Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion in Today’s Workplace
As our world becomes ever more international and interconnected, the importance of Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion in the workplace is magnified. Having a diverse workforce not only brings a host of benefits but also dignifies your employees.
Many business owners are recognizing the need for diversity in their companies and seeking ways to drive change. In this article on Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion in the workplace, we’ll discuss the benefits and share strategies to overcome obstacles and foster a truly diverse workforce.
What Does it Mean to Have a Diverse Workforce?
While gender is one of the factors involved, having a reasonable balance between male and female employees is only scratching the surface of the diversity today’s modern organization needs to thrive.
Racial boundaries are another common barrier to diversity. However, the variety among the human family goes much further, and an employee’s religion, culture, sexual orientation, language, and education level, along with their skills and abilities, must be taken into account and respected.
Benefits from Workplace Diversity
In return for according these employees’ respect, your business will reap many benefits. Here are a few ways that diversity positively affects your business:
Innovation. When all members of a group come from a similar background, they tend to think the same way and thus produce similar ideas and solutions. On the other hand, having a diverse perspective in a team fosters creativity – that is to say, thinking outside the box. This can be a competitive advantage.
Productivity. According to some researchers, diverse teams are up to 35% more productive. What is more, their understanding of your diverse client base can lead to innovative ways to meet their needs more efficiently. Also, being evaluated on individual merits rather than discriminatory factors makes employees feel valued and more content with their place in the organization. Happiness makes productive workers.
Reduced Turnover. Once workers feel they are valued and have a place where they belong in your organization, they’ll be less likely to leave. Having a good work environment is worth more than a higher salary to many employees today. With less turnover comes reduced HR and recruiting expenses, further benefiting your bottom line.
Engage a Diverse Customer Base. A diverse workforce is more likely to relate to your customers, as there’s likely someone on your team that sees eye-to-eye with each client. Your products and marketing can be tailored to an international market, adapting to the local culture and language of the different regions your company serves.
Higher Revenue. A recent study noted that a diverse organization, on average, generates 19% more revenue than a comparable company that tends toward employees from the same background. Add to that the benefits of innovation and reduced turnover, and watch the profits climb.
How to Develop a Diverse Workforce
Several factors can inhibit the inclusion of minority or underrepresented groups within your organization. Here are a few roadblocks, along with suggestions on how to remove them.
Eliminate Bias. This often represents itself unconsciously among the members of your team. If anyone is inclined to dismiss the input of a teammate because of their gender, race, religion, etc., that person is biased. Diversity training and support groups can help to combat this tendency from the inside out. You’ll also need to give attention to bias in the recruitment process, to ensure your company is hiring those who are the best fit for the job, not simply those who seem the best to the recruiter. Often a blind screening process can help to eliminate bias in the initial stages.
Try a “Returnship” Program. There is a large pool of experienced talent out there that is waiting for the right opportunity to join your team. Many have taken a break from their career, especially women, for a life event, to recenter and refocus, or for various other reasons. These talented persons might need help to brush up on their skills before taking on a leadership role – and “Returnship” programs prepare the right candidates for just that. It can be very cost-effective to bring someone experienced up to speed in a short time, rather than training up a newbie from scratch. Bringing in managers and vice presidents in this manner, selecting from a diverse range of returners, can have a powerful effect on the direction and focus of your company.
Welcome Apprentices. Not a new concept, but certainly one that has fallen out of style in recent years. Could your company offer a training program for those interested in your industry? Gaining practical experience in a real-world environment would be invaluable for them, and it allows them to evaluate potential talent with greatly reduced expense and commitment. Training someone the way you want them to perform has its advantages, including a fully-acclimated and loyal employee when the apprenticeship program has ended, should you and they continue the relationship.
Pay equally. Paying some more than others for the same role sends a clear message: Some are valued more than others. Closing the gender and racial pay gap should be a high priority for any company looking to benefit from a diverse workforce. If everyone feels they have an equal opportunity for advancement, pay raises, and bonuses, it will contribute to employee contentment and higher retention of top talent.
Be Inclusive. Taking computer science as an example, research shows that although Blacks and Latinos comprise 18% of CS graduates today, only 5% are filling tech roles. Your organization must fight this trend. Once workers from minority groups become part of your team, their input and opinions must be heard. Forming resource groups within your company can help. Also, company-wide exercises on perspective-taking and goal-setting should be promoted regularly. This teaches your staff to set goals to suppress inappropriate comments and challenge them when they do surface. Perspective-taking encourages an interchange, so coworkers can learn to see how their comments and actions are perceived by others.
Looking to the Future
As shown, moving toward a diverse workforce, treating everyone equally, and being inclusive, is the right thing to do. What is more, it brings real competitive and financial advantages.
It’s not a goal to be taken lightly – Decades of discrimination cannot be erased overnight. However, concerted and persistent effort will pay off, and everyone in your organization will benefit.
By Chandra Subramanian, CogentNext Technologies