Building a diverse and inclusive workforce should be a priority for all employers, regardless of the size of your business or the industry you operate.
From a commercial perspective, there are many benefits to be gained from focusing on diversity, such as a more representative and productive workforce, improved financial performance (as we'll see later in this article) and a stronger employer brand.
But most importantly of all, the concepts of diversity and inclusion are about people. Truly inclusive companies respect and value every member of the workforce as an individual, regardless of age, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.
Committing to these principles will lead to positive outcomes for both your business and your employees in the long term.
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the value of diversity and inclusion
By putting diversity and inclusion at the heart of your recruitment and workforce management activities, you're helping ensure that all applicants and employees get equal opportunities to contribute and fulfil their potential in the workplace. As well as being important purely from a moral and ethical perspective, building diverse teams is essential for staff well-being, productivity and business performance.
the people perspective
It's becoming increasingly common for employees - particularly younger generations who represent the future of business and the workplace - to want to work for organisations that value difference, diversity and an open-minded, progressive outlook.
More than four out of five Gen Z job seekers (83%) view commitment to diversity and inclusion as an essential factor when choosing an employer, according to the 2020 State of the Candidate Survey by Monster.
Workers are also more likely to feel happy, engaged and productive at work if they feel supported and respected by their employer.
Embracing a diverse and inclusive approach to hiring and managing your staff shows that you view every worker as unique and that you're willing to give all qualified candidates a chance to show what they can do, irrespective of gender or ethnicity.
the business case
As the World Economic Forum has noted, the business case for workplace diversity is now 'overwhelming'. Mr Eswaran pointed out that bringing together people from a wide range of backgrounds and areas of experience helps to fuel innovation. This is evident on a large scale in prosperous, successful urban centres like New York, Dubai, London and Singapore - all international 'melting pots' with diverse local populations.
Dedicated research by companies like McKinsey has provided clear evidence of the commercial advantages companies can achieve by building diverse teams, particularly at the senior level.
The company has now published three studies in a global series exploring this subject: Why Diversity Matters (2015), Delivering through Diversity (2018) and Diversity Wins (2020).
The latest findings show that the relationship between diversity on executive teams and financial success has strengthened over time.
These conclusions are backed up by research from Boston Consulting Group, which showed that companies with above-average diversity on leadership teams report better outcomes from innovation and higher earnings margins.
Given the clear benefits your business can achieve through diversity and inclusion, it's essential to look into the positive steps you could take to put these principles at the heart of your HR strategy.
make it part of your culture
To be an effective and lasting pillar of your organisation, workforce diversity and inclusion must be ingrained into your culture. It's not enough to take a siloed approach that brings about change only at a departmental or team level. The entire business needs to be fully committed to the mission and know just how important it is.
A crucial part of this is ensuring the company's leadership is entirely on board with your diversity and inclusion drive and ready to provide the support you need to get the best results.
Boardroom backing is likely to rely on you making a solid business case for the value of diversity and inclusion. It will also be crucial to ensure that your diversity push's various initiatives and activities are directly linked to your organisation's broader goals.
Suppose your firm is looking to expand into new markets, for example. In that case, you might want to focus on how making your workforce more eclectic and a representative will help you understand a broader range of customer needs and expectations.
Making sure senior stakeholders and decision-makers are entirely behind the drive towards greater diversity is crucial to making this a fundamental part of your company culture.
rethink your recruitment
There's no doubt that optimising recruitment strategies and practices need to be a top priority for any organisation that is genuinely committed to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace.
Fortunately, there's a lot you can do to ensure each stage of your hiring process is designed to eliminate bias and encourage applications from the widest possible range of candidates.
To start with, it's essential to make sure job descriptions are written carefully to be as inclusive as possible. That could involve avoiding unnecessary jargon and not using gender-coded words or other languages that will make roles feel exclusive or unwelcoming to particular groups.
It can also be beneficial to only list essential skills when discussing job requirements and omit nice-to-have qualifications.
LinkedIn highlighted this as an effective way to make job posts more inclusive in its Gender Insights Report, which revealed that women apply to 20% fewer jobs than men and are 16% less likely than men to apply for a role after viewing it.
There should be an emphasis on diversity and inclusion in every phase of the hiring process, particularly at crucial stages like the interview. If possible, put together an eclectic interview panel to minimise the risk of bias (conscious or otherwise) and to show all interviewees that they will be welcomed and given every opportunity to move forward in their careers with your company.
Another critical step is ensuring all applicants' interviews are standardised and structured the same way.
that might mean:
- Asking the same core questions in the same order
- Giving every interviewee the same opportunity to ask their questions
- Evaluating all responses in the same way
There could be people in your workforce keen to learn more about subjects like these or have questions they would like to ask but don't know when or how to bring them up.
Focused training sessions will provide an excellent opportunity to have honest conversations, share helpful information and raise awareness of topics that fall under the banner of diversity and inclusion.
Going forward, it's essential to make it clear that this is an ongoing mission, not something that can be encapsulated in a one-off training session and then forgotten about.
Sabrina Clark, associate principal at SYPartners, a consultancy specialising in organisational transformation, said one way to bring about lasting change in how people think and behave is to entrust the task to dedicated cohorts who aren't at the executive or management level.
These groups can be armed with the skills and information needed to drive change in their team or department by leading through example.
interested in learning more?
Workplace diversity and inclusion have become crucial considerations for employers. It's also a rapidly changing, increasingly nuanced concept, so it's a good idea to keep educating yourself so you can feel confident that you're making the right decisions for your people and your business.
We've produced an in-depth guide that looks at the various stages of creating a truly diverse workplace.
The guide explores subjects such as how this subject relates to your bottom line and why diversity and inclusion can be challenging to achieve.
It also recommends more strategies that can help you prioritise diversity in recruitment.