The value of workplace diversity for a company's success is well-established, supported by numerous research results. Diversity is both a moral obligation and a strategic benefit in today's interconnected and globalized business environment.
This article shares several proven strategies that can help build a truly diverse culture. Topics covered include DEI policy, the role of leadership, inclusive communication, employee engagement, hiring and recruiting best practices, and how employer benefits can support diversity efforts.
DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) Policy
The first and most important step in building a diverse workforce is to establish clear responsibilities and ensure everyone is on the same page. Consider starting by creating and enforcing a DEI policy.
What is a DEI policy?
Diversity, equity and inclusion is a term used to describe policies and programs that promote the representation and participation of different groups of individuals. DEI encompasses people of different ages, races, ethnicities, abilities, disabilities, genders, religions, cultures and sexual orientations.
What to include in the DEI policy?
To create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all employees, it is important to design a policy on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) that helps ensure everyone feels valued and respected.
Here are steps to follow when creating a DEI policy:
- Start by defining DEI to ensure everyone understands the policy's objectives. Clarify the policy's scope and applicability, which applies to all employees regardless of position, and aligns with the organization's values and goals.
- Outline the responsibilities of leaders, managers, HR personnel, and employees in fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace. Discrimination, harassment, and unfair treatment based on protected characteristics are not tolerated. Provide examples and emphasize employees' right to report incidents.
- Include guidelines for fair hiring, such as unbiased job descriptions, selection criteria, and efforts to mitigate unconscious biases.
- Provide resources that promote understanding of diversity and inclusion.
- Tailor the DEI policy to your specific needs and culture while ensuring alignment with local laws and regulations.
However, even with a comprehensive DEI policy, there is no guarantee of proper execution. Companies often face an implementation gap due to a lack of accountability, cultural resistance, and the evolving nature of DEI.
To promote DEI effectively, organizations need to go beyond the policy by implementing a comprehensive strategy. DEI efforts should be integrated into all aspects of the organization's operations, including recruitment, hiring, promotion, employee development, and decision-making processes.
Going Beyond DEI Policies
The role of leadership in promoting a culture of diversity and inclusion
Effective leaders establish the standard for diversity and inclusion by showcasing personal commitment. They communicate a clear vision of its significance and provide resources and support for diversity initiatives. They hold themselves and others accountable for promoting diversity and inclusion. Leaders must continuously learn, be open to feedback, and have mental flexibility.
To help you take action today, we have prepared a reading list for leaders who are eager to prioritize diversity and inclusion.
- Difference Makers by Nicky Howe and Alicia Curtis
- Rebel Ideas by Matthew Syed
- The Inclusion Divident by Mark Kaplan and Mason Donovan
- Just work by Kim Scott
- You’re About to Make a Terrible Mistake! By Olivier Sibony
Why using inclusive communication is a key to more DEI in the company
Inclusive communication is about engaging diverse audiences in a respectful way. This means using language, tone, and channels that promote inclusivity and avoid exclusion. By using inclusive communication, we can reduce biases and stereotypes and improve relationships with employees, customers, and talents.
In particular, you can start with:
- Instead of saying "guys," use "folks," "team," or "everyone" to address a group of people.
- Use gender-neutral job titles like "sales representative" instead of "salesman" or "saleswoman."
- Avoid assuming someone's marital status or sexual orientation by using inclusive terms like "partner" or "significant other" instead of "husband" or "wife."
- Use a supportive and inclusive tone when providing feedback, focusing on constructive criticism rather than personal attacks.
- Acknowledge and appreciate diverse perspectives by saying, "Thank you for sharing your unique insights. I value the different viewpoints we bring to the table."
- Provide captioning or transcripts for videos or audio content to accommodate individuals with hearing impairments.
- Use real-time translation and interpretation features in tools like Zoom, Google Meet or Microsoft Teams to enable people with disabilities or non-native English speakers to participate fully in discussions.
Improve employee engagement
Try mentorship programs, Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), training on DEI topics, and inclusive onboarding. These initiatives provide guidance, support, and career development opportunities to employees from different backgrounds and help create a positive, inclusive culture.
Best practices for hiring and recruitment to promote diversity and inclusion
To ensure fair hiring practices, use blind hiring techniques that remove personal details from candidate applications. Expand recruitment efforts to include underrepresented communities, attend job fairs that promote diversity, and partner with organizations that prioritize diversity and inclusion. Train interviewers on unconscious bias and use diverse panels during interviews for equitable assessment and diverse perspectives.
There are even more techniques to support diverse hiring, but an even more important measure is to make existing employees feel good in your company.
How employee benefits support DEI activities
Small changes can make a large impact in achieving a more diverse workplace. Making adjustments to your benefit plans is a great way to put your words into action. Here are a few items that you can consider adding into to your benefit plan and policies.
Designing the rewards and recognition programs to support both your potential as well as existing employees provides opportunities to differentiate your organization and its culture., Thus providing you with a competitive advantage by being more reflective of the shifting needs of your employee base.
As you see, establishing a culture of DEI is long, with significant efforts and a continuous process. Your business has to have a DEI policy in place. This policy should not be stand-alone, but a part of the overarching DEI strategy, which includes leadership commitment, hiring practices, employee engagement, inclusive communication and the last but not least a proper benefits plan. The last point is probably the most effective if you want quick and sustainable results. Prioritize the implementation of diverse employee benefits in your organization to feel the difference.