Why is diversity and inclusion important in the workplace?
Creating an inclusive company culture benefits your business and staff. It helps employees feel valued and enables your business to attract top talent. While an inclusive workplace allows your business to benefit from a range of viewpoints and levels of experience it's also a priority for younger workers, particularly Gen Z. They're more likely to seek an employer whose values match theirs, so showing that you actively embrace diverse viewpoints will help you to attract them.
In addition, promoting diversity and inclusion will enhance your reputation, making you an employer of choice and helping you to attract a diverse workforce and client base. These can contribute to your business's success by enhancing innovation, creativity and productivity.
How to Promote Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace
Increased workplace diversity may sound great in theory, but what practical steps can your business take to create a more inclusive workplace?
The Equality Act 2010 is an excellent place to start, as it outlines nine protected characteristics you must be mindful of to prevent discrimination and create a more diverse workforce. These are:
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
While your diversity efforts can go beyond these categories, an awareness of them gives you a good grounding in building a more inclusive workplace culture.
Here are some of the ways you can begin to improve workplace diversity.
Creating an inclusive culture starts with a robust equal opportunities policy that's reviewed and updated as new information becomes available. Your policy can inform long-term strategies and should form the basis of your diversity training. It also indicates that you want to ensure everyone within your company is treated fairly and set expectations about behaviour and what represents discrimination.
You can create the policy in consultation with your legal representatives. Still, it's a good idea to consult with your existing workforce and trade union representatives to identify issues and ensure you consider these.
Diversity training isn't a legal requirement but ensures that all managers and employees know the policy and how it impacts their work. A commitment to workplace diversity should feed into every element of your work and company culture, including recruitment, career progression, training and terms and conditions of employment such as pay and leave entitlements. Diversity equity and inclusion training can occur as part of your onboarding process and in focused sessions throughout the year. You can also use employee review meetings to discuss ways of improving diversity and address any issues.
You can create training based on workplace diversity initiatives or contact a third-party provider for support.
Providing positive feedback to staff can support diversity and promote inclusion in the workplace by ensuring staff are treated equally and offered praise based on their performance and not any unconscious biases. A crucial part of this is to recognise that each employee has different needs which may impact their working practices. For example, it can be tempting to compliment an employee who works long hours. However, another worker may be equally productive while needing to leave on time because of parental or other caring commitments. A good work-life balance is valuable to most employees but can be essential to employees with a disability or mental health issues.
Inviting staff feedback on how their individual needs impact their work can help management understand personal and cultural differences and improve inclusion in the workplace. In turn, this can inform the way they offer feedback and create a safe and inclusive environment.
A diversity equity and inclusion survey can provide information that informs your inclusion efforts going forward. Enabling employees to provide anonymous feedback in an online form or survey increases the likelihood that they'll highlight sensitive issues, for example, a supervisor who makes racist remarks or jokes about a colleague's sexual orientation.
Surveys allow employees to mention issues that may impact the company's culture over time. Some employees may be unaware that their language has offensive connotations for people of other faiths or ethnic groups or may be considered ageist or sexist. Allowing employees to raise these points in confidence enables the leadership team to address them quickly.
Perception is vital in creating an inclusive culture, so asking employees for their thoughts on your company values and whether you embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion is vital. Suppose employees believe that people of their sex or race don't get promoted. In that case, they may not apply for more senior roles, hampering any inclusion strategy designed to promote diversity at the board level.
You can also improve employee engagement in training sessions by asking how employees prefer to receive training. Asking for suggestions on attracting more diverse talent or creating a more inclusive work culture can improve the effectiveness of your inclusion initiatives.
Setting up employee resource groups and forums has many benefits, including allowing employees to get to know staff from different areas of the business. You can create groups to focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion or to discuss other workplace initiatives while ensuring that diverse viewpoints are represented.
Enabling employees to meet this way promotes diversity and inclusion by increasing awareness of other cultures, lifestyles and viewpoints. For example, a manager may have formed an unconscious bias that people with disabilities cannot work effectively or that women's commitment to their careers will reduce when they become a parent. Forums can help to reduce or remove these perceptions.
