Diversity: everyone's responsibility
Workplace diversity and inclusion have quickly become top priorities for many leading companies. A global focus on the importance of diversity has resulted in the need for real change within organisations – promises and commitments alone are no longer good enough.
Employees’ needs are changing rapidly, with individual empowerment and an inclusive corporate culture rated as critical elements.
This does not only encompass gender, racial and cultural diversity, but also the inclusion of different age groups in the workplace. A variety of studies suggest that people are working later into life, and companies are expected to include these groups whenever possible.
What people want
Media coverage and public scrutiny of gender and racial diversity have made a significant contribution to the push towards more inclusive workplaces.
Millennial employees, in particular, view inclusivity as a vital part of a company’s culture. It’s seen as an indicator of how receptive the company will be to their views, wants and needs.
It’s equally important to note that shareholders and customers are also paying more attention to companies’ policies and practices on diversity.
Recent studies suggest that just hiring diverse teams of staff isn’t enough of a commitment to workplace diversity, for many people.
Prospective workers, particularly younger people, are looking for equal treatment of staff in a company. Specifically, they look for companies where everyone has a voice in company matters and is respected equally.
In terms of tangible benefits, companies that embrace diversity have been shown to experience higher staff performance, a stronger corporate purpose and positive brand associations.
These trends in workplace diversity coincide with a global organisational shift towards versatile networks of teams.
Studies conducted by Deloitte in 2017 indicate that diverse teams are more innovative and engaged, with individuals being more willing to contribute ideas when they feel included.
Strategies for change
Despite an increased focus on diversity, the most popular catalyst for a shift towards a more inclusive workplace isn’t necessarily the most effective solution.
Staff training is great for raising awareness about these issues, but it is often ineffective at driving real change on an organisational level.
Here are some research-backed ways to help foster a more inclusive workplace and corporate culture:
- Executives must take ownership of workplace diversity inclusion and implement structural changes, transparent HR policies, and solutions based on organisational data. Leaders must be held accountable for facilitating an inclusive corporate culture at all levels of the company hierarchy.
- Executives should also consider experiential learning strategies, whereby they are exposed to gender, racial and age-based bias firsthand. Having a more personal – and less theoretical – understanding of these issues may help break down stereotypes and stigma surrounding these biases.
- Extend diversity and inclusion practices to all levels within the company. Line managers and individual staff, not just HR and executives, must be involved and aware of their responsibilities. Deal with diversity and inclusion on the same level of priority as other key business areas, such as compliance and security.
Data-driven problem solving
- Use technology to find trends in gender, racial and age bias, as well as pay and promotion disparities within the company. Leading learning management systems can generate this kind of data through reports and surveys.
- Where your data finds problems, address them with practical solutions. For example, if you find that a particular group is being excluded in the recruitment process, there is now software that can strip all personal details from resumes to remove bias based on candidates’ personal characteristics. Managers should also be educated on techniques to eliminate bias from interviews and other business activities.
Long-held standards of acceptable diversity and inclusion are being torn down and re-shaped at a rapid pace, and on a global scale. As diversity grows in importance and recognition, this defines employee demands; which, in turn, determines companies’ responsibilities.
Inclusive leading companies are experiencing a host of real-world benefits, including stronger engagement, retention, innovation and productivity.
- Bohr, K. (2017). Top 2017 Workplace Trends: Employee Diversity, Change Management, and Self-Directed Learning. Human Resources Today. Retrieved from: http://www.humanresourcestoday.com/2017/diversity/trends/?open-article-id=6138777&article-title=top-2017-workplace-trends--employee-diversity--change-management--and-self-directed-learning&blog-domain=blr.com&blog-title=hr-daily-advisor
- Bourke, J. et al. (2017). Diversity and inclusion: The reality gap. 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends. Retrieved from: https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/global/Documents/HumanCapital/hc-2017-global-human-capital-trends-gx.pdf