More than 2200 CEOs have signed the CEO Action Pledge for Diversity and Inclusion to promote diverse workplaces.
Organizations today stand at the threshold of great opportunity to elevate diversity and inclusion (D&I) to their rightful places in business environments.
D&I can become a part of your organizational DNA through sustained initiatives, adherence to best practices in daily operations, and unwavering strategic focus.
Let us look at the meaning, best practices, and business benefits of building diverse and inclusive companies.
Defining Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace
Diversity refers to ensuring that the workforce comprises diverse individuals. This diversity stems not only from simplistic demographic differences but also from differences in values, beliefs, characteristics, and backgrounds.
Inclusion refers to ensuring employees feel valued, accepted, and respected. It means that every individual perspective or idea in the organization matters.
Equity refers to ensuring that organizational processes are impartial and fair and provide equal opportunity to all employees.
Together, these three aspects of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) foster a sense of belonging and connectedness in the workplace.
Diversity and Inclusion Best Practices
DE&I best practices touch every aspect of HR processes across the employee lifecycle.
Following is a checklist of DE&I best practices that you can use.
1. Attract Diverse Talent
- Incorporate DE&I into EVP and Employer Branding
Define DE&I for your organization and integrate it into the company jobs page and social media outposts. Expand your diversity definition to include characteristics beyond gender and race by breaking the bias, such as veteran status, disability, age, and other factors.
Ensure your career website page uses inclusive language with authentic team images and meets accessibility standards such as captions for videos and color contrast. Make sure you adopt best practices of recruitment for inclusive workplaces.
- Rewrite Your Job Descriptions and Job Ads
While drafting job ads, avoid language that can be construed to indicate a preference towards a specific gender or any other protected characteristic.
Research suggests that using words associated with masculine stereotypes such as ‘competitive’ or ‘dominating’ results in lesser female candidates. Also, avoid inflating credential or qualification requirements where they are not necessary.
There is a tendency to include minimum requirements such as bachelor’s qualification that may exclude certain protected groups who tend to graduate at lower rates but are otherwise qualified as they have on-the-job experience or are self-taught.
- Expand Recruitment Networks
Increase your chances of reaching a diverse pool of candidates by looking beyond conventional sourcing avenues like job portals.
Reach out to diversity-oriented job groups, alumni associations, and cultural interest groups to post your job ads. Focus on educational institutes that cater to under-represented groups along with elite universities.
2. Design Unbiased Recruitment and Onboarding Processes
- Use Blind Screening
Leverage ‘Blind Hiring’ techniques that enable removing candidates’ personal information and only include job-specific characteristics, work experience, and qualifications.
Recruitment software can help blur photos, names, and other potentially personal information from resumes. For technical assessments, consider remote testing and blind code reviews.
- Eliminate Bias During Interviews
Ensure the interview teams are diverse to minimize affinity bias. Include interviewers who can objectively evaluate candidates and make them feel comfortable.
Develop standardized interview scripts based on objective hiring criteria that interviewers can use for every potential candidate for a job irrespective of personal characteristics.
- Hire for Culture-Contribution
Conventionally, enterprises prefer candidates that are a good fit for their existing company cultures.
It can lead to conformism and lack of inclusion in the workplace over long periods. Instead, companies must focus on hiring candidates bringing diverse experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds to the table so they can contribute meaningfully to enrich the company culture.
- Facilitate Inclusive Onboarding
Communicate your DEI policies and commitments to new hires through training programs. Connect them to your organization’s employee resource groups (ERGs) to ensure they feel supported and included.
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3. Designate a Team Dedicated to D&I
A dedicated D&I Team signals that your organization looks at D&I as a business priority. Enterprises must support their D&I teams with the requisite budget, authority, capacity, and access to employee data analytics.
The D&I team members can expand the scope of their activities beyond the HR department and align with business unit heads. If you do not create a dedicated D&I team, the responsibility for diversity and inclusion efforts may fall on volunteers from the underrepresented communities themselves.
4. Facilitate Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)
ERGs represent communities united by ethnicities, beliefs, genders, sexual orientation, and other characteristics. They can be a great source of support and networking opportunities for your employees.
For example, LinkedIn has more than 5000 employees comprising its 10 ERGs. Organizations can support their ERGs by facilitating internal communications, sponsorships, arranging for premises for gatherings, media partnerships, and more.
5. Educate Employees on DE&I and Belonging
One of the first steps toward DE&I is to make employees at all levels aware of your DEI policies, initiatives, and commitments.
Leverage learning and training modules, internal communication portals, social media, and newsletters to educate your employees about DE&I. Inform them about the avenues for reporting discrimination and harassment and train for bystander intervention to empower employees to identify violations and take action.
6. Support Flexibility in the Workplace
A hybrid workplace model helps you support a wider pool of employees, including individuals with disabilities or health issues. If remote hiring and working are enabled, you can also recruit ethnically diverse talent from distinct geographies, speaking different languages, and in separate timezones.
