Tech is an incredible force that will change our world in ways we can’t anticipate. If that force is only 20–30% women, that is a problem.
– Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube
What is Workplace Diversity?
Workplace diversity is defined as a diverse workplace containing employees who have visible or non-visible differences. The differences here can be defined by sex, age, background, sexual orientation, personality, culture, religion, race, etc.
It is the responsibility of the company to create and maintain an environment where these differences are appreciated while productivity flourishes. Some common diversity in the workplace examples includes training programs, mentorship programs, and serving special needs and requirements.
Taylor Cox and Blake assert that diversity is an individual’s cognitive flexibility to accept things differently. The collective flexibilities of such individuals can lead to diversity at an organizational level in the workplace. As this practice continues, organizations realize the importance of managing workplace diversity to create a more welcoming environment at work.
Here is a more specific example of diversity in the workplace for better understanding:
In 2020, Microsoft announced a $150 million initiative to promote diversity and inclusion within its organization. To increase cultural diversity in the workplace, they implemented 3 strategies:
- Set targets for diversity in hiring and promotions
- Increased support for employee resource groups
- Provided unconscious bias training for managers
Furthermore, they partnered with the National Center for Women & Information Technology to expand opportunities for women in technology. They also collaborated with Year Up to provide job training and support for young adults from underrepresented communities.
By the end of it, their US workforce consists of
- 4.9%: Black or African American employees
- 6.6%: Hispanic and Latinx employees
- 34.7%: Asian employees
- 6.1%: Self-identify as having a disability
Overall, Microsoft has been successful in managing diversity in the workplace and demonstrating a comprehensive approach to creating a more equitable and inclusive organization.
Importance of Diversity in the Workplace
The importance of workplace diversity has become an increasingly important topic in recent years. In today’s globalized world, companies recognize the benefits of having a workforce that represents a variety of backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives.
That being said, the importance of diversity in the workplace is still not felt as strongly as it should’ve been. As long as your company’s goals are being met, the requirement for a diverse workforce doesn’t come into consideration. Here’s a fact: diverse companies have 2.5x higher cash flow per employee.
If that’s not reason enough to invest in diversity, here are some more:
Access to more talent
In a world where quiet quitting, great resignation, and recession are common terms, any company is likely to face a talent shortage. Practicing diversity and inclusion in the workplace leaves room for a wider pool of candidates.
Higher chances of client satisfaction
Having clients all around the world is great. Ever wondered how you could build more trust if your Asian client interacted with an Asian employee? Regardless of the ideal market location, having an inclusive workforce aims at the higher branding of the company.
Companies scaling at a global level have to find a way to do so to maintain their profitability while ensuring productivity. The cost of production is lower in some countries. Sourcing talent from developing countries is one of the key importance of workplace diversity.
What creates an inclusive culture: Looking Inward
Creating an inclusive culture in the workplace comprehends an environment where everyone feels respected, valued, and included. Fostering such a culture employees bring their whole selves to work and feel comfortable sharing and expressing their opinions.
Imagine going to work every day, knowing that your voice will be heard and your differences celebrated. That’s what an inclusive culture in the workplace is all about.
So, how do we execute diversity and inclusion in the workplace as an integral part of our work culture?
Making equality a day-to-day habit
It takes a close look at regular activities to realize that claiming a diverse environment is far from reaching it.
Consider how promotions are decided – is it based on time spent in the office, self-nomination, or the loudest voices in the room? These methods may inadvertently hold back employees with childcare responsibilities or quieter communication styles.
Encouraging diversity in promotion decisions and creating a flexible work environment to ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed is the way forward.
Encouraging open communication
There are several ways to achieve this: Actively listening to your employees, valuing different perspectives, providing education and training, and regularly reviewing company policies. A supportive workplace leads to greater engagement, productivity, and success.
Empowering feedback culture and taking action
Dealing with a multicultural team is no cakewalk. Providing employees with a safe space to express their thoughts promotes a sense of inclusivity. Additionally, employers can identify areas where they may need to improve their workplace diversity and inclusion efforts and take steps to address any issues.