If there's a need for more diversity in your workplace, effective recruitment policies can help to remedy the situation. Thinking about how you word job adverts, role descriptions, and advertising in a broader range of locations can help you attract more diverse talent. Demonstrating your diverse workforce on your company website and literature and within job postings can also help.
Inviting blind applications can eliminate unconscious bias at that stage, meaning that a potential recruit has already been assessed based on their experience and ability before they come for an interview.
Consider the needs of different groups of people
Listening to your team and enabling them to raise concerns is crucial in promoting diversity. Issues can arise in individual relationships. However, common themes can arise among people from different backgrounds.
Employing staff from different generations has many benefits and brings differing perspectives and levels of experience to your business. While there are some common themes, the things that are important to Gen Z employees will likely differ from Gen Xers.
However, conflict can arise due to differences in how different generations work and communicate. Unconscious biases based on unhelpful stereotypes can also cause division.
Acting to help different generations understand each other allows employees to benefit from each other's knowledge and experience. This isn't a one-way street. Creating mentorship programs allows older employees to offer younger ones the benefit of their knowledge and experience. However, Gen Z employees are more likely to be digital natives or able to provide fresh perspectives to their colleagues.
Mentorship programs are helpful, but structuring teams so that different generations work together day-to-day creates a more collaborative and inclusive culture.
The gender pay gap is of continuing concern. While Government figures show that the difference in pay between men and women is narrowing, it's estimated that we won't achieve equal pay in the UK until 2044. Employers can address this by ensuring that new hires are paid equally regardless of sex and providing an equal platform for promotion.
Family-friendly policies can also go a long way to support gender diversity and equality in the workplace. There's often a presumption that women will take the lion's share of caring responsibilities, whether for children or elderly relatives. Flexible working and working from home can help staff to manage these responsibilities. However, in the long term, employers can work towards creating a culture where men feel able to adjust their working hours to spend more time with their families or are encouraged to use their parental leave entitlement.
The roots of religious intolerance are complex. However, increased knowledge of other religions and beliefs is crucial in reducing religious discrimination. Working alongside people of different faiths can help, but employers can also act to educate staff about other religions. A zero-tolerance approach to bullying based on religious observance or attire is essential.
You can run training sessions based on the company's equality policy. Organising more informal events can increase awareness of religious holidays and allow colleagues to celebrate together. If staff are working while fasting, ensure your team knows this.
Employee benefits' role in supporting a diverse workforce may not be immediately obvious. However, your business's measures to support diversity can benefit your team in other ways and be supported by appropriate employee benefits.
We've already mentioned how flexible working and parental leave can support gender equality. However, providing health insurance can provide valuable support to your employees and management team.
Mental health support
Creating an environment where staff can speak out about equality issues, either face to face or anonymously, goes a long way to improving diversity. However, an employee facing discrimination at work can benefit from additional support. Health insurance can provide telephone helplines or counselling for staff to discuss their concerns and seek help in confidence. This can reduce mental health issues and give them the confidence to speak with their manager when necessary.
Depending on the number of employees your business has and your chosen policy, health insurance can provide support to help you develop well-being initiatives that positively impact employee engagement. Wellness initiatives can include social events to raise awareness of healthy eating and activity. You could also include elements supporting increased diversity, such as sharing food from other cultures.
Promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace and creating a more inclusive work culture can sometimes come down to enabling staff from diverse backgrounds to get to know each other.
Organising events where staff can meet people from other parts of the business is ideal, but if you want to be inclusive, you must also be mindful of everyone's needs. A lunchtime get-together may be better than an evening event for staff with caring commitments. People of different faiths may abstain from alcohol or certain types of food, so ensure that your catering arrangements reflect this. If you choose an outside venue, consider whether it suits staff with disabilities.
Generally, it's wise to be mindful of how company culture affects how you organise events. If you work in a male-dominated environment, do you choose activities that reflect that? We can all have stereotypical ideas about what activities different groups of people might enjoy. Fostering greater cultural diversity in your business could involve taking a different approach.
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