It can boost diversity and efficiency and give you access to untapped markets. Offering flexible timings can help employees plan their day with their spouses or partners and take care of family responsibilities. You can adopt best practices to offer optimum flexibility to your people.
7. Incorporate D&I into Evaluation and Promotion Practices
- Be Fair to All Your Employees
Assess employee performance based on objective, measurable, and uniform metrics relevant to their job roles. Ensure complete transparency in the evaluation and promotion processes in your organization.
- Train Managers to Eliminate Bias
Managers must provide clear and measurable goals and maintain a digital record of each employee’s performance based on objective criteria. They must offer constructive feedback while avoiding personal comments and exaggerations.
A 2019 Gartner survey revealed that 88% of DE&I leaders perceive bias in their organization’s promotions or succession processes.
8. Implement equitable pay policies
- Be Transparent About Pay Data
Improve accountability by publishing low, median, and high compensation levels and pay bands across roles and categories. It will empower employees to ask for increments when they deserve them.
- Design Inclusive Pay Processes
Do not ask for previous salary data during the recruitment process. It helps individuals with low initial salaries to jump out of the low wages trap based on their capabilities and skillsets.
Create narrow pay bands based on statistical analysis and market data. It aligns the actual payments with the company policies without distortion due to the low negotiation power of underrepresented minorities.
9. Investigate Grievances Promptly
- Address Microaggressions
A microaggression is a statement or action that subtly or unintentionally demonstrates discrimination against members of a minority group. It could be because of unconscious biases or different backgrounds or cultures.
Ensure that you make employees aware and train them to avoid such incidents and appropriately respond when someone commits a microaggression.
- Ensure DE&I Complaint Redressals
Investigate all discrimination complaints fairly, promptly, and thoroughly. Take appropriate corrective action for violation of DEI policies to ensure that problems do not become pervasive and affect employee morale.
Ensure you have a clearly defined sexual harassment policy and whistleblower policy. Inform employees about the avenues for raising complaints and ensure no adverse actions are taken against employees who make a complaint or participate in an investigation.
10. Measure the DE&I Processes and Outcomes
Track the percentage of underrepresented groups in the total workforce over time to understand the effectiveness of your DE&I practices.
You can also conduct anonymized surveys to collect qualitative data for listening to employee feedback about DE&I in your organization. Besides these, you can also track the number of diversity and inclusion initiatives implemented every year.
Publish this data regularly in internal and external communications to demonstrate your commitment to building inclusive workplaces.
11. Strive to Look Beyond Quotas and Tokenism
Hiring quotas may promote diversity but don’t guarantee inclusion and belonging. Inclusion requires sustained training efforts and empathetic leadership.
Leaders and managers must think beyond compliance requirements and take an honest look at the end-to-end employee experience. Rather than quick one-time fixes, it requires continued efforts to inculcate micro-behaviours on a daily basis to bring about real change.
Benefits of Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace
As per Gartner’s research, only 36% of D&I leaders report that their organization has effectively built a diverse workforce.
While implementing DE&I is more related to the softer aspects of the workplace culture, it can lead to tangible and measurable improvements in employee and company performance.
1. Better Employee Performance
Having a homogenous team was thought to reduce friction and increase efficiency. However, it is counterproductive to employee performance.
As per Harvard Business Review research, teams perform better when they are diverse because they can process facts carefully without group biases. Also, the range of knowledge available to the team increases, leading to faster problem-solving.
2. Higher Employee Engagement
Inclusion ensures that employees are heard and valued. It enables employees to be comfortable expressing their views, which means they can bring their full authentic selves to work. It leads to a sense of belonging that translates into a commitment to the organization.
3. Better Employee Retention
While DE&I itself is a chief factor for retaining employees, enterprises also must follow up policies with action. Failing to do this can have dire consequences.
According to the Deloitte DEI and Trust survey, 2021, 40% of employees would consider leaving their organizations if they cannot trust them to deliver on DE&I commitments.
4. Improved Financial Performance
Higher employee engagement and performance translate into financial profitability.
McKinsey’s research of over 1,000 companies across 15 countries reaffirms that there is a definite business case for D&I.
Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the bottom quartile. This figure stood at a staggering 36% for ethnic diversity.
5. Increased Innovation
Diversity brings different ideas and perspectives into everyday business, and inclusion ensures that these get their due.
The Boston consulting group surveyed more than 1700 companies and discovered that companies with above-average diversity had 19% higher innovation revenues than the average.
Innovation revenues refer to the sales of products that are less than three years old.
6. Talent Magnetism
With DE&I, you get access to a larger talent pool. Also, it is a crucial part of employer branding that attracts top talent.
Future of Work Diversity and Inclusion
The business case for DE&I is indisputable. Enterprises will continue to pursue diversity and inclusion strategies to imbibe a world-class organizational culture, attract and retain top talent, and drive innovation.
Advanced HR data analytics algorithms will find increased applications to predict organizations’ future diversity basis different sets of assumptions about recruitment and other HR practices.
Organizations that consistently deliver on their DE&I commitments will keep outperforming their peers.