Ultimately, a feedback culture helps foster an environment of continuous learning and improvement. This is essential for building a truly diverse and inclusive workforce.
Managing diversity in the workplace
Implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace was not a priority in the past. Some companies practiced it by simply dealing with systematic discrimination. This method does get rid of discrimination on some levels but does not necessarily promotes diversity extensively.
Now, many companies are implementing initiatives to increase diversity and inclusion in their workplaces, such as creating diversity councils and offering unconscious bias training.
However, there are still many disparities in representation and opportunities for marginalized groups in many workplaces. For example, according to a report by Quantic, only 8.1% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women still. This poses a challenge to gender diversity in the workplace. To overcome such challenges, we need to be aware of diversity management and its aspects.
So, what is diversity management?
Diversity management is a practice where people feel valued and supported. In this practice, they are more likely to contribute their best ideas and work collaboratively towards shared objectives. It helps organizations meet their goals by creating a more inclusive and productive work environment.
To understand workplace diversity management better, you need to recognize the various dimension of diversity. This will help you grasp the focus points of each group and how to create solutions unique to their needs. After all, all humans are diverse.
How to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace: A step-by-step process.
By now, you must have enough understanding on what is diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Let us now go through the steps to promote it.
Step 1: Build an inclusive culture and uphold it – Create a culture that values and supports workplace diversity and inclusivity. Ensure that all employees are aware of its values.
Step 2: Set goals focusing on diversity – Set measurable goals for improving diversity and inclusivity within your organization. Regularly track and report progress towards these goals.
Step 3: Make it a team effort – Involve all employees in the effort to build workplace diversity. Provide opportunities for education and training on these topics.
Step 4: Shape and reshape the hiring process – Review and revise your hiring process to remove any biases or barriers that may prevent diverse candidates from being considered.
Step 5: Diversify the talent pool – Proactively seek out and attract diverse talent. Establish relationships with organizations and communities that represent diverse populations.
Step 6: Equal compensation for equal work – Ensure that all employees are paid fairly and equitably, regardless of their gender, race, or other personal characteristics.
Step 7: Develop an inclusive onboarding process – Create an onboarding process that welcomes and supports new employees from diverse backgrounds. Provides them with the tools and resources they need to feel comfortable.
Step 8: Acknowledge mistakes and take action – Be willing to admit when mistakes have been made. Take swift and effective action to address any issues related to diversity and inclusivity.
Step 9: Stay ahead of the mainstream – Continually educate your team on emerging trends and best practices related to workplace diversity. Be willing to experiment and try new approaches.
Step 10: Sustain and celebrate diversity – Regularly recognize and celebrate the diversity within your organization. Ensure that your commitment to workplace diversity and inclusivity remains a top priority over the long term.
Some examples of diversity in the workplace:
- Inclusive bathroom signs
- Flexible work hours
- Recognizing and celebrating events (Black History Month or Pride Month)
- Practicing round-robin in meetings
- Having a mother’s room
Benefits of diversity in the workplace
Recognizing and embracing the advantages of diversity in the workplace can have significant benefits for businesses. In this section, we will explore and examine how these advantages can contribute to the success of organizations.
Greater gains on investment
A study shows that Companies in the top 25% for gender diversity tend to earn 25% more than those in the bottom 25%. According to the same study, profits are higher for companies with diverse executive leadership and boards.
Increased productivity and better results
Teams that follow an inclusive process make decisions 2X faster with half the meetings. Diverse teams also deliver 60% better results in their decisions.
Greater innovation and creativity
Workplace diversity brings different perspectives and ideas, sparking creativity and innovation. This leads to more effective and innovative solutions, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and driving the organization forward.
Promotes employer branding
In a study by Deloitte, 80% of respondents suggested that workplace diversity is an important factor when choosing an employer.
