Reinvent Your Leadership Team With These 8 Tips for Improving Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Boosting commitment to diversity and inclusion is emerging as a top change management tool by businesses that want to showcase their commitment to diverse workforces and inclusive management policies. It’s also a key metric that many would-be and current employees use to gauge their employer’s dedication to smart, compassionate management.

Exactly what are diversity and inclusion, and how can you implement diversity and inclusion principles in your workplace? This article explains this topic and then gives you eight great tips for how you can implement D&I in your workplace.

What Is Diversity in the Workplace? Diversity and inclusion is the practice of including a broad range of unique people into the workplace who integrate with each other as a team while retaining their individual and unique characteristics. The two terms often appear together, and while they are used to reach the same goal, they have distinct meanings. Diversity in the workplace means that an organization employs a diverse team of people, with that diversity reflecting the broader individual traits that appear in society. Diversity can include social categories such as gender, race, and age. In New Zealand, the Human Rights Commission enforces laws that protect individuals in the workplace based on specific categories that commonly face discrimination. Those include protection from discrimination in employment based on race, color, religion, gender identity, sex, pregnancy status, national origin political affiliation, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, genetic information, age, membership in an employee organization, relationship status, parental status, military service, or other factors.

What Is Inclusion in the Workplace?The definition of inclusion varies slightly depending on who is using the term, but in general, it means creating a work culture that celebrates people’s differences and effectively uses everyone’s talents, skills, and perspectives to reach a set of objections and missions.

While inclusion tends to focus on factors and differences that are fairly evident, such as someone’s age or national origin, it can also include less obvious traits such as educational background, training, experience, length of time at work, and even personality traits such as being an extrovert or introvert.

Through understanding and respect, inclusion helps to connect each person to the organization and encourages collaboration, flexibility, and fairness.

What Are Some Challenges the Workplace Still Has to Overcome?Although a recent slate of fairness laws and social awakening around the lingering problems of discrimination toward people of different backgrounds has gone a long way to break down barriers in the workplace, people of color and from diverse social and personal backgrounds still face challenges in the workplace, according to the Harvard Business Review. Those include:

  • Lower hiring rates, with fewer callbacks or interview requests
  • Lower representation in white-collar and leadership jobs
  • A negative experience at work, including bias, unfair treatment, less support, and feelings of less value and respect

What Are the Benefits to Fostering Diversity and Inclusion to Organizational Culture? Fostering real diversity and inclusion in the workplace can have a host of real and tangible benefits. Those benefits, according to the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service, include:

  • Businesses with a balance of men and women are more likely to outperform their competitors
  • Businesses with a good mix of ethnic backgrounds are more likely to outperform the competition
  • Businesses that have a diversity of employees who are diverse in terms of gender, age, and ethnicity are more likely to make better decisions
  • Diverse teams have higher employee retention and have a better ability to recruit a diverse talent pool
  • Businesses with a diverse background of employees see higher revenue growth and are better able to innovate
  • Businesses with diverse team members better serve their communities and are more socially responsible

Eight Strategies for Building a Diverse and Inclusive Workplace. Now that we’ve seen the benefits of building a diverse and inclusive workplace, let’s look at ways to actually go about creating one. Here are some strategies your business can use to build a diverse and inclusive workplace.

1. Have it start at the top

For diversity and inclusion to work, it must be an ethos that starts at the top and filters down. CEOs need to take a visible stance to embed these tactics into the organization’s daily activities.

2. Research the terms and topics to create informed backers

It helps to know the terms and definitions before getting started on your D&I journey. Make sure you know exactly what diversity is, what inclusion is, and why they matter. This will help you to make a business case and develop an effective strategy.

3. Make diversity and inclusion a part of your business strategy

Companies will see better benefits from making D&I a core business strategy and not just a line item for human resources.

4. Hold leaders accounting for driving diversity and inclusion results

Making diversity a key performance indicator for company leaders, and giving them access to best practices organizational development, will ingrain D&I as a critical business function and part of the day-to-day job.

6. Investigate systemic causes of implicit bias

Implicit bias can be a hidden barrier to D&I goals. Overcoming implicit bias in hiring can include reaching out to a broader range of school graduates, putting less emphasis on referrals and personal contacts, investigating pay and performance measures, and looking closely at promotions and work assignments.

6. Focus on leadership development, not diversity training

Diversity training had its moment a few years ago when employees were sat down and given one-day training programs. These helped to ease implicit bias but did not result in behavioral change. Better efforts now will focus on coaching managers to be agents of change.

7. Realise that D&I is a process, not a project

There is no true end to your D&I strategy – this is an ongoing facet of business performance that must continually be worked on and worked toward.

8. Track your progress

All SMART goals include measuring progress – by creating a data-driven approach to D&I, companies can measure qualitative performance, including scores from employee surveys on D&I factors.

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A headshot of Dr. Harold Hillman