Diversity in the workplace has many benefits and when it comes to profitability, the business case for diversity is clear. Companies that are more diverse are more likely to succeed. In fact, diverse organizations are 70% more likely to capture new markets than those that are not proactive about hiring and supporting minorities. Yet the pandemic resulted in increased barriers to diversity and in the current business environment, recruiting diverse talent in and of itself is not enough. To ensure a productive and creative workforce, companies must provide allyship to employees of all backgrounds for the long term. Organizations that maintain a diverse workforce and make them feel included will be able to better position themselves to thrive in tomorrow’s dynamic new economy.
Defining diversity and its significance for a post-Covid workforce
Diversity in the workplace can be defined as the collective mixture of employees’ differences and similarities. Advancing workforce diversity means accepting and promoting inclusion for employees of all backgrounds and education levels. A diverse organization is one in which a variety of social and cultural characteristics exist among individuals, along with a wide distribution of ages, ethnicities, races, and genders. When companies act upon diversity, they are taking the first step to improve the sense of inclusion felt by their employees. It is worth noting that while progress on diverse representation can be brought about relatively rapidly with the right set of initiatives, embedding inclusion within the organization means creating a culture that is built over time. Once companies deliver on their inclusion strategies, they are able to create a strong corporate ethos that resonates across a community of employees, customers, suppliers, investors and stakeholder groups.
Study after study has shown that companies, teams, and boards comprised of diverse populations outperform their non-diverse counterparts and achieve greater levels of innovation, financial success, customer satisfaction, and long-term growth. Diversity brings with it new ideas and experiences, where people can learn from each other. These different ideas and perspectives lead to better problem-solving, encourage discussions, and promote creativity.
It goes without saying, the pandemic seriously setback diversity efforts for companies around the globe. Minority groups were disproportionally affected by Covid-19, unemployment rates were significantly higher for Black and Hispanic females when compared to their Caucasian male counterparts. And a “Shecession” ensued as women in the workplace dealt with increased stress in their home lives that influenced the decision not to return to the workforce – a trend that is expected to increase. To move forward in the new world of work, prioritizing and adapting DEI initiatives is an essential aspect of combatting the barriers posed to diversity and building an engaged workforce. Organizations with strong diverse climates are more likely to have employees with increased job satisfaction and higher levels of trust who are more engaged, as well as to attract top talent from a larger pool of options. In addition to reducing turnover costs, recent research reveals that companies in the top quartile for gender, racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to make better business decisions and achieve above-average returns. This correlation does indicate that when companies commit themselves to diversity, they are more successful.
Although 65% of companies believe that DEI is a key strategic priority, only 33% report being very successful at it.
The following are key best-practice guidelines for achieving higher degrees of diversity in the workplace:
1. Recruitment – Diversity representation metrics are easy to measure. To recruit more diverse leaders and employees, increase the diversity of the recruitment pipeline, and support the promotion of minority employees. In DEI, there are many dimensions to measure. Committing to measuring and holding people accountable are key success factors. It’s not enough to publish an annual DEI report, action-items for below-par results ensure the needle actually moves.
- Use anonymous resumes to help recruit candidates from underrepresented groups.
- Use diverse hiring teams and unbiased pre-hire assessments, such as work sample tests, as well as structured assessments and interviews. Provide hiring managers with tools and resources to mitigate bias and create accountability for proportional recruitment of people from underrepresented groups.
- Recruit from colleges and universities with representation from diverse groups and remove degrees for positions where they are not required to do the job.
- Use diversity committees and/or diversity consultants to review hiring decisions.
It’s important to note that without an inclusive environment in which people can be their authentic selves, recruiting diverse talent can become a revolving door. Ensure that employees that desire role models have access to them and cultivate a feeling of belonging to avoid high turnover rates.
2. Make sure that there is a diverse representation of talent at all levels – Representation diversity is one of the main drivers of inclusion. Prioritize advancing diverse employees into executive, management, technical, and board roles and give them the tools they need to succeed remotely such as personal and professional development programs.
3. Encourage openness and combat workplace microaggressions – A microaggression is defined as a statement, action or incident that is regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle or unintentional discrimination directed at members of an underrepresented group (URG). To truly deliver on their diversity strategies, companies should maintain a zero-tolerance policy for discriminatory behavior, such as bullying and harassment, and provide continuous support for managers so they can recognize and deal with microaggressions effectively. Furthermore, clearly communicate what the organization deems as ‘welcoming behavior’ and encourage managers and employees to constantly provide constructive feedback in order to hold one another accountable.
4. Foster belonging and provide indisputable allyship – Create a culture where all team members feel they can bring their authentic selves to work. To foster a sense of community and belonging within their teams, first-line managers should clearly communicate how they plan to embrace diversity initiatives, build deep connections with a wide range of people, and support employee resource groups. Companies should then follow up by assessing belonging in the organization using data-driven people insights to ensure continuous progress.
5. Listen, act, and educate- When it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion, listening to employees is the main driver of excellence. The most successful organizations listen to employees and act accordingly. In fact, companies that are able to do so are 8.4x more likely to cultivate belonging, 8.5x more likely to retain customers, and 12x more likely to keep their talent. Beyond the role of HR, ensuring everyone from top-tier business leaders to first-line managers are heavily involved in diversity and inclusion strategies will further enforce accountability throughout all levels of the organization. Finally, to create an environment that’s truly inclusive of all individuals, inspect and assess learning and leadership development programs to ensure they are aligned with current DEI initiatives.
Recruiting diversely is easy to measure, but these practices in themselves don’t create sustainable diversity nor do they guarantee inclusion. Organizations that recruit diverse candidates without ensuring they are able to assimilate only put themselves at greater risk for high turnover and weakened morale while companies that devote themselves to inclusion and equity will retain the workforce that makes them strong and enables them to thrive.
Help mitigate bias and provide visibility into corporate diversity practices. With real-time analysis Montara enables organizations to drill down into diversity, relationships, fairness, and more. Learn how to drive diversity, continuously measure progress and cultivate an inclusive culture using actionable insights today.