In the workforce, diversity has increasingly become a topic of interest as changes to demographics, globalization, beliefs, and the law propelled organizations to reassess their human resources practices. Advocates of diversity contend that, similarly to professionally varied teams (team composed of individuals with different professional background – ex: one analyst, one researcher, one IT, one engineer, one manager, etc.), ethnically diverse teams can drive higher innovation, greater opportunities with a broader clientele, and ultimately increase profitability and organizational achievements, according to Forbes.
The reason behind the added benefits of diversity comes from the idea that diverse teams are able to bring different ideas, challenges, and solutions to a problem given the differing experiences such individuals accumulated throughout their lives. Whereas teams that are not as diverse have higher chances of having experienced the same upbringing conditions, which may cause them to utilize similar strategies to solve a problem. Diverse teams may also help to promote acceptance and, in turn, reduce discrimination. Further, the benefits of diverse teams go beyond qualitative research. McKinsey & Company – a global consulting firm – analyzed 366 public companies across multiples industries and countries, it concluded that gender and ethnic diverse organizations in the top quartile were 15% to 35% more likely to experience above average financial performance in their respective industries.
Despite the alleged benefits of having a diverse workforce, several organizations still struggle with attracting and retaining a diverse workforce. Several factors play an important role in this misalignment between goals (or objectives and policies) and actual implementation. These issues need to be addressed to ensure a healthy workplace that considers the needs of the workforce it wants to attract and maintain.
To attract a diverse workforce, organizations need to first consider some internal and external conditions that it may be facing. By doing so, it may be better positioned to not only attract a diverse workforce, but also retain high quality employees.
1) Understand organization and regional demographics: Prior to making broad goals and objectives about diversity, organizations need to realistically assess the demographics of their workforce and the regions they service. For instance, a company may hire more females, but are all the females concentrated in a single department or not in management positions? Below are a few questions the organization should ask:
2) Gather feedback from current employees: To properly assess diversity internally and create an all-around strategy to tackle the subject, employers need to gather feedback from current employees regarding diversity. Employees may be an important ally to understand what has been working and what has not been working in terms of diversity inside the organization – especially the employees who fall under the “diverse” category. But for honest feedback to happen, the organization needs to ensure that a safe environment for employees to share their opinions is provided.
Such feat can be achieved by instilling some practices such anonymous survey, strict no reprisal policies, and maintaining a transparent and clear channel of communication with employees. Internal publications on the matter can help employees better understand the results and the process of anonymization, which serves as a reminder about the company’s “no reprisal” policy.
3) Make actionable goals: Data gathered through employee interview and demographic research is valuable to craft SMART goals and objectives associated with increasing diversity in the workforce. Actionable goals ensure that teams can better grasp the kind of work that needs to be done to further advance diversity efforts in the organization. For instance, a broad goal such as “Increase the number of diverse hires” may not be as helpful as “Ensure that 100% of the job advertised discusses diversity and secure at least 1 partnership with a university and 1 partnership with an association whose representation are composed of individuals from a diverse background to advertise job posts”. The quantifiability and granularity of the latter statement allows employees to have clear insight into what needs to be done to accomplish broader strategic goals associated with diversity.
4) Ensure that the organization’s culture, policies, and practices support diversity: For instance, organizations may have an Anti-harassment policy, but is it supported by safe channels of reporting? Does the company issue independent investigations on the subject? Do employees feel safe to report? What are the repercussions for discriminatory practices? Does the company celebrate diversity and its workforce? Are there accommodations for the needs of diverse employees (religious observations, work-life balance, etc.)? Are policies considered to be fair and equitable for all groups within the organization?
5) Think strategically about job posting and where your pool of candidates is coming from: Organization will often strive to sell and advertise their products in places where their customer frequent. When hiring, similar considerations need to be taken as organizations that strive to achieve a broader, diverse group. Below are a few things to consider:
6) Discuss diversity openly and transparently: Create a platform within the company’s website to discuss activities taken to build a diverse community. Use this area to discuss the organization’s efforts publicly and transparently. It can help create greater awareness about the company’s efforts, support an increase in application from a diverse group and ultimately drive better performance. Some companies have dedicated pages on their external website that exclusively discuss their diversity achievements, efforts, and goals – for example: McKinsey, Coca-Cola, and Accenture.
7) Gather feedback from prospect employees’: The hiring process can sometimes be a source of gatekeeping, limiting access to valuable information that comes from sources outside the organization. By opening the opportunity for prospect employees to provide feedback on their hiring experience, the organization can shed light on some of the opportunities and difficulties that diverse groups face when navigating the organization. This information can then be used to implement valuable changes that may drive improved hiring processes.
8) Listen to second opinions and learn from leaders in diversity: Organizations can benefit from looking up to the successes and failures that others have gone through. This can happen by analyzing some of the research and work done by universities and leaders in diversity. It can also come from hiring external experts to provide their take on the organization’s successes, challenges and opportunities as it relates to diverse employment.
Statements about diversity and inclusion in the workplace need to be accompanied by actual efforts that support the cause and impact the organization at large. Research has shown that there are clear social and economic benefit associated with it. Further, to achieve success in diversity related goals, data driven insights and critical strategic thought needs to be employed to clearly assess the current state of the company and how such subject can be tackled. Current diverse employees can be a powerful ally and source of information to assist the organization move on a more inclusive and equitable direction.
The opinions in this article is of the authors and do not reflect clients or other’s views.