Why Does Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Matter in the Workplace?

Follow these 5 steps to create a diverse, equal, and inclusive workplace.

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Offer your teams a safe work community and a positive company culture with these tips

Systemic racism, gender inequality, and prejudice against minority groups have been calcified in the workplace for far too long, but thanks to the Black Lives Matter movement and the push for representation, organizations are finally taking real steps to abolish inequality.

The problem is, many organizations are still struggling to find a way to go about it.

In this article, we’ll clear up the confusion between diversity, equity, and inclusion, and share some ideas to help you develop a fair workplace where all team members feel safe.

What’s the difference between diversity, equity, and inclusion?

While diversity, equity, and inclusion can influence one another, it’s important to note that the 3 concepts are different.

Diversity means your company has team members from a wide range of racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and cultural backgrounds. Team members have various lifestyles, experiences, and interests, as well as different skills, perspectives, and abilities.

Equity means every individual has an equal chance at a professional opportunity. Whether it’s hiring, promoting, or working with high-end clients, all individuals have a shot regardless of gender, race, background, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation.

Inclusion means your company has policies and procedures in place to make sure all individuals feel welcome. Leaders and team members are open-minded and encourage different perspectives. Team members are heard and recognized.

Why do diversity, equity, and inclusion matter in the workplace?

To evolve, innovate, and problem solve, workplaces must be diverse, equal, and inclusive. They must offer team members a safe work community and a positive company culture.

Let’s explore some reasons why workplace diversity, equity, and inclusivity matter.

More skills and better decisions

When team members are exposed to different thinking and talents, the whole team grows and learns how to help the business perform more effectively.

Having a diverse team means having a wider range of perspectives and skills to help brainstorm, problem solve, and strategize. The result? More innovative and creative ways to handle work challenges.

When team members are exposed to different thinking and talents, the whole team grows and learns how to help the business perform more effectively.

Imagine you have a team member from New York, a team member from Denmark, and a team member from Australia. With their diverse backgrounds, cultural norms, and experiences, they’ll bring 3 different sets of perspectives, skills, and creative ideas to the table.

Increase in psychological safety and confidence

Psychological safety is when a team feels socially safe enough to speak up and share their ideas. When team members feel psychologically safe, they make valuable contributions and are more engaged at work because they feel like their voice matters. Creativity flows organically, confidence rises, mental fitness improves, and they’re less likely to leave the company anytime soon.

Reflects society more accurately

Since societies are diverse in age, gender, race, and socio-economic class, diverse organizations are more aligned with societal demographics. This means they can better predict and adjust to market changes and changes in consumer behavior.

Diverse workplaces are more desirable and profitable

Diverse workplaces are becoming more desirable for a few reasons:

  1. Projections show that racial minority groups will increase within the population.
  2. Diverse workplaces reduce harassment and bullying.
  3. Team members that work for diverse organizations are more productive and profitable than team members who work for homogenous organizations.

Diversity is the right thing to commit to. It falls in line with being grounded in integrity and ethics (and just being a decent human being).

But even more than all of that, diversity is the right thing to commit to. It falls in line with being grounded in integrity and ethics (and just being a decent human being). Asking why diversity, equity, and inclusion matter in the workplace is like asking why do basic human rights matter? They matter because people matter.

diversity-inclusion-workplace-workest

How to create a diverse, equal, and inclusive workplace

1. Start with education

First things first, start by educating yourself on ethics, integrity, morals, and diversity.

Educate yourself on how to be anti-racist and how to help people feel included and valued. Interview minority groups to get a closer understanding of their perspectives. Check yourself for any unfair biases and learn to remove any biases that get in the way of hiring and working with a diverse team.

Once you’ve got a clear understanding, make sure to translate that into your company policies and procedures. On your website and blog, make sure to include sections that cater to minority groups as well.

Inclusion matters in every industry and company. For example, this website compares the best colleges in the United States, but they have a specific section where they mention the best colleges for students with autism.

2. Build an inclusive HR team

Grab those policies and procedures you developed in the previous section and train your HR staff on them or hire an HR team that aligns with your company values.

Here are some more tips on building an inclusive HR team:

  • Create an inclusive workplace task force that consists of diverse team members
  • Integrate inclusivity in your workplace core values
  • Model inclusive language and be open to answering questions about diversity
  • Create a feedback culture with frequent check ins
  • Expand the company calendar to include a wider range of holidays and special events like Juneteenth and Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • Create events that focus on inclusivity, like Pride Day and diversity team-building mixers

Successfully managing HR at a company entails ensuring that your team welcomes diversity and fosters an inclusive environment.

In your Slack chats or company emails, be sure to provide company updates on how you are working towards inclusivity and diversity, and achieving these core workplace values. Automate Slack statuses for important holidays and cultural events.

Be proactive about your inclusivity and enabling your team to feel seen and heard.

3.  Hire a diverse staff

While it may feel more natural to hire team members with similar experiences as your own, hiring a diverse staff is essential to creating a diverse, equal, and inclusive workplace.

Here are some tips on how to do that:

Adopt a new mindset

Instead of thinking that employees should fit into your company culture, reframe your thinking instead to welcome employees as valuable additions to your company culture. This means everyone has equal opportunities, an impactful presence, and a seat at the table.

