Despite having made vast improvements over the last few years, diversity is still a problem in most workplaces. People of colour, women, people over the age of 50, and the disables are still under-represented in most industries. In addition to under-representation, women and people with disabilities are also facing a pay difference of over 15% in most industries. The pay gap increases the lack of diversity as people choose to look elsewhere for work where their skills will be sufficiently remunerated. As businesses and governing bodies have started to recognise the need for diversity in the workplace they have also started to see why it is so vital. The benefits of diversifying are vast, but there is a lot that still needs to be done to make workplaces more diverse and inclusive.
What is workplace diversity?
Simply put, a diverse workplace is one where people with different characteristics, backgrounds, and experiences all work together. But a truly diverse workplace will be more than just varied people. True workplace diversity requires an environment that fosters understanding, acceptance and equality. In a truly diverse environment, everyone is given the space to thrive and grow and everyone is treated with equality. It is a mindset and culture that needs to permeate the way a business functions, rather than simply changing a recruitment strategy.
Why increase workplace diversity?
Sadly, many people, business-owners included, don’t see the necessity of workplace diversity. But there are many benefits for workplaces that choose to embrace diversity. Here are just a few reasons why you should be trying to make your workplace a more diverse place:
Increased understanding and a better way of interacting with clients and business partners
Faster and improved decision making, leading to increased profits
Reduced employee turnover
Improved company reputation and image
Better hiring reach as your business appears more attractive to prospective workers
How do you increase diversity in the workplace?
If you are serious about increasing workplace diversity then you need to realise that it isn’t always straightforward. Often, diversifying requires a mindset shift. You will need to be able to get your staff onboard with a new way of functioning. If you already have a diverse culture and are looking for ways to make the environment even better, then half your job is done. Regardless of your current situation, these 5 tips will help you increase diversity in the workplace.
Perform a health-check on your senior level organisation
Start by assessing your top tier of employees and their work structure. Are they a diverse group? Do they represent different ages, genders, abilities, religions, and cultures? Is there a work pattern that would be accessible to single parents or people with disabilities or are late or rigid work hours a requirement? All these things are cultures that filter down into the rest of your company. To ensure a properly diverse business, you need to start at the top and check what culture has been set in place by management. When you carry out this assessment, bear in mind that unconscious bias can play a large role in how managers view inclusion and diversity. To get comprehensive results, it is recommended that you speak to the people on the lowest job tier or who are being paid the least as they will be more acutely aware of how managerial decision making affects the team. Blind studies and surveys can be helpful in building up your knowledge of how diverse your workplace truly is.
Review your recruitment policy
Blind recruitment is vital in creating a diverse workplace because everyone has unconscious biases. Eradicate biased hiring by not knowing anything about your potential hires other than their work credentials. Make sure that your recruitment policy also allows for people with different backgrounds to apply for positions. Make sure your job advertisements are accurate (studies have shown that men will apply when they fit only 50% of criteria while women will only apply if they fit 90%), advertise to minority groups and in minority publications, and make sure you look past name-dropping. A lot of diversity comes from hiring from different backgrounds, and that means different opportunities too. Recognise that opportunity and ability are two different things. During the hiring process, you also need to make sure every measure is in place to make hiring fair. That means making sure your interview panel is diverse, interview locations are fully accessible, and consideration is given for childcare if necessary for applicants with children.
There are many ways to make people feel valued, one of them is to celebrate or honour what makes them different. Having a separate fridge or food area for Kosher food, having a designated breastfeeding or pumping room, or offering flexible work hours or location are all ways to honour what is important to your employees and cultivate a culture of inclusivity and diversity within your workforce. As the culture grows, a lot of these changes will also seem normal and commonplace and adaptations will come more naturally.
There are a lot of jokes about diversity education, but proper training with practical skills and application can be invaluable in creating a more diverse workplace. Tailor any training you do to your workforce, industry, and company goals to get the most out of it. You can also use external consultants who will be able to objectively observe and interact with your company culture. Vital topics that most workplaces need to cover include communication, assessing and addressing privilege, and sensitivity to marginalised groups.
Mix things up
Make sure your workforce works and interacts with different people on a regular basis. This could be by creating teams to focus on short-term projects, or it could come from changing the layout of the office. By encouraging your staff to work with different people, you encourage inclusion, acceptance, and growth in understanding and communication. Ensure that your workplace is diverse and that everyone has an extended period where they can work with, get to know, and benefit from the people around them.