written by
Michele Heyward

5 Things You Should Be Doing To Improve Diversity In Your Company

DiversityandInclusion Career 7 min read

It doesn’t matter which industry you belong to or which company you are working for. There are high chances that you can be doing better on the diversity and inclusion front. The reason is simple, both of these are infinite concepts. You can never be at a stage where you are both diverse and inclusive in your organization. You could always do more because you will have never fully accomplished your goals.

A diverse organization is the one that includes employees belonging to multiple racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds. While a lot of people talk about diversity in the sense that it is a ‘must-have’, the significance of it goes far beyond that.

Diverse companies outdo non-diverse companies in performance by a huge 35%. They report financial returns more than the companies that do not have diverse employees. For every 10% increase in an ethnic and racially diverse senior-executive team in the US, the earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) rise 0.8%. This means that diversity isn’t just a trending topic for the organization’s public relations department. The business and financial case for diversity is the strongest it has ever been in 2020.

But, today, there is still a huge lag in the inclusion of minorities at senior levels. The underrepresented groups are still subjected to performance and recruitment bias. So, how can you not only improve diversity in your organization but embed inclusivity in your company culture? These are some of the ways to do that:

Create Intentionally Inclusive Management

Black woman in business suit with hand extended

The first thing to start with is to create intentionally inclusive management. The true leaders are always working on their mindset that can bring the change. They need to work on their language, be informed on how to be more inclusive, be gracious about the feedback they get on the matter, and build communities of practice. They do not think about resting just because they have hired a few people of color, and their job is done.

For every manager and leader, the key is self-assessment and developing an inclusive mindset. When you have people from all sorts of backgrounds working for you, your privilege can speak volumes. Being a diverse and inclusive organization is about behavior change. Leaders should start with themselves, take feedback about the gaps they have from their company management & employees, and then find ways to make inclusivity a common goal.

They should be able to speak, ‘I don’t know about your problems, but I want to know them, and I am always willing to solve them for you.’ If you aren’t ready to create conditions for people to give you input, you won’t be able to create a culture of belonging. This starts with the top-down from CEOs, to C-Suite, Executives, and all those in management. Everyone has to think about their role and how they can create room for more people to adjust and speak up, so they know what needs to be changed in the organization.

Train Managers On The Benefits of Diversity

The relationship between managers and the employees reporting to them is crucial. Most of the people who leave their job, especially people of color and underrepresented groups, leave it because they could not connect with their managers. While you work at creating intentional leadership, it is also important you train your managers and supervisors to do the same.

Empower and train them to create and nurture a diverse team. Schedule cultural and sensitivity training so they know how to handle subordinates from various backgrounds. Include anti-racism training, so managers are aware of how systematic racism is built into the hiring process to career advancement and layoffs.

Believe me, when I say, this is where most of your diversity work and employee retention happens. Take a page from Google’s book which trains its employees for diversity-led initiatives. There are core training for managers and employees that help them realize their personal biases, so they walk out of these sessions with a better sense of how to manage and lead. You can access the Google public unbiasing guide here.

But employers must do MORE than what Google is doing. It’s well known that Google’s diversity numbers for recruiting and retaining black employees are deplorable. Focus on providing monthly group trainings as opposed to single training. This will allow executives, managers, and supervisors to learn in small spurts and take actionable steps on a regular basis. This will provide a safe space for them to discuss their thoughts and if they fail at creating a workplace of belonging and inclusivity, they will be given feedback to implement and improve it.

Furthermore, make sure there is a feedback mechanism with a proper communication channel and a reporting structure between the managers and their direct reports. When workplace diversity is celebrated, it appeals to more potential employees, hence helping you reach your goal.

Create An Inclusive Workplace Model

Photographer: Christina @ wocintechchat.com | Source: Unsplash

There is a difference between diversity and inclusion. Diversity means you are hiring people from different backgrounds, but the inclusion means you are making them feel safe, heard, and comfortable without any discrimination or alienation from the workforce. Your employees do not have to hide their core selves because they feel unsafe, unsure, or are invisible to others. This takes a toll on employee engagement, motivation, and retention.

Various statistics have proved that to increase diversity, you must actively work on creating an inclusivity model. Start by evaluating your executive team. Do they portray diversity? The makeup of your executive team speaks volumes about your workforce to your employees, stakeholders, partners, and customers. Your top management is the indicator of your company culture.

If you want to increase diversity, you need to include people of color, various religious and cultural backgrounds, and all genders in an equally deserving representation. The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) survey report in 2019 found that only 24 women were the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, which represents only 5% of the total CEOs. Similarly, among these 500 CEOs, only three were black people, one lesbian, and three people who identified as open gays.

To create and facilitate workplace diversity, you will have to create new policies, amend existing ones, and implement them company-wide. It will require you to actively train your executives, managers, and employees to make these policies normal and not a part of some CSR projects. Do a deep dive into how these policies are part of systemic racism, what these policies should be, how to enact them, and pay attention to their implementation; from recruitment to promotions and performance evaluations.

Let The Data Speak

Data reporting dashboard on a laptop screen.
Photographer: Stephen Dawson | Source: Unsplash

One of the major issues with diversity is that the conversations and actions are happening on a sentimental and moral level only. These actions should be measurable. Just because you said that diversity is the right thing to do, you did not fulfill the mission. The challenge is to figure out the implementation and what’s better than letting the data and statistics do their work?

  • You can start by looking at the candidate pools for jobs in your company. This will help you evaluate how people from diverse backgrounds perceive your company. You will be able to know if they are applying for the openings, and if not, then you know where you are lacking at. Furthermore, how many of these candidates were interviewed, and how many were selected? Data never lies. The key to your future diversity initiatives lie here
  • The number of people who have been promoted internally based on their gender, race, age, religion, and ethnicity so you know if you are actually diverse or not. Do the people being promoted have sponsors? If so, what role does their internal sponsor play into getting them promotions?
  • Check the pay equity. Are people of color being paid the same as their white counterparts? As much as the men, are women at a specific level making as much with the same designation? Are the bonuses being doled out based on performance irrespective of race and gender?

When you pay attention to the data, you get an action plan that will help you see the areas where improvement is required. This is the basic information that will help you increase diversity and pay attention to inclusion in the organization.

Make Use Of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)

While empathic management is the key, making the use of ERGs is just as important. These groups are the places for diverse employees to feel seen, heard, and respected. A partnership between the organization and ERGs is crucial in creating diversity in any organization. With the help of these resource groups, you can collect hands-on data and feedback on how your inclusive workplace model is working. These groups can also help you in onboarding diverse employees because when you work with ERGs and make them an important part of your diversity initiatives, more people will feel comfortable becoming a part of your company.

Sit with ERGs to talk about including more and more people of different racial, gender, and ethnic groups and how you can ensure they feel safe, supported, heard, and above all as appreciated and valued as the other employees. When you take the help of ERGs you not only increase retention, but you create space for more people from different backgrounds to join your company. They help you make policies aligned with diