The various benefits of inclusive workplaces are no longer a secret nor a shock. Fostering diversity means developing a work environment where each employee feels a sense of belonging. But equity also has an undeniable effect on the economic realm, performance and bottom line. It’s no wonder diverse companies outperform the competition and reach goals with more ease.
Workplaces with thriving cognitive diversity can increase team innovation by 20 percent. Thus, 67 percent of job seekers see DE&I initiatives as a significant factor when deciding to apply with a particular company.
On the other side, although organizations with more female members in the top management sector have higher returns, more than 90 percent of CEOs are white men. Despite its numerous advantages, the diversity level isn’t satisfactory.
Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the existing inequalities, placing even more obstacles in front of minority groups.
COVID-19 intensifies disparities
2020 McKinsey global research shows that although most companies implemented various DE&I initiatives, it hasn’t been enough. Diverse groups of employees, including women, working parents, people of color and those who identify in the LGBTQ+ community still encounter many challenges in the workplace.
For instance, women still carry the burden of being perceived as the principal caregivers. Women take on most responsibilities concerning childcare or nurturing ill family members. As a result, women can be more overwhelmed with household tasks, mental-health issues and workplace safety. It is no surprise that women left the U.S. workforce during the pandemic at higher rates than men.
Women also feel the weight of high childcare expenses more than men since they often have lower salaries. Further, Black and Hispanic women are up to 4 percent more affected by the COVID-19 pandemic than their white counterparts.
Some LGBTQ+ employees say the pandemic has caused more isolation in the workplace, resulting in increased mental health issues and disconnection. These workers also worry more about their performance and have a higher workload than their cisgender and straight colleagues.
Racial and ethnic minorities are more concerned about workplace health and safety than their white peers, according to the McKinsey report. These individuals also find it harder to juggle their responsibilities at home and keep progressing in a career.
These insights lead to the final, alarming data that only one in six diverse workers feels supported by their employers. That is a clear indicator that COVID-19 has amplified the existing diversity and inclusion issues. It’s more crucial than ever to build a stable, consistent and ever-lasting culture that nurtures inclusive values.
How to establish an inclusive workplace culture
First, it’s significant to note that diversity and inclusion are not interchangeable terms. Hence, the first doesn’t necessarily drive the latter, although acknowledging the need for more diversity is the critical first step.
Diversity represents the what, the workforce’s makeup. Inclusion is the how. It is the process of creating a work environment that allows and welcomes all individuals, regardless of their cultural expression and identification.
But inclusion attracts diverse groups of people, enabling them to thrive while helping the business expand. If a company doesn’t have effective strategies for inclusion, minorities may feel a lack of connection and happiness.
It’s essential to understand diversity and avoid implementing DE&I programs for compliance or profit only. The goal is to achieve a consistent culture and far-reaching change. Start by understanding whether your culture is inclusive to know what strategies to implement and how to tweak your efforts regarding DE&I.
Consider getting employees’ feedback first-hand. Ensure you encompass a diverse range of people from all departments, regardless of job role, position or tenure to help you understand how the staff feels about DE&I in the workplace. Make the process smoother by implementing surveys, questionnaires or brief interviews.
After conducting research, analyze the results to spot the recurring themes in employees’ answers and insights. You might identify underrepresentation in particular roles, levels or departments or you may find that workers believe your DE&I efforts need to be reinforced or enhanced.
From here, tweak or develop your culture of diversity, inclusion and equity. By now, you will have enough data, direction and resources to implement strategies that lead to genuine improvement.
However, there are a few things to ensure before the final step. To establish a stable, effective and long-lasting inclusive culture, follow these guidelines:
- Before implementing any actions or procedures, make sure you have buy-in from the C-suite. That way, you won’t encounter any unexpected obstacles or surprises while establishing the DE&I program.
- Develop a roadmap with consistent actions to follow. Don’t overlook the details.
- Share with staff what steps you are taking to improve or integrate an inclusive culture. Let them know what to expect and when. If employees are ready, they’ll be able to reinforce the program with their effort and insights.
- Establish a group to work on this undertaking. You will see results much faster if you have a stable and extensive network with the same goals.
- Ensure efficient communication channels to receive employee feedback as you implement each strategy or initiative to rectify potential issues before they grow into severe challenges.
Pay attention to elements of your business that are slowing down or hindering inclusion. Point the program towards addressing those issues to get the best results. Use the following guidance to foster a strong DE&I company culture.
Introduce inclusive processes
Start with the hiring process and talent pool. Consider whether your company has an overly exclusive approach towards attracting candidates.
Analyze the technology, job ads and background checks. Many job descriptions include gendered language, which could deter particular people from applying.
Leverage technology that allows an unbiased candidate screening, resume parsing and inclusive job ads to target a larger audience. You’ll have processes that motivate diverse job seekers to want to work with you.
Nurture understanding and connection across departments and hierarchies
It is essential that executives and managers understand the essence of diversity and why it’s significant to include all people, regardless of race, gender or ethnicity. They should understand how the DE&I program functions and what it aims to achieve.
Moreover, pay attention to unconscious bias. Ensure supervisors and executives have enough interaction with diverse employees to improve connection and mutual understanding.
Leaders should respect all workers equally and implement processes that celebrate equity. Organize diversity training across departments and hierarchies. Ultimately, the company should nurture positive frameworks and connections. Everyone should strive toward shared goals and a mission that boosts a sense of community and teamwork.
Foster affirmative messages instead of micro-aggression
We might not be aware, but we tend to feel closer to those who we find similar to us. Some people might send micro-aggressive messages unconsciously to those they don’t understand or perceive as too different. It is a behavioral pattern we often overlook, but it can undermine diversity.
Executives and managers should find time to get to know every employee and create positive bonds. Each worker should get equal opportunities, visibility and attention. Ultimately, it’s crucial to show that everyone’s work makes a difference in the company and world.
How to measure DE&I efforts
According to Forbes’s research on global diversity and inclusion, 60 percent of companies have metrics to measure the success of their DE&I efforts. They also found the three most popular metrics are: employee productivity (77 percent), employee morale (67 percent) and employee turnover (58 percent). Consider measuring representation and the overall workforce makeup as well.
Turn to your employees and collect feedback to get the most relevant insights concerning your diversity initiatives. Finally, integrate a software or tech solution to help you track your DE&I metrics and gather employee survey results. Regardless of the outcome, make sure you hold everyone accountable, including the leaders.