There is a considerable amount of evidence that diverse teams think differently and solve problems more successfully than more similar, uniform groups. But what can a company do to promote inclusivity? And how can it make sure the effort will stick over time?
How does diversity benefit a company?
Businesses can no longer afford to shrug off these questions. Many studies have shown that employee demographics are changing at a rapid pace – according to the Baker McKenzie FutureWorks Global Employer Forum, globalization, technological change, and market growth have driven both the existence and the need for diversity. According to studies highlighted at this convention, “Companies that exhibit gender diversity are 15% more likely to outperform those that don’t. Companies that exhibit ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to outperform those that don’t.”
The numbers don’t lie, but what they don’t always tell is how to actually implement diversity into your business. Since there are so many factors that can influence workplace diversity, it’s important for businesses not only to have a plan in place, but also to identify and develop best practices, while maintaining a level of flexibility.
How can an employer implement strategies to increase diversity?
Here are 10 steps business can take to improve diversity:
1. Involve senior executives in the diversity agenda. It’s crucial to have all upper management not only aware of, but involved in developing, a diversity plan. Business leaders need to be a part of the process from the beginning, so their support and commitment will show throughout.
2. Ensure there is shared accountability for diversity within the organization. There’s no use for a business having a plan set up that the whole team isn’t committed to enforcing, or asking employees to attend courses that other departments may not be supportive of. A diversity plan will only succeed if everyone is on the same page and accountable to each other.
3. Be a role model. Companies need to make sure their leaders are setting an example by demonstrating inclusivity themselves, e.g., through their words and actions, so that employees can see them “walk the walk.”
4. Encourage a culture of open dialogue and transparency. Having an open mind is the first step to growing as a company – this especially goes for managers, who should create an environment where their employees feel comfortable sharing potential biases and key learnings from diversity training courses. The more honest a workplace’s culture, the more receptive to different perspectives and approaches, the more comfortable a workplace becomes for fostering diversity.
5. Educate & equip all employees. Diversity training should not only target managers, but also support staff who work directly with customers or represent the company in day-to-day activities. Everyone should know what diversity entails and understand its importance within an organization so they can act as agents of change. It truly has to be a company-wide movement!
6. Focus more deeply on inclusion. The key to a successful diversity program is not to rush past certain milestones or competencies, but rather ensure that employees feel included and appreciated for their identities. Many programs focus too hard on numbers – e.g., specific quotas – but even more focus should be placed on other concrete results the company wants to achieve.
7. Develop a mentoring system and other programs. If a more diverse pool of employees can see that they are given opportunities for career growth through the company, more employees will be willing to stick around and feel content. It’s important for businesses to have mentorships for specific demographics or underrepresented groups.
8. Monitor & measure results. There is no point in having a plan if it isn’t being tracked in any way. Monitoring and measuring the success of a company’s efforts can help them pinpoint strengths, weaknesses, opportunities for growth, etc., so they can better equip themselves with the knowledge needed to improve and optimize the program.
9. Be flexible and adaptable. Even the best diversity programs will encounter roadblocks along the way, so it’s important to maintain a level of flexibility to keep on track with goals. To quote a key point from the FutureWorks Global Employer Forum, “What may be labelled as a ‘pipeline challenge’ may in fact be a matter of expanding your search outside of a traditional labor pool.” Expand the hiring search to more proactively address the needs of a changing workforce.
10. Celebrate successes. An annual or biannual event to celebrate past milestones and achievements, as well as keep track of your program’s progression, is a great way to ensure that everyone involved remains motivated throughout the year.
The 10 steps listed above are just a few of the ways organizations can improve diversity within their company culture, but no matter how businesses choose to go about it, they need to remember that people of different backgrounds bring unique perspectives and life experiences that help companies grow. With the proper training, accountability, and buy-in from the company’s leaders, the plan will no doubt succeed. If there is no diversity or inclusion plan already in place, now is the time for businesses to develop one.