48% of Gen Z are racial and ethnic minorities. Prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace is essential for organizations to succeed in the 21st century. Failing to do so may cause companies to fall behind the curve.
Challenges of diversity in the workplace
While we understand why is diversity important in the workplace, we need to address the challenges faced while implementing it. These challenges can be divided into two broad categories: internal and external. Let’s understand them better.
1. Internal Challenges
Internal challenges of workplace diversity can be explained in 3 points:
- Some companies did not invest in diversity management due to the belief that it is not necessary to meet employee and public expectations.
- Another reason for the lack of diversity management is a lack of awareness about the term “diversity.”
- Some companies struggle to change their current culture and lack internal expertise and knowledge. They have difficulty quantifying the benefits of a diverse workforce, leading to a reluctance to invest.
For example, in India, 40% of employers don’t have a formal plan to promote diversity, inclusion, and belonging (DI&B). However, they believe they are still inclusive or taking steps to prevent discrimination in the workplace.
2. External Challenges
The external challenges too can be explained in 3 points:
- Legal restrictions in many countries make it difficult to gather information on employees’ personal characteristics related to diversity.
- Anti-discrimination laws often have gaps that may hinder diversity initiatives.
- Differences in social attitudes and values can pose challenges for diversity management, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses.
Organizations should be asking themselves, ‘How can we by default be inclusive?’ Not by process or policy
– Satish Rajarathnam, Sr. V.P & Global Head of Strategic Resourcing, Mphasis.
What is the workplace inclusion framework?
The workplace diversity and inclusion framework (according to a webinar by Great Place To Work in India) views diversity and inclusion from two perspectives:
1. Employee Experience
Employee experience in a company is determined by a behavioral perspective. This contains observing employees in an office through their attitudes, actions, and opinions. These observations can be made manually or through a feedback survey culture.
There are 3 main components in this perspective:
- Leadership intent: Employees have to believe in the idea of diversity, equity, and inclusion to take the initiative for the same. This can be done by creating awareness by spreading diversity and inclusion in the workplace examples.
- Managerial support: It’s not enough for employees to take inclusion initiatives without their managers’ support. It is the responsibility of the company and HR to encourage managers to support these causes.
- Workplace culture: Maintaining the overall culture of the organization is one of the most important aspects of this framework. The above diversity promotional points mentioned can help you achieve this.
2. Inclusive People Policies
People’s policies fall into the changes of systems at a structural level in the company to make it more inclusive. For starters, the company has to be supportive of the inclusivity cause at a policy level. The ideas must be backed by written documents that all employees abide by.
These policies hover around 5 areas:
- Access: Ensuring that the company is accessible to diversity. This starts with the hiring process.
- Integrate: Integrating diversity hires into the company. For example, sensitizing programs and educating managers.
- Support: Containing policies like gender-neutral POSH policy, gender-neutral health insurance, accepting grievance letters, etc.
- Develop: Implementing diversity does not end at hiring. It is necessary to develop a system for inclusion to thrive at an employee and organizational level.
- Enable Success: Enabling success for all employees at an equal level by avoiding unconscious bias and encouraging fair promotions.
- Impact: Observing and assessing the impact of these policies and steps create on the company.
The company policies and diversity practices designed keeping in mind the above framework will enable a company to enjoy the true benefits of having workplace diversity.
Implementing workplace diversity is undoubtedly an essential first step toward creating an inclusive environment. However, true diversity and inclusion require a more profound shift in our thinking and behavior. We must strive to hardwire diversity in our brains at a philosophical and physiological level. We need to fundamentally change our attitudes, biases, and habits to create a more equitable and inclusive workplace.
In the future, it will be even more important for workplaces to be inclusive of people from all backgrounds. This means employers will need to work harder to identify and address any biases they may have and provide ongoing training for all employees.
To create an inclusive workplace, we need to make sure that everyone feels valued and respected for who they are. This includes recognizing and celebrating people’s diverse perspectives and experiences. Overall, the future of inclusion at work requires a long-term commitment to creating a welcoming environment for all.