Diversity in the workplace should be more than just an issue of compliance with the law; it should be embraced because it can greatly benefit organisations and boost performance, while it’s also a step towards building a society that is more accepting.
Diversity at work is often restricted to race, but the reality is that it encompasses various other attributes, including age, gender, ethnic group, personality, work style, education, sexual orientation and gender reassignment. In most companies, the responsibility to develop policies that protect and promote diversity falls under the HR department, so read on to find out why and how you can build an effective diversity strategy.
The Benefits of Workplace Diversity
In their never-ending quest for talent, many organisations tend to forget about diversity in the workplace. However, it’s important that diversity becomes a focal point during the recruitment process as it’s essentially the first step toward creating a multicultural work environment. Recruiting from the same school over and over again, for example, will generally result in a very homogeneous group that has nothing new to offer.
Organisations that are successful in building inclusive and diverse work environments, on the other hand, take diversity seriously and seek to take action and spend resources on cultivating a workplace made up of people from different backgrounds, aspirations and work styles.
Some benefits include:
One of the biggest struggles HR managers have is helping new employees adapt. A diverse and fair environment, however, can minimise this struggle and make things easier. Research has shown time and again that employees who have friends at work are less likely to leave and this also helps boost their performance. The same goes when the environment is diverse. Let’s say, for example, that you’ve hired a baby boomer and they are the only one in a sea of Millennials. Adapting will be much more difficult for them than if there were more employees from that specific age group.
But it’s not just new employees that find it easier to adapt. Hiring people from various groups of society can also help the organisation become more adaptable to industry trends and changes. People with different backgrounds will respond differently to market changes and this can be key in keeping the company ahead of competition.
Broader Range of Services
Another benefit of a diverse workplace is that it allows some of the most diverse companies to offer a broader range of services. This includes – but does not restrict to – services that relate to language and cultural understanding. Having a team that is diverse in itself means that it will also be more sensitive to potential customer needs. Remember that we are shaped by our experiences, so having a team comprised of people with different experiences will help make everyone more attuned to potential customer issues.
Having people on board from different backgrounds can also be beneficial if the company is planning to expand and needs people that can be trusted to help drive the expansion.
Creativity and Innovation
Businesses need creative and innovative employees in order to move forth, and this is why they are, after all, always in the search of talented individuals. What many recruiters tend to overlook, however, is that creativity and innovation are often the product of collective effort. As such, having a group of people with different backgrounds, experiences, expectations, opinions and preferences can be ideal in generating strategies and practises that can help the organisation become a leader in its industry.
Admittedly, this can get tricky if you want to take cultural fit into account when hiring someone new because you’ll inevitably be prone to hiring someone with the same characteristics as the existing team. But it’s important to avoid this trap; a great cultural fit can often mean someone who has all those characteristics that the rest of the team is lacking.
Workplace diversity is not only important because it brings together people from different backgrounds but also because it leads to increased performance. As you probably know, creating an environment where people feel welcome and safe can lead to better performance, and diverse workplaces do just that. They make people from all backgrounds feel at home and this helps push people to meet their goals.
How to Build a Diverse Workplace
It’s important to note that, although HR professionals have an important role to play in building a diverse workplace, the truth is that in order to build a successful strategy it has to be the management’s goal as well. It’s vital that a company’s diversity strategy is aligned with its business goals as this is the only way to add real value to business performance.
The key for HR managers is to understand that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to building a diverse workplace. What your strategy will include and what the metrics you will put into place to track success will depend heavily on your company’s specific objectives and industry. So, if your company is multinational organisation with branches across the world, for example, you will need to have different metrics for diversity than if you operated in the hospitality industry.
Here are some tips to help you build an effective strategy:
Ensure That the Strategy Is Flexible
Establishing policies that seek to promote fairness is vital but that does not mean that you can’t be flexible or that you can’t tailor your approach to different situations. Often, having a single approach can hurt diversity, so make sure that you leave room in your policies for exceptions.
Develop a Recruitment Strategy That Caters to Diversity Needs
It goes without saying that to start developing a diverse workforce, you need to align this goal with your recruitment strategy. Make sure that everyone involved in the process understands and shares the same goals.
Create Partnerships with Local Organisations
In order to effectively promote your employer brand and establish the organisation as an employer of choice for people from diverse backgrounds, you need to create visibility for the organisation. One of the best ways to do that is to create partnerships with local organisations and offer the company’s services pro bono.
Invest in Diversity Training
If there has never been an official diversity strategy in place and you’re trying to implement one now, it may be time to consider training staff on what inclusiveness at work means and how it can be achieved. This is especially important if the need for this strategy has been sparked by incidents of non-inclusiveness within the organisation. Having said that, make sure that the type of training provided caters to staff needs, otherwise you risk creating the illusion that diversity is a work task which can keep employees from embracing it.
As with most HR strategies, you will need to rely on managers to implement diversity solutions in the workplace, and this can only mean one thing: you need to educate managers. Explain why it’s beneficial, the reasons the company is implementing this strategy, how it aligns to business goals and what they can do to help. If you have reason to believe that there are departments that won’t be willing to cooperate, monitor those managers closely. Any type of racism should not be tolerated and you need to make people aware of the consequences.
Take Diversity into Account When Building Teams
It’s important to make diversity a constant, so make sure that each work team consists of people from different backgrounds. This will not only help contribute to their performance but also help maintain diversity standards.
Track Your Efforts
As you probably know, without the right metrics in place, an HR strategy is as good as non-existent, so make sure you put into place effective KPIs and that you assign someone to oversee recruitment and outreach efforts.
Focus on Retention
A crucial mistake many HR departments make when developing diversity strategies is that they focus their efforts in recruitment. However, retention is just as important as it helps ensure that you’re effective in building a diverse workplace. Retention can also help build up the company’s employer brand which, in turn, can help with recruitment.
Be Mindful of Organisational Culture
It’s important that everyone feels welcome in the workplace, and this means that you need to remain on top of the culture at all times. If there is any behaviour that disrupts the positive approach towards diversity in the workplace, it needs to be addressed swiftly.
Workplace diversity is crucial for all companies but it’s even more important for organisations that are interested in success as it’s an effective means of boosting performance and inviting in creativity and innovation.
What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of implementing a diversity strategy in the workplace? Let me know in the comments section below.