HR 26 October 2016

How to promote and maintain diversity in the workplace

Ensuring an organisation is as inclusive as it can be will pay dividends

Here, managing director at HR specialists Ecardshack, Chris Rowson, gives his advice on promoting diversity amongst small business owners at a time when the corporate world is failing to deliver.

HR experts the world over would agree there is still room for improvement when it comes to diversity in the workplace.

Despite a lot of progress being made, boardroom representation is still uneven between men, women and race. For example, there are 14 people on the board of leading car manufacturer Ford, but only two of them are women.

How can businesses in the UK promote and retain diversity in the workplace when some of the world’s largest corporations don’t lead by example?

As an employer, you can help promote workplace diversity by following these tips:

Promote flexible working

Flexible working is an integral part of any diverse workplace and makes businesses far more appealing to work for. For example, offering childcare vouchers and flexible working hours is likely to be very desirable to mothers who wish to pursue a career.

Whilst recruiting for roles within your company, you should advise colleagues to be flexible and understanding, research has shown this improves employee morale, well-being and productivity.

Mentor new and high potential employees

Some of the most successful and pioneering leaders at board level started in the lower ranks of their workplace.

Chris Capossela, the chief marketing executive at Microsoft, for example, started out in the company over 20 years ago as a product manager. Companies that excel in diversity management implement mentoring programs to source and nurture employees that have high-potential.

You should encourage your business to use mentoring programmes to develop a strong pool of leaders, that are representative of the cultures, values, races, genders, sexual orientation, and religious beliefs.

Mentoring programmes are attractive to new recruits as they enhance employee engagement and loyalty.

Encourage communication and openness

Employing a diverse workforce means that at all levels of the business employees must respect each other and leaders must manage complex teams requiring greater understanding of cultural beliefs.

It’s a good idea to encourage your company’s management teams to communicate guidelines for disciplining employees who engage in activities such as workplace bullying and discriminatory behaviour, which discourages diversity.

You should be willing to listen to workers who feel their treatment was affected by gender, disability, age, ethnicity or other factors, and address their concerns quickly and effectively when putting them forward for new roles.

It is absolutely crucial that organisations go beyond box-ticking and think creatively when it comes to implementing a diversity management initiative.

Small firms need to make diversity an integral part of day-to-day business operations, not just a routine HR function.

If you can encourage your company to invest a small amount of time and energy in ensuring that an organisation is as inclusive as it can be, this investment of time will pay dividends in terms of staff retention and performance.

Chris Rowson is managing director at HR specialists Ecardshack

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