Diversity & Inclusion: How to Create a Diverse and Inclusive Environment in the Workplace?

We know diversity matters.It is also increasingly clear that it makes sense in purely business terms.

But do we know what it means exactly?

While the first things that come to mind when we talk about diversity are race and gender, there’ s more than that.

What is diversity?

The diversity definition refers to the existence of variations and different characteristics in a group of people.These characteristics could be everything that differentiates us, makes us unique, such as our cognitive skills and personality traits, along with the things that shape our identity (e.g., race, age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, cultural background).

What is the definition of diversity and inclusion in the workplace?

Most people understand the general equality and diversity definition, but what do they mean within the workplace?

Diversity in the workplace refers to an organization that intentionally employs a workforce composed of individuals with unique attributes.

Simply put, diversity in the workplace means that a company hires a wide range of diverse individuals.Diversity is often misconceived as solely multicultural matters.However, it is also about gender, race, ethnicity, age, sexuality, language, educational background.

Amidst the COVID 19 pandemic, the definition of diversity can also include the diverse ways of working as employees are offered flexibility to work, prominently remotely or working from home.

Inclusion refers to the intensity of the feeling of belonging that various individuals feel.

Indicators of workplace inclusion are the abilities of employees to express their opinions or participate in the decision-making processes freely.

Workplace diversity and inclusion do not just extend to hiring diverse individuals.They are also about making sure that the participation of these employees is equal.

Therefore, employers had to recognize that symbolically hiring a diverse range of people is not enough.

Lately, the topic of diversity and inclusion in the workplace ensures that companies increase the participation, performance, and compensation of minorities, not just symbolic hiring to tick a box.

More importantly, companies recognize the plethora of benefits of hiring a diverse range of individuals and personalities.

However, implementing diversity initiatives at work has its unique set of challenges.

We will review both sides of the equation in the sections below.


The benefits of diversity in the workplace

Having a diverse and multicultural workplace brings several advantages.The current world is increasingly globalized and interconnected.The workplaces should benefit from the diverse range of skills individuals from different backgrounds and languages can bring.

Many companies recognize the value of diversity in the workplace.

87% of companies explicitly state that diversity is a priority, goal, or value.In a survey by Forbes Insights, 65% of senior business leaders listed diversity recruitment as their top priority.

What is the reason behind that?

Here are top benefits that explain why companies are making workplace diversity a priority and why you should too:

A. Gain new perspectives

Hiring people with diverse backgrounds brings a new array of perspectives to the table.And a new approach leads to benefits like better problem solving and increased productivity.

Bringing new perspectives into the company can feel intimidating for some hiring managers.But research proves that diverse teams see a 60% improvement in decision-making abilities.

B. Access a wider talent pool

Employees are no longer simply seeking a 9-to-5 job that pays well.They look for a space where they can evolve and be themselves.

A company embracing diversity attracts a broader range of candidates looking for a progressive workplace.

A Glassdoor study found that 76% of employees and job seekers report diversity as essential when evaluating companies and job offers.As a result, diverse companies are more likely to attract the best talent.

On the flip side, a company actively seeking diversity in candidates will have access to a rangier talent pool.Embracing diversity is essential to finding good hires.

C. Benefit of more creativity and innovation

Workplace diversity leads to innovation.A homogenous group of people inevitably has similar life experiences and problem-solving skills.Uniformity eliminates creativity.A heterogeneous group of employees has unique perspectives that can lead to breakthroughs.

New circumstances and environments help you find the best solutions to your problems.A recent study found that companies that score well on diversity are demonstrably more innovative.

D. Better employee performance

Diversity and inclusion go together.When you create a work environment where employees see a representation of cultures, backgrounds, and ways of thinking, they feel comfortable being themselves.Employees who feel included are more engaged and motivated to perform better.This feeling of belonging increases employee morale and leads to higher productivity.

On the other hand, according to Harvard Business Review research, a homogeneous culture can suffocate natural cognitive diversity due to the pressure to conform.If employees feel they must pretend, they are less efficient.

E. Increased profits

Many studies prove the connection between diverse teams and higher profits.

A 2015 McKinsey report shows that businesses with diverse ethnic and racial management are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry average.Additionally, those in the top quarter for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have returns above the industry mean.

Another McKinsey study found that U.S.public companies with diverse executive boards have a 95% higher return on equity than the companies with homogeneous boards.Yet another study by the Boston Consulting Group found that increasing the diversity of leadership teams leads to improved financial performance. Diversity pays off.

F. Boosting the company’ s reputation and simplifying the recruitment process

Companies that make diversity and inclusion part of their mission are desirable, socially responsible organizations - leading to a better reputation.And a good reputation attracts the best candidates.

G.Reducing employee turnover

It is simple: diversity and inclusion lead to engagement, and engaged employees stay longer.

Companies with a diverse workforce will tend to retain employees for longer, as employees who feel accepted and valued will be much less likely to leave.

Likewise, companies that value career development and care about their employees will have a higher retention rate.

H. Diverse companies make the world a better place

Fostering a culture of diversity and inclusion sets an example for the world to follow.It’ s not just good for business; it is the right thing to do.


The main challenges of diversity in the workplace

Despite offering countless benefits, fostering diversity and inclusion in the workplace comes with a handful of challenges.

Here are six reasons why employers feel hesitant to embrace a multinational environment.

a. Communication issues

Your team may face language barriers, different communication styles or preferences, or people with hearing loss.

Communication issues are common in a diverse set.It is crucial to address them before they become problematic.

For example, you find a generational difference in communication preferences.Your younger team members prefer to communicate via Slack, while your older team members prefer to use the phone.Both groups could benefit from guidance on when and how to use each platform.

Or you may find that someone who speaks English as a second language, or someone with hearing loss, is struggling to follow the conversation in meetings.If so, the meeting leader should remind attendees to speak clearly and slowly, and each attendee should feel comfortable asking for clarification if needed.

“ A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone.” — Sundar Pichai.

b. Cultural misunderstandings

Bringing people from different cultures to work together sets the ground for a clash of views.

For example, giving a thumbs up, using your left hand, or patting someone on the back are offensive gestures in some cultures.

Building an inclusive workplace can help the offended team member identify a misunderstanding as just that.When people feel confident that their team members respect their differences, they are more likely to give others the benefit of the doubt.

An inclusive workplace creates an environment where team members welcome feedback and education when they say or do something potentially offensive.Teachable moments can help each team member do their part to create a more inclusive workplace while expanding their knowledge and understanding of other cultures.

c. Slower decision making

Different perspectives, opinions, and ideas are great for innovation but can slow down decision-making and progress toward goals.For instance, a team member who challenges the status quo in a meeting may bring up an important point to explore.

Make space for this to happen by allowing more time for teams to consider different ideas, debate them, and come to more informed decisions.There are many benefits to allowing people to speak up, even in an area outside of their expertise.

However, there should always be a final decision maker who can consider all ideas and decide how to move forward.They must acknowledge and recognize contributors to ensure other team members feel valued for their concepts.

d. Less trust

People from minority groups could feel unfair treatment compared to the major groups.Similarly, they might also think the manager is nicer to people with the same background.Consequently, these groups would barely raise their voice when encountering problems.

This situation requires a sensible manager with strong leadership skills, EQ, and communication skills to manage a diverse team, make every member feel included, and align the team’ s decisions with the business’ goals.

e. Stereotypes and prejudice

Whether you like it or not, stereotypes directed at specific groups of people happen.Employees may use these stereotypes as an excuse for not collaborating with their colleagues instead of trying to communicate and understand each other.

Some people hold grudges against particular cultures, religions, and races leading to isolation and disjointed teams.This issue can escalate to disruptions during the knowledge transfer process among employees.

f. Discrimination

As you diversify your team, you could see more biases, discrimination, and harassment.61% of workers have witnessed or experienced discrimination in the workplace based on age, race, gender, or LGBTQ+ identity.Discrimination can prevent employees from bringing their authentic selves to work, hindering innovation, creativity, and teamwork.

Diversity and inclusion must go hand-in-hand.Communicate the importance of both to your team and set expectations through a Code of Conduct and Employee Handbook.

Discuss diversity and inclusion goals throughout the employee lifecycle, during recruitment and employee onboarding, and during team meetings.Everyone should be clear that diversity and inclusion are a priority and that you will not tolerate discrimination.


Overcoming diversity challenges

It is undeniable that diversity and inclusion are crucial elements of business sustainable development, and it is an inevitable trend that the company should embrace.

Here are some suggestions that your company might want to follow for an equitable and inclusive working environment.


Focus on “ culture add,” not “ culture fit”

The company should embrace the unique experiences and cultures of each employee.Different perspectives bring fresh ideas to combat the sameness.Companies should make an effort to understand the values of differences and continuously raise the awareness of employees of the subject.

Managers and team leaders should provide their members with fair and open opportunities to share and contribute their approaches for improvement.Every employee should have a chance to bring to the table their insights instead of modifying themselves to fit in with the majority.

All cultures deserve to receive the same appreciation and celebration.Treating your employees as an individual, not as a group of people, would help you overcome communication barriers.


Take a stance

Being neutral is no longer a good idea since it could cause more harm than good.Employees would feel the company is being superficial rather than being fair to them.

Managers should be aware of what is going on in the world to take a stance promptly.

More than that, HR managers should play an active role in identifying and resolving any conscious and non-conscious bias towards minority groups as fast as possible.Everyone, including you and me, wants to feel safe and supported by the companies they are working for.


Make better use of the diversity

According to a Glassdoor survey, two-thirds of workers indicated that diversity was crucial when evaluating companies and job offers.In other words, showing proof that businesses are cultivating a diverse and inclusive culture would help them stand out more in the competitive job market.

In a diverse workplace, each person has a unique set of strengths and skills which others can learn.Everyone should receive a chance to grow and learn every day from unfamiliar cultures, working styles, and perspectives.

More important is how organizations can incorporate collaboration projects and align employee development plans with the goals to ensure sustainability.Thus, the next crucial step is to have an action plan to implement all the above ideas.


How to promote diversity in the workplace?

We have established the many benefits of diversity in the workplace.

But having a truly inclusive workplace is not possible unless you analyze your workforce and implement a diversity and inclusion program from top to bottom in your organization.

So how can you go about promoting diversity in your workplace?

Here are some quick tips:

  • Create inclusive company policies: For example, allow for flexible work schedules so that people of all family situations and abilities can be as productive as possible.
  • Celebrate individual differences: A company can not be inclusive unless it values the differences between its employees.Consider running an internal blog that showcases the diversity on your team, celebrating non-local international holidays as a group, or opening up a company chats channel where people celebrate their coworkers.
  • Proactively hire for diversity: If you are not receiving a diverse pool of candidates, don’ t sit back and wait.Implement a diversity recruiting strategy— partner with minority institutions like groups of women or universities to seek out more diverse applicants proactively.You can also consider creating internships for targeted minority groups.
  • Audit your job posts for inclusive language: When looking for a candidate, you should describe only the skills useful for the job (the ability to provide your transportation) rather than using language that creates barriers (driver’ s license required).
  • Hire objectively, without bias: You can hire the best candidates without bias by screening candidates for the right skill sets.For example, rather than simply scanning candidate resumes for experience, you can test candidates on their cognitive abilities, skills, and language abilities.

Takeaway

Wrapping up

Each individual in an organization brings a diverse set of perspectives, work, life experiences, and religious and cultural differences.

The power of diversity can only be unleashed and its benefits reaped when we recognize these differences and learn to respect and value each individual regardless of their background.

Inclusive cultures make people feel respected and valued for who they are.People feel a level of supportive energy and commitment from others so they can do their best at work.

Inclusion often means a shift in an organization’ s mindset and culture that has visible effects, such as meeting participation, how offices are physically organized, or access to particular facilities or information.

Diversity is the mix, and inclusion is getting the mix to work well together.

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