What is Workplace Diversity and Inclusion?
Workplace diversity is about valuing the differences among employees, including their backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. It includes factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, and disability. Inclusion is about creating a workplace where all employees feel respected and have an equal opportunity to succeed.
Most countries, like the US, enforce laws to regulate discrimination and ensure fair opportunity for all. In the US, the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) is responsible for ensuring federal laws related to equal opportunities are followed. In a country that’s increasingly becoming diverse, it’s common for bias and discrimination to happen. The EEOC is mandated to prevent that from happening in the first place through education and outreach programs.
As a law-abiding company, your organization must have diversity and inclusion policies that are strictly implemented. Failure to do so may result in litigation, which can be costly. Besides the legal implications, not having a multicultural workforce can rob your company of the varied perspectives that diversity offers. It can also prevent your organization from experiencing the many advantages of a diverse workplace.
Importance of Workplace Diversity and Inclusion
Organizations would hugely benefit from employing people of different backgrounds. Here are some of the multiple advantages of a diverse and multicultural workplace.
- It creates an uplifting work culture where employees are constantly engaged.
An inclusive work environment that doesn’t tolerate discrimination, harassment, or bullying is a safe and fun place to work in. It removes tension and stress from feeling the constant need to be accepted. Employees would also look forward to reporting to work, and their enthusiasm can be contagious.
- It improves employee productivity, resulting in better work output.
Psychological safety that naturally happens in an inclusive environment is the main reason why teams work efficiently and productively. Diverse workplaces also welcome diverse ideas, perspectives, and opinions. It promotes creative thinking, which presents multiple facets to problem-solving.
- It portrays a positive company reputation that attracts customers and new talents.
Consumers are buying from companies for their social impact. They view brands with a highly diverse workforce as a force for good that’s worthy of their support. Employees who are happy in their work environments also become natural advocates of their workplace. This compels rising talents to join the ranks and experience what the company has to offer.
- It retains top talent and reduces the cost of employee turnover.
Nothing is more costly than employee turnover. Promoting inclusive behaviors within the organization helps prevent resignations and retain important employees.
- It helps the company create better products and services.
Having a diverse workforce mimics society as a whole and helps companies understand customers better. This results in better offers and helps increase the company’s revenues.
Managing Diversity in the Workplace
Creating a diverse workplace begins with recruitment. You can use various recruitment strategies to target a diverse pool of applicants. One of the fastest and most efficient ways to build a diverse talent pool is to build connections. You can collaborate with community organizations that focus on diversity. You can source candidates from historically black colleges and universities. You can also encourage minorities in your workforce to refer talent.
Diversity doesn’t end with the hiring process. It’s not enough to have a diverse workforce in entry-level positions. Diversity must also be reflected in senior posts. This happens by encouraging minorities in entry-level posts to aim for higher positions. You can provide training to help build their skills.
In some companies, a performance metric is set to measure diversity in their talent pool. For example, in a predominantly White company, one metric is to measure the ratio of Black senior executives to every White senior executive.
Once you have a diverse group of employees, you have to manage them inclusively. This involves inclusive behaviors and inclusive communication in the workplace. When everyone feels like they are a valuable part of the team, they are more likely to be productive and innovative.
Creating an Inclusive Workplace
Inclusive behavior starts with you as the leader. If you model inclusive behaviors, your team is more likely to follow suit. Remember that managing diversity in the workplace is an ongoing process. As your team changes and grows, your diversity management strategies should change as well.
To create an inclusive workplace, start by being aware of your personal biases and making a conscious effort to set them aside. Be intentional about creating a workplace culture where everyone feels welcome, respected, and valued for their unique perspectives and experiences.
Promoting Inclusive Behaviors
Bear in mind that inclusiveness starts from the top. Senior management must have buy-in to all DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) policies and programs. They must be the forerunners in creating inclusivity in the workplace.
Here are some examples of inclusive behaviors that every employee must practice:
- Communicate openly and candidly, without judgment or assumptions.
- Seek out diverse perspectives, and encourage others to do the same.
- Make sure everyone feels comfortable speaking up. Encourage open dialogue and avoid making anyone feel like they have to conform to a certain way of thinking or acting.
- Avoid making assumptions about others’ backgrounds, experiences, or points of view. Instead, ask questions and actively listen to the answers.
- Be aware of your own biases, and check them at the door. Being aware of your biases can help you understand how they affect your communication with others.
- Make an effort to get to know people from all walks of life.
- Respectfully challenge others when they say or do something exclusionary.
- Stand up for others when you witness discrimination or harassment.
- Celebrate diversity in all its forms.
By promoting inclusive behaviors in the workplace, you can create a more positive and productive environment for everyone.
Inclusive Communication in the Workplace
Inclusive communication in the workplace is critical in making people feel welcomed and respected. When communicating with others, be aware of your words and tone. Avoid making assumptions or using language that could be interpreted as offensive or exclusionary. Instead, use language that is respectful and inclusive of everyone.
For example, instead of saying “you guys,” say “you all” or “folks.” If you’re not sure what term to use, ask the person you’re speaking to which word they prefer.
Also, take time to understand what pronouns your employees use. Encourage people to share their pronouns and ensure everyone uses the correct ones when referring to one another. This is particularly helpful for making LGBTQ employees feel valued at work. By using inclusive language, we can create a workplace where everyone feels welcome and respected.
Workplace diversity and inclusion are important in creating a healthy and vibrant workforce – and they are just beginning if you want to build a thriving company culture. By recruiting a diverse talent pool, and managing diversity through inclusive behavior and communication, organizations can create an environment where all employees feel valued and respected.
What have you done in your workplace to foster diversity and inclusion?