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Don’t get left behind – diversity and inclusion in the workplace

It’s no secret that diversity and inclusion are popular buzz words in today’s business world. It’s also well known that businesses with a healthy balance of gender, race and age are more likely to outperform their competitors. But how can they deliver effective diversity and inclusion schemes?

It’s no secret that diversity and inclusion are popular buzz words in today’s business world. It’s also well known that businesses with a healthy balance of gender, race and age are more likely to outperform their competitors. But how can they deliver effective diversity and inclusion schemes?

 Diversity in the workplace matters and organisations have different drivers for improving inclusion. For some, it is business outcomes; for others, it’s cultural awareness.

Even if not done for purely commercial reasons, though, there are invariably bottom-line benefits. Diversity within a business enables organisations to better understand and reflect the representation of their customers, encourages better team performance and enhances innovation and creativity – dispelling the myth that it is only about quotas and a measure for the CEO community.

As such, it makes sense that diversity should not just be a measure of different characteristics such as race, gender and disability, but a drive to include all cultural nuances.

Hiring, recognising and promoting people for who they are – celebrating their unique differences and their exemplary work – represents a competitive advantage for organisations of all shapes and sizes.

Ultimately, listening to others, working together and respecting others for who they are and what they bring to a business are key to creating a diverse organisation where everyone feels they belong.

Every person’s experiences have a huge impact on performance and it stands to reason that the more freely an employee feels they can be themselves, the better they will contribute, collaborate and perform. So how do organisations ensure that their recruitment process is fair, engaging and feasible?

Internally, it is vital that they review their current demographics, pinpoint key areas that they would like to enhance/change and understand why they need a more diverse workforce for these roles. Whilst a strategy will derive from leadership and the C-Suite, it is imperative that any kind of diversity and inclusion framework is employee-led as this is the core route to creating a cultural shift in the workplace.

It has been seen through experience that if employees are not on board with inclusion strategies, then changes will not take place, so it is crucial that you communicate with your workforce about how and why they are being introduced. The creation of an inclusion task force can help with the communication of vision, also acting as fantastic advocates to the business – encouraging champions to promote the agenda, cascading information, rallying support and leading forums.

It can be easy to focus on the internal workforce and forget that one of the key groups to communicate your inclusion strategy is to new recruits. When researching your organisation, candidates will be looking at job descriptions, your corporate website and social channels. It is therefore critical to ensure that your recruitment process is reviewed and any core problem areas identified.

Creating or modifying your Employer Value Proposition (EVP) is essential to ensure that you have a compelling message that attracts and engages talent from all segments of society. An EVP should reflect an organisation’s commitment to equality, work-life balance and empowerment.

It can then be used across all touch-points for a candidate including the website, reinforcing your dedication to creating an inclusive workforce. However, identifying where to find passive and sometimes less obvious talent communities and engaging proactively and directly with them is what will make the biggest difference in enticing a diverse workforce, so attraction strategies must be researched, robust and well planned.

The selection process is also an area where many employers struggle to understand how to remove unconscious bias within the interviewer/hiring manager community. This can be reduced by removing personal information at submission to eliminate any opportunity for unconscious bias and implement guaranteed interviews for minority candidates.

Defining relevant or alternative qualifications and educating hiring managers on their value and suitability are also essential as it ensures inclusion and equal employment opportunities.

As with all long-term strategies, it will be useful to ensure that you are continually checking in with your employees to measure their thoughts and feelings on the organisation’s make up and perhaps highlight key areas that need work/re-visiting.

Utilising employee engagement surveys to regularly measure the different aspects of diversity is one way of doing this. For example, you could take a pulse survey to see how your people feel about your organisation. Gauge their views on how freely an employee can be their authentic self at work, how well-supported they feel and what inclusion issues are most important to them.

Community collaboration, for example, working with charities and external community groups, is often highly regarded by employees when aligned with what they place highest value on. Use this data to drive initiatives and engage their support – and allow them to lead on it.

Companies that recruit from a diverse range of backgrounds have the potential to introduce valuable insights and perspectives. However, achieving cohesion and collaboration between team members within a diverse workforce may be more difficult due to the wide range of perspectives and opinions involved.

That’s why it’s vital for employers who are looking to seize the benefits of diversity to develop strategies that encourage collaboration and understanding. Through a combination of agile thinking, flexible processes and a determination to find, attract and hire varied talent, organisations will reap the productivity and success that forward thinking and inclusive companies are proven to achieve.

Alison Hallett – Client Services Director at Cielo.

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