&I, they become powerful tools to attract a larger pool of potential job candidates and new customers. It creates a feeling of goodwill in the community at large.
15. Introduce flexible hours for employees
Employees have lives outside of what they do for a living. They may be caring for children and/or family members along with their job duties. At times, they may need flexibility in their work hours to juggle all their responsibilities.
There are different ways that an employer can acknowledge this fact and offer flexibility to its employees.
Some companies have core work hours where everyone works, such as between 10 a.m.-2 p.m. each day. Employees can stagger their work start times from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. to accommodate their schedules. Other companies allow employees to take time away from the office for personal reasons on the understanding that they will adjust their schedule or make up the time later on the honor system. A third option is to institute working from home. Employees can use this option regularly or on an as-needed basis.
16. Set up a formal duty rotation that includes everyone for keeping the kitchen area clean
In many workplaces, the same staff members end up having to keep the kitchen clean. The lunchroom/kitchen area is a great place to start for those wondering how to implement diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Set up a schedule where two employees at a time are responsible for keeping the area clean and neat. The employees can check in on their breaks to ensure that the kitchen area is kept neat and tidy.
Make a point of assigning kitchen duty randomly. Employees who may not necessarily get to know each other have a chance to meet. It is another opportunity to promote inclusion and diversity.
18. Update your paid time off and sick leave policies
Let employees decide when to take time off from work, whether it is their annual paid vacation or personal days. Expand your sick leave policy to include your employees’ mental and physical health. Allow them to use their sick days each month if need be. Trust that they will not abuse this policy.
You will get your employees’ best efforts if you give them the flexibility to decide when they need to take time off from work without penalizing them for it.
19. Hold team lunches
Invest some company funds to hold team lunches every so often. These are times when employees can get to know each other while sharing a meal. Since lunch is a limited time, there is not a lot of pressure for more introverted employees to try to think of something to say (and eating and drinking give everyone something to do).
Eating foods from different cultures is an excellent way to foster an environment of improved diversity and inclusion in the workplace. It also introduces workers to new tastes and textures they may not have tried otherwise.
20. Provide training opportunities for your employees to develop their skills
One overlooked answer to the question, “How to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace?” is to provide opportunities for all employees to upgrade their skills. These changes should be open to all employees as part of their time with your company.
- Workers should be encouraged to consider trying different jobs within the company.
- Let an employee thinking about changing jobs shadow someone who holds the position they are interested in to find out whether it would be a good fit.
- Cover the cost of tuition and expenses for work-related training courses or programs.
Employees with diverse backgrounds and points of view bring depth and richness into the workplace. If your company truly serves the community properly, it should be made up of employees that reflect that community. Get social with an employee experience platform that makes internal and external communication easy for all your team members to use.
LumApps for Employee Experience
December 10, 2021