Workplace diversity has become an increasingly common topic amongst recruiters, employers and hiring managers. Now, business leaders appreciate the tangible benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce for both the company and its employees.
However, in 2021 diversity isn’t just about factoring in age, gender and race but hiring a wider range of people to add value to businesses.
What is diversity in the workplace?
Most people understand the broad diversity and equality definition, but this needs to be more specific in the workplace.
Put simply, diversity in the workplace means that a company hires a wide range of diverse individuals. Though often misconstrued as solely multicultural, diversity applies to gender, race, ethnicity, age, sexuality, language, and educational background.
However, it’s important not to hire for diversities sake. A study by the University of Michigan found that hiring for diversity sometimes meant that those hires were viewed as less qualified and able.
More recently, diversity and inclusion in the workplace have extended to ensure companies increase participation, performance, and compensation, not just hiring to ‘tick a box.’
A more diverse workforce is essential for the well-being of a company’s employees and the business itself. The key benefits for employees of a diverse workplace include increased confidence through being more confident in their own unique qualities resulting from recognising and embracing diversity in their organisation and boosting employee engagement and morale and reducing conflict.
Employers benefit from a diverse workforce through an increased range of ideas from a broader range of creativity and different perspectives. In addition, increased employee engagement will often lead to better team performance and enhance the company’s reputation, resulting in a more straightforward recruitment process as candidates will be keen to work in a company that values diversity and inclusion.
Other areas where companies will benefit from having a diverse workforce include having a wider talent pool to choose from, better understanding their customers, reduce employee turnover by fostering a culture of acceptance and valuing their employees.
Why diversity matters?
Diversity in the workplace is more than just a social imperative; it has a financial impact on a company’s performance.
A 2018 study by McKinsey showed that diverse teams performed better with public companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity 33% more likely to have financial returns above the industry average, and 21% when it comes to gender diversity.
Diverse teams will often have different approaches to problem-solving, offering new analytical skills that will ultimately result in stronger products and services that will serve a broader range of customers.
When you are looking to recruit, your company’s diversity and inclusion can play a significant role in how candidates perceive you. 67% of job seekers say that a diverse workforce is an essential factor when evaluating companies and job offers, and 83% of millennials say they are more engaged when their company fosters an inclusive culture.
However, achieving greater diversity isn’t necessarily easy. In top corporations’ executive teams in the United States, only 16% of them include women at a senior level. However, this is better than the United Kingdom at 12% and Brazil at just 6%. When it comes to racial diversity, the United Kingdom does comparatively better, albeit at a low level, with 78% of companies having a senior leadership team that fails to reflect the demographic composition of their workforce and the country’s population, though better than Brazil at 91% and the United States at 97%. These numbers highlight the work that remains to be done, even as companies recognise the need for greater diversity.
As we live in a deeply connected and diverse world, it shouldn’t be surprising that diverse companies and institutions are achieving better performance, and companies must do more to take full advantage of the benefits that diverse leadership teams represent.
This is especially true for talent pipelines attracting, developing, mentoring, sponsoring, and retaining the next generation of global leaders, so that organisations can capitalise on the higher returns that come with a culture of diversity and inclusion.
How to diversify your workplace
Now that companies are beginning to embrace the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce and want to improve their workplace diversity, what’s the best approach to make the transition easier and more effective?
Keep diversity in mind from day one. Whether you’re building a new company from scratch or a new team, act from day one considering the diversity of your workforce and how you plan to recruit.
When potential talent is considering your organisation, it is crucial to keep in mind the message you are projecting. For example, the vocabulary you use in your job descriptions could influence who applies because of bias in your job listing. However, by using neutral titles and no gendered pronouns (he/she), you reduce the chance of a candidate being biased and not applying.
Additionally, it isn’t uncommon for companies to have an unfair recruitment process, so business leaders need to institute processes that minimise bias and focus on what’s essential: skills. This can be achieved by ensuring that the hiring team doesn’t have any unnecessary information that could cause bias, such as names, age, gender or pictures, and there is a diverse group of interviewers available for each candidate.
The most effective way to diversify your workforce is to ensure your employees feel comfortable and happy working for your company. One way to do this is to allow employees time off for religious holidays that may be in addition to the company standard and incorporate some flexibility with hours. Hence, employees feel they are welcome in what you are promoting as a culturally diverse company.
Work is a significant part of our lives, and since the start of the pandemic, your employees have enjoyed the flexibility that homeworking has offered. As the UK fully reopens for business, continuing to provide some flexibility and homeworking, a hybrid approach, will reinforce the inclusivity of your company. Additionally, if you’re able to offer comprehensive health insurance, maternity and paternity leave, flexibility within their home life and gender-neutral bathrooms, you will be going a long way to accommodating the needs of your employees.
Finally, it is essential that diversity extends to every area of your company, from the senior management team through to entry-level positions. This can have a strong bearing on team morale, retainment, and an organisation’s output and profitability. In addition, your leadership team will influence the rest of your organisation, so if they are diverse, this ethos will flow through the remainder of the company.