How to build a more diverse and inclusive workplace

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The terms diversity, inclusivity, and equity (rather than equality) are becoming more commonplace in the corporate world, driven by growing awareness both on and offline of the biases and prejudices – often unconscious – that can lead to a lack of representation and involvement of people of different ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, ages, backgrounds, religions, disabilities, and abilities in the workplace.

The importance of diversity and inclusivity goes beyond legal compliance, and it is more than just the latest buzzwords getting the ‘flavour-of-the-month’ treatment. Research suggests that diversity helps to boost innovation and can improve everything from revenue to team performance. Diversity and inclusivity practices also boosts recruitment practices and can help foster the right kind of culture in your organisation.

Beyond these benefits, there is also a moral imperative – not just to hire a diverse and inclusive workforce, but to empower them to share their unique perspectives and play a vital role in shaping the success of your business. Society is changing, and businesses play a vital role in driving this change, reflecting the attitudes of a world that is more alert to issues of social justice, racism, ableism and discrimination of all forms.

Utilising HR software and HR systems can help drive initiatives around improving diversity and inclusion, but first Human Resources departments must understand why these things are important.

What is Diversity and Inclusivity?

What are the HR processes that lead to the successful implementation of diversity and inclusivity policies? Let’s start by defining some terms:

Diversity refers to the broad range of differences that make people who they are – from different social and ethnic backgrounds, as well as different genders and sexual orientations

Inclusivity refers to the ways in which people are accepted, valued, and made to feel safe, no matter their differences in presentation or ability

Equity is different from equality – which would mean to treat everyone the same. Instead, equity refers to the ways that people must be treated differently in order to be treated fairly.  

The Equality Act 2010 and more recent amendments have contributed towards eliminating discrimination, victimisation, and harassment of people on the basis of protected characteristics such as age, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and disability, advancing equity in the workplace. Achieving that equity means respecting the myriad of differences in people, in their values, status, presentation and background, and understanding how businesses can support people with different needs.

Creating diversity in the workplace is often understood in terms of tolerance of these kinds of demographic differences, synonymous of the protection of these types of characteristics by UK law. In the context of recruitment, fostering diversity requires more than simply a lack of discrimination. It must also go beyond simply offering equal opportunities for applicants.

Equality of opportunity is not the same as equality of outcome. Simply accepting applications from a diverse audience is not the same as creating a space where these applicants will not only be hired but will also thrive.

Why Diversity and Inclusivity are important

As stated by the CIPD, there is a moral case for creating more fair and inclusive workspaces – people matter. People of all types matter. Regardless of background or identity, everyone deserves the opportunity to work in a safe environment, be rewarded and recognised for the work they do and have a say on the matters that affect them.

There is also the business case for creating diverse and inclusive environments for work: it helps people to grow and learn, enables businesses to better meet the needs of a diverse customer base, and plainly, positively impacts the bottom line.

According to a study by McKinsey:

  • Organisations in the top 25% for ethnic diversity were 33% more likely to have above-average profits
  • Those in the top 25% for gender diversity were 21% more likely to have achieved above average profits
  • Ethnically diverse boards were 43% more likely to make bolder decisions and record higher profits

Evidence suggests that more inclusive workplaces attract and retain talent at higher rates, empowering people to share their perspectives and experiences, which in turn leads to increased employee engagement and innovation.

Increasingly, applicants want to see that the companies they are applying to work for value inclusion. Furthermore, a recent survey of 2,000 workers in the UK who are leaving their jobs revealed that:

  • 15% felt their jobs negatively impacted their mental health
  • 9% have left because they do not feel included

Diversity and inclusivity policies can help to build a healthier environment for workers, strengthens your company’s brand, and overall makes the process of attracting and retaining the best talent an easier one. Human Resources departments can drive the creation of a more diverse workforce by ensuring that policies and recruitment focus on equity and inclusivity.

Starting with Inclusion policies and Diversity initiatives

Ensuring that your company is appealing to a diverse set of applicants also means creating inclusion policies that demonstrate the business is willing to prioritise their needs, showing that its serious about creating equity as well as equality.

Starting with policies is a simple but meaningful step that Human Resources can take towards building the right kind of culture within an organisation and demonstrating the values that will shape the business moving forward. Inclusion policies don’t have to make sweeping changes to the existing way your business is run, but instead incorporates small – yet meaningful – steps to help your employees feel recognised for their differences.

  • Observing religious holidays
  • Accommodating different learning styles
  • Allowing for flexibility in schedules and worktimes
  • Providing inclusivity training

Initiatives around hiring and managing employees also make a big difference. Consider the use of language in job descriptions – certain language can encourage more applicants from a certain background. Some terms – even if they do not seem particularly gendered – can be stereotypically associated with certain types of people.

This can include masculine coded words like ‘aggressive’ or ‘competitive’ as well as feminine coded words such as ‘understanding’ or ‘interpersonal’.  Keeping language neutral is a great way to demonstrate a commitment to inclusion.

Recognise that diversity and inclusivity initiatives require a wide range of employee engagement, especially from executive stakeholders and leadership roles. Inclusion policies require accountability in order to be successful. Ensuring honesty and transparency from senior executives will inspire employees and make sure that there is a sustained commitment from the business to support these efforts.

Utilising HR Software and Employee Data

Getting the right policies and HR processes in place is just the start. HR software can help measure the effectiveness of diversity and inclusion by collecting and measuring employee data and benchmarking the state of your workforce.

Using HR software, you can identify the areas of concern and track the trends that are developing within your organisation. Standard categories for data collection can include protected characteristics like race, gender, sexual, orientation, and disability as well as factors such as life experience and personality types.

Data is crucial to tracking progress against any business initiative, and its no different when it comes to matters of diversity and inclusion. Compiling data on your current employees as well as your recruitment process allows Human Resource departments to measure their success in creating the right environment and culture. It will also create opportunities for self-service and employee engagement – providing a platform for employees to provide feedback.

With the right data and HR processes, Human Resources can review demographics and highlight areas of underrepresentation, noting the positions and departments with the least diversity and gaining insight on the unique challenges faced by your organisation. If your organisation does suffer unconsciously from biases in the hiring processes, this will be borne out in the data you collect and allow you to pinpoint the steps needed to make positive changes.

Data helps to validate any gaps that exist within your organisation. Providing a platform for employee engagement – through encouraging voluntary self-identification and feedback – will also shift the needle in terms of culture. Accountability is key and having the right HR systems in place can help to make employees feel that they are not only listened to, but that the business is on the right track to make the necessary changes.

If you would like to see the full capabilities of cloud-based HR software and how it can help your organisation with diversity and inclusion, book a demo with one of our team.