It is no longer acceptable for organisations to pay lip service to equality, diversity and inclusion within the workplace.
As well as meeting legal requirements in these areas, employers should also be attune to the social and cultural expectations that people are treated fairly and equally and that opportunities are made available without discrimination or prejudice.
Research consistently shows that companies with effective diversity and inclusion programmes show stronger impact in relation to employee engagement and performance. A proactive and sustained commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion has become a critical success factor in effective business and people strategies.
While the HR department may take the lead in ensuring a diverse and inclusive workforce, pervasive and authentic organisational impact can only be achieved with commitment and ownership from across the organisation.
As hot topics in the business world, diversity and inclusion are named as priority targets in practically every HR department’s strategy. Yet, very few organisations comprehensively implement the company-wide practices needed to achieve these goals.
It is not enough simply to consider diversity in hiring and promoting practices; employers must consider all aspects of the working environment and seek to promote inclusion at every level.
This guide will examine the core principles of diversity, inclusion and equality in the workplace, while highlighting some of the most important strategies every employer must consider, to ensure these goals are met. In prioritising the creation and maintenance of a diverse and inclusive workplace culture, you can increase employee engagement, boost productivity and drive the business towards its bottom line.
Principles of diversity, equality and inclusion
A diverse workforce includes people of different ethnicities, races, genders, ages, religious background, sexual orientations and people with disabilities. Furthermore, it should include different experience levels, educational backgrounds, personal attributes and interests. In a diverse and inspiring work environment, these differences form a melting pot of creativity and innovation that can give your company a competitive edge.
Though, reaping the business rewards that true diversity can offer will take more than just monitoring and adjusting your workforce demographic. In pursuit of the ultimate productive and innovative environment, employers must take steps to understand, accommodate and value differences among their employees. The view that all employees should be treated equally regardless of their age, ethnicity, educational background or other factors is outdated. This focus on equality has now been replaced with an understanding that difference must be acknowledged and encouraged, to yield positive business results. This celebration of difference is known as “inclusion”. Without inclusivity, it is impossible to truly leverage the benefits of a diverse workforce.
Diversity & inclusion strategies
Employers should take a synergistic approach to ensuring diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Considering this approach is not purely the domain of HR and must be a focus for all levels of management, from CEOs down to line managers. It is important to note that many of the most effective diversity and inclusion strategies are not exclusively related to diversity.
While this list is non-exhaustive, employers should consider the following best practices:
- Establishing organisational flexibility which ensures the fair treatment of all members of the workforce
- Company-wide diversity and inclusion training, focusing on key issues such as subconscious bias
- Establishing employee social groups and networks to foster understanding of difference and a sense of community among the workforce
- Setting out behavioural standards and assigning management leaders who will be responsible for ensuring these standards are met
- Assigning a diversity and inclusion leader at the top executive level, or creating a dedicated role
- Taking a top-down approach to the development and implementation of diversity and inclusion strategies
- Ensuring diversity and inclusion strategies are integrated into all aspects of the company’s operations, including training programs, recruitment, promotion practices and performance management
- Developing and implementing an externally visible scoring system to record and monitor metrics relating to recruitment, promotion, staff turnover and compensation levels. Periodic analysis of this data will allow for adjustments to be made to less effective diversity and inclusion strategies, to ensure continuous improvement over time.
5 steps to promote equality diversity and inclusion in the workplace
1. Audit your current approach
To improve diversity and inclusion, a thorough analysis of your organisation’s current position with regards to these issues must be conducted. This will allow you to identify key areas for development within the company’s mission, baseline behaviours and general culture. You may wish to consider the following questions during the analysis stage:
- Does the demographic of your workforce reflect that of wider society?
- Do the company’s recruitment strategies reach a wide audience and attract a diverse range of talent?
- Are your employees currently aware of your diversity and inclusion policies?
Do the company’s mission, general communications and interactions with customers promote diversity?
- Do the senior managers consistently behave in a way that promotes diversity and inclusion?
- Are meetings and training sessions purposely orchestrated in a way that equally encourages participation from all attendees?
- Do all members of the workforce feel comfortable expressing their ideas, needs and concerns?
2. Develop strategies to diversify your workforce
If step one has exposed the need for improvements in workforce diversity, consider how you might work to achieve this. Adjust your recruitment strategies to ensure job advertisements reach the widest possible audience. While hiring managers must not positively discriminate, strict procedures should be put in place to ensure all candidates receive fair consideration. The same procedures should be followed when filling vacancies internally to ensure workforce diversity at all levels of the organisation.
3. Adjust company missions and values
This step comes hand in hand with adjusting recruitment strategies. Your company mission statement and core values must-read ‘diversity and inclusion’ to all potential employees and existing members of staff. Your employees must be clear on the company’s stance on diversity and must feel that their workplace culture both promotes and supports difference.
4. Diversity and inclusion training
Inclusion awareness training is arguably the most important aspect of any organisation’s diversity policy. Employers should develop appropriate programs with the mindset that diversity and inclusion training is not a ‘one-time’ event. You may wish to implement annual seminars or training sessions, to ensure all employees are reminded of the standards they must meet. As aspect of the company’s onboarding program should also include diversity and inclusion training, so that new employees understand what is expected of them as soon as they enter the workforce.
5. Develop succession planning procedures
In addition to diversifying hiring practices, employers must take steps to ensure all employees receive equal opportunity for progress. Unfortunately, it is usual for workforce demographic to become less diverse the further up the management hierarchy you go. It is not enough simply to make it clear that all employees may apply for internal positions, or that everybody has equal opportunity to progress. Culturally marginalised employees may still feel that these opportunities are less for them than they are for other people. Therefore, line managers should make a point of ensuring all eligible employees know their application would be welcome as internal opportunities arise.
Behaviours that support equality diversity and inclusion in the workplace
Promoting diversity, inclusion and equality in the workplace begins with outlining policies, though it certainly does not end there. Company policies are not worth the paper they are written on unless employers also take steps to nurture an inclusive culture among their employees, which begins with considering behaviours. Through business-wide behaviour management, it is possible to create an environment where every employee feels valued and supported, irrespective of their race, age, gender, sexuality, or experience level. Keep in mind that the behaviours displayed during any interaction between staff members – verbal or otherwise – can positively or negatively affect inclusivity.
In setting out desired behaviours, employers should consider:
- Language: All staff members must be clear on what kind of language is and is not acceptable in the workplace.
- Discriminatory actions: The organisation must have a zero-tolerance policy towards discrimination of any kind. All employees must be made aware of the consequences of behaving in a discriminatory manner.
- Open communication: In addition to promoting inclusion, managers must be trained to actively seek out exclusion in the workplace – as it may not be immediately obvious.
During regular check-ins and performance reviews employees should be given the chance to express concerns they have regarding transparency, equal opportunity, fairness.
Once the desired behaviours have been identified, senior management must lead the way to ensure company-wide compliance. It is essential the organisation’s leaders are seen consistently and proudly displaying inclusion-promoting behaviours during every workplace interaction.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute tax, financial or legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the rules and should not be treated as such.
Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission.
Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert tax, financial, legal or other advice should be sought.