The common perception is that diversity and inclusion is an HR prerogative. But that’s not true.
While the HR team is responsible for driving diversity and inclusion in the workplace, it needs to be a leadership priority that works from the top down.
Embracing diversity and creating an inclusive culture is about making people from different backgrounds, genders, races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and cultures feel accepted and included.
When you do that, your employees are likely to feel more engaged and motivated. What’s more, promoting diversity and inclusion is more than just a moral obligation — it also has a proven impact on business performance.
As per a study by Deloitte, organizations with inclusive cultures are:
- 2x more likely to meet or exceed financial targets
- 3x more likely to be high-performing
- 6x more likely to be innovative and agile
- 8x more likely to achieve better business outcomes
Let’s take a closer look at how you can promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace in 2021.
1. Set diversity and inclusion goals
Just the way you set goals to achieve business growth, it’s essential to set SMART diversity and inclusion goals to bring them into reality.
It can’t be something as top-level as “hiring more women”. You need to set more specific and tangible goals that are in line with your business and talent priorities.
According to this Fast Company article, one of the biggest mistakes companies make is setting oversimplified goals that don’t facilitate lasting change.
The article states, “Instead of starting out by focusing on getting a certain number of hires, which may not facilitate lasting change, at Jopwell, we push our partners to first focus on process and setting goals that zero in on changing hiring infrastructure.”
Start with taking a look at your existing workforce — which groups are underrepresented? It’s also a good idea to send out a company-wide survey to uncover insights the top management might be overlooking.
You need to also evaluate the existing processes that might be preventing you from creating an inclusive culture. These are a few factors you can assess:
- How do you write job descriptions?
- What is your hiring process?
- Who is part of the interviewing panel?
- What is your onboarding process?
- How are you holding remote meetings?
- Do you promote a feedback culture?
A good example of a SMART diversity and inclusion goal is that of Airbnb’s. The company set two key goals:
- By the end of 2025, 20% of their US employees will be underrepresented minorities
- By the end of 2025, at every level, 50% of their global employees who identify in the gender binary will be women
2. Educate your employees through training
Employees make the company and if your employees aren’t aware of what diversity and inclusion entail, there’s no way you can cultivate it.
This is why it’s crucial to develop an employee training and development program aimed at educating employees, helping them identify blind spots, and training them to be more sensitive to others.
Workable suggests setting two types of training goals:
- Cognitive: learning definitions and getting familiar with facts
- Emotional: initiating self-reflection and learning how to be empathetic
Make sure the training program is geared towards employees across the organization and is an ongoing initiative. It’s a good idea to create action plans, have open dialogues, and regularly check-in with them to track progress.
Here at Herrmann, we can help make both the cognitive and emotional aspects of your training more powerful through personalization and stickiness. Our Inclusion Impacts program, developed with CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion, provides a great way of using cognitive diversity to create ongoing psychological safety as a part of your diversity & inclusion training initiatives.
3. Create accessible designs
While designing any sort of communication or training material, it’s essential to design for diversity.
This involves creating designs for people with color blindness, visual impairment, and neurodiversity, ensuring that majority of your employees can access and understand the material.
Some best practices include:
- Using color-blind friendly color palettes
- Using large and legible fonts
- Avoiding walls of text
- Using icons and photos to create context
- Using clean and simple backgrounds
For instance, here’s an example of a presentation with accessible design. Notice how it uses a simple color palette and easy-to-read fonts, making it suitable for most people living with color blindness.
4. Create a diversity and inclusion council
Your company structure is likely to have department heads that are responsible for their respective functions and team performance. This ensures that every team is working collaboratively towards the larger business goals.
The same logic applies to creating a diversity and inclusion council.
Consisting of top-level and middle management leaders, this council needs to be responsible for driving and accelerating the organization’s diversity and inclusion goals. Needless to say, it should include a diverse representation of the workforce.
For instance, Abercrombie & Fitch has four diversity and inclusion councils which consist of professionals from different business functions and locations across the world.
These councils represent a cross-section of seniority, gender, age, sexual orientation, ability status, and cultural and racial diversity in the organization.
5. Evaluate your leadership team
According to a McKinsey report, when respondents say leaders at their organizations are diverse, they are 1.5 times more likely than those from organizations without diverse leaders to feel very included.
This proves that the key to creating an inclusive culture stems from having a diverse set of leaders.
Evaluate your current leadership team — is there a diverse representation? Do they reflect your target customer base? What are the gaps in your leadership team?
This will help you assess your current stance and understand what you need to do to build a more diverse team.
In addition to strategic succession planning and retaining talent from underrepresented sections, it’s also important to develop leadership training programs that sensitize them and give them the opportunity to practice what they learn.
6. Overcome hiring bias
Hiring bias is a major barrier that prevents organizations from creating a diverse and inclusive workforce. There are different types of unconscious biases that exist such as affinity bias, attribution bias, and confirmation bias among others.
Here are some ways to overcome hiring bias and improve inclusion:
- Use neutral language while writing job descriptions
- Diversify your sources of recruiting candidates
- Use Artificial Intelligence (AI) hiring tools
- Be mindful of the questions you ask during an interview
- Organize multiple rounds of interviews with different interviewers
- Create a standardized template to evaluate candidates
The takeaway: Promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace
Building a diverse and inclusive workforce is not something that happens overnight. However, the earlier you make conscious efforts to drive change, the better it is for your organization.
These six effective tactics will help you promote diversity and inclusion while building a more future-ready workforce.