Instead of thinking that employees should fit into your company culture, reframe your thinking instead to welcome employees as valuable additions to your company culture. This means everyone has equal opportunities, an impactful presence, and a seat at the table.

Expand your hiring requirements

Inclusive hiring also means casting a wider net when recruiting. While education and other credentials are known as standard requirements, competitive companies are starting to loosen the baseline requirements to appeal to more diverse candidates. This could mean including historically Black colleges or women’s colleges as acceptable education or offering on-the-job training.

Additionally, COVID-19 has thrown the workforce for a loop, as more people are losing jobs and looking for employment outside of their expertise. In a recent study by Pew Research Center, about half of unemployed, furloughed, or temporarily laid off adults in the U.S. due to COVID-19 have seriously considered changing fields or occupations since they’ve been unemployed. Providing opportunities for workers with different experiences and backgrounds is another way to practice inclusive hiring.

Ask diverse employees for referrals

Team members come into positions with their own networks.

Once you start diversifying your team, ask your new employees if they know anyone else in their network they can recommend — this is low-hanging fruit. You can also create referral programs to incentivize team members to recommend other diverse team members.

Some companies also offer higher incentives for underrepresented candidates, like Intel famously did in 2015 when they offered double bonuses for referring women and minority groups.

Consult a DEI specialist or a chief diversity officer

DEI specialists help companies come up with strategies to implement effective diversity and inclusion programs. You can also reach out to chief diversity officers who have experience implementing previous diversity initiatives to discover what worked and what didn’t.

Be transparent

Strive to be as transparent as possible about your hiring and promotion processes. Publish team diversity information so all departments can keep each other accountable in improving diversity, equity, and inclusion company-wide.

Use diversity-driven recruiting technology

Diversity recruiting software can help you design recruiting initiatives that line up with your diversity, equity, and inclusion goals. These tools provide unique features to help remove unconscious bias when recruiting and interviewing. For instance, you can use job description management software to create unbiased job descriptions, or diversity technology to censor personal candidate information like name, age, and ethnicity. You can also post on job boards that promote minority talent.

business meeting

4. Provide personal development opportunities

It’s important to provide your team with personal development opportunities that add value rather than being a one-and-done approach, or simply a “requirement.”

Personal development opportunities can range from diversity training on Zoom to sitting in a circle in the conference room swapping stories about culture.

Here are some other ideas:

  • Host a communication seminar
  • Conduct a personality assessment
  • Host a race, faith, and cultural diversity course
  • Offer a cultural competency training
  • Host a preventing discrimination and harassment workshop
  • Explain the value that both introverts and extroverts bring to the table

Whatever programs you choose, make sure all team members are involved and allowed to speak, participate, and voice their concerns.

Conduct an anonymous survey afterward to check if the workshops were meaningful.

5. Make sure your team feels seen, heard, and valued

Now that you’ve got your dream team, make sure they feel seen, heard, and valued.

That means embracing new ideas, even when your instinct is to shut them down, or finding a solution that team members are happy with when they come to you with a problem.

Here are some other ideas.

Celebrate cultures and lifestyle choices

Consider holding a multicultural month where team members can introduce their heritage, perspectives, and new ideas. You can also ask team members to make a list of holidays, events, and movements that are important to them and schedule ways to honor them.

This can be anything from hosting holiday office parties to signing up for an LGBTQ parade, to sponsoring a nonprofit that works for racial equality. Feel free to get creative. The idea is to celebrate and promote different cultural backgrounds, ideas, and values.

Keep the lines of communication open

A diverse and inclusive workforce isn’t something you create and walk away from. It’s an intentional daily practice. Oftentimes, that starts with communication.

Give your team members the space and grace to explore their feelings, thoughts, and ideas when you’re in diversity training. When challenges or ideas arise, ask open-ended questions to promote transparency and understanding. Encourage open and respectful communication during all points of contact — even during email and instant messaging.

Consider having an open-door policy where team members can come to you if they have to voice concerns, report harassment, or communicate new ideas.

Make sure to stress that any team member can come to you at any time — regardless of title. Take it the extra mile by thanking team members for being honest and willing to provide feedback.

When it comes to sensitive issues like race, make sure to ask for permission before diving in.

Reward valuable contributions

Too often, contributions are ignored, which can be disheartening to the team member who put in valuable time and effort to make that contribution.

When a team member makes a meaningful contribution — like coming up with a strategy that saves time or money — make sure to recognize and reward them for their efforts.

Conduct anonymous surveys

Give your team members the chance to provide honest feedback by conducting anonymous surveys. Surveys can be about a specific business topic or the business in general.

Include a few open-ended questions to give employees space to add additional comments and ideas.

Get to know your team and encourage them to do the same

What better way to make your team feel valued than actually getting to know who they are at their very core?

Try to remember team members’ names, likes, interests, and concerns. Bring them up when you see them. Don’t just memorize facts, though — when you really know someone, it shows.

If you have a large enterprise with thousands of employees, make sure your managers adopt this mentality on your behalf.

happy employees

Getting started

Ready to create a diverse, equal, and inclusive workplace?

Remember: start with education, build an inclusive HR team, hire a diverse staff, provide personal development opportunities, and make sure your team feels seen, heard, and valued.

Creating a workforce where all team members are treated fairly is one of the most honorable things a human being can do for the world.

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