- What is workplace diversity?
- The benefits of a diverse workforce
- Tips for managing workplace diversity
- Keep an open mind
- Get leadership involved
- Tackle unconscious bias
- Communicate policies clearly and in writing
- Stay informed of the law
- Treat every employee uniquely
- Listen to employees’ needs
- Create a zero-tolerance policy
- Use inclusive language
- Organize diversity training
- Hire a diversity and inclusion manager
- Final thoughts
More and more companies are realizing the benefits of effectively managing diversity in the workplace. From happier employees who stay for longer, to reducing employee sickness rates and therefore money saved, trends in diversity, equity and inclusion show that there isn’t an area of a business that’s left untouched by a more diverse workforce.
In this article, you’ll learn more about those benefits and how you can manage a diverse workplace.
What is workplace diversity?
A diverse and inclusive workplace is one that includes, and embraces, employees from a range of backgrounds and life experiences, helping them receive equal opportunities and achieve their potential. It includes different genders, races, religions, disabilities, ages, sexualities, languages, qualifications and more.
Successful diversity management means creating an atmosphere where all employees can thrive. This means understanding that everyone’s life experiences are unique, require adaptations and benefit the business.
The benefits of a diverse workforce
Kirsty Heap, neurodiversity specialist coach, has found that: “People like to connect with companies that they feel understand them as an individual. So, if you’ve got a more diverse workforce, you can tap into more market areas, therefore your company can infiltrate a wider area, increasing productivity and therefore increasing finance.”
Some of the other benefits of workplace diversity include:
- Happier employees
- Lower employee churn rate
- 2.5x more cash flow per employee
- 35% increase in productivity
- More creative and effective problem solving
- More engaged employees (who are happy to take part in diversity training to increase their awareness), and
- More effective hiring.
Tips for managing workplace diversity
One of the challenges of managing diversity in the workplace is that it can require a shift in perspective and management practices for everyone within an organization. This ensures that employees and businesses get to truly experience the benefits of diverse employees.
So, how do you manage a diverse workforce? Here are some recommendations for managing diversity in the workplace:
Keep an open mind
Before a business can experience the true benefits of employee diversity, it sometimes requires internal changes, and therefore, an open mind.
Shifts in working practices or ways of thinking help a business attract more diverse employees and, equally importantly, convince them to stay.
Some of the things you may need to do to promote diversity in the workplace include updating your policies, identifying unconscious biases, and explaining the benefits of diversity to existing employees and managers.
Get leadership involved
A company’s leadership team creates the tone for the rest of the business. For a diverse workforce to truly thrive, leaders must set an example. It’s a lot easier to get employees on board with your diversity efforts when they see managers doing the same.
Showing the benefits a diverse workforce has made to other businesses, and the statistics around diversity in the workplace can help to win them over.
Providing diversity training that helps them tackle their unconscious biases will also help because they’ll be able to notice areas for improvement in the business’s diversity and inclusion practices.
Tackle unconscious bias
Unconscious bias refers to the hidden biases everyone has and acts on subconsciously. Everyone has different biases depending on their upbringing, community or workplace culture. These can be changed regardless of how long someone has held those biases. The first step is awareness.
Unconscious bias training – sharing stories from other backgrounds and cultures, and hiring more diverse employees – help tackle unconscious biases and improve the sense of inclusion and belonging in a workplace.
Communicate policies clearly and in writing
Policies, procedures and safety rules should overcome any cultural or language barriers so they’re understood by everyone within an organization. If employees are unaware of regulations or don’t understand them, they’re more likely to break them or feel unsupported. This can lead to disengagement, lower productivity and decreased revenue.
You could start by running your policies through a tool that analyzes their language. It can spot common, but problematic, phrases like “sportsmanlike” instead of “sportsperson-like,” for example.
Running text past these tools and updating it accordingly, creates a deeper sense of inclusion in the workforce, improving employee engagement, gender diversity and even the number of qualified candidates you attract to a role.
Alternatively, you could get an external, professional editor or sensitivity reader to check new and existing policies to ensure that everything is explained clearly and inclusively.
Make sure to regularly check your policies, too. Has anything changed within the business, legally or societally that means they need updating? Setting regular review dates for each policy keeps them fit for purpose.
Stay informed of the law
If a business doesn’t regularly review and refresh its workplace policies, it may find that its policies no longer reflect the latest employment law.
It’s important to keep up to date on what’s happening in the countries where you operate so that you can adapt policies to reflect current laws.
Regularly checking news websites, government websites and professional websites like this one keeps you informed and means you can update your policies when necessary.
Treat every employee uniquely
More than half of millennials are disengaged at work, according to Gallup. They’re also the most diverse generation the U.S. has ever known, both racially and ethnically. That means there are more unique experiences in the workplace than ever.
It also means that employees’ needs and expectations are more varied than ever. When you treat every employee as an individual, you’re more likely to make them feel valued like they belong and like they want to stay to make a difference.
McKinsey found that most transgender employees feel unsupported by their managers and in the workplace. Asking every employee what their gender pronouns are and listing them on employee profiles is a simple step to make them feel seen and accepted in the workplace.
Listen to employees’ needs
Compassion and empathy are important for diversity management and promoting diversity in the workplace. Just because you haven’t experienced a situation yourself doesn’t mean you can’t contribute toward the solution.
It’s important to ask employees what they need and actively listen to their answers, particularly if they come from a different background than your own. They may have suggestions you hadn’t considered before that will help you adapt the workplace to make it more appealing to diverse backgrounds.
Create a zero-tolerance policy
A zero-tolerance policy makes it clear to everyone within an organization that discrimination of any kind is unacceptable. Ensuring everyone is treated equally if they break the rules shows that breaking them is unacceptable regardless of someone’s role.
If people are treated differently when they break a rule, it invalidates not only that policy but the rest of them, too, undoing the work you did to foster diversity in the workplace.
Use inclusive language
The language someone uses says a lot about how they subconsciously think and feel.
Even though the English language doesn’t give genders to nouns like the Spanish or French languages do, there are still words in English that, subconsciously, come across as gendered. This impacts how the person reading or hearing those words feels.
The same applies to ableist or racist terms that are sometimes used without the speaker/writer being aware of their historical origins or connotations.
As many of the connotations of the language we use are subconscious, it’s common to be unaware of them without training. A variety of diversity training activities can help with this, including workshops, quizzes or articles that explain how to write more inclusively.
Organize diversity training
To effectively manage diversity, you first need to understand how to manage organizational diversity.
Offering training on diversity, equity and inclusion means managers are aware of the challenges and know what success looks like. This means the business, and its employees, are more likely to experience the rewards of having a diverse workforce.
Hire a diversity and inclusion manager
Creating a role for someone so that they can focus on diversity and inclusion within the business gives you the opportunity to outperform your competitors by improving your diversity initiatives faster. They can focus on creating a better employee experience, treating everyone as an individual, building more diverse teams, exploring new ways to improve your workplace diversity, and tracking your diversity and inclusion goals.
Having someone within the business whose purpose is to support diversity and inclusion in the workplace also shows everyone that the business is serious about its diversity efforts, boosting its employer brand.
It also increases the likelihood of somewhere attracting higher-quality candidates and getting to experience the benefits of a more diverse workplace.
Effective diversity management comes with huge benefits for company profits, employee productivity, and employee engagement.
Managing workplace diversity involves embracing everyone’s unique experiences and perspectives and utilizing those strengths. This leads to attracting higher-quality candidates and outperforming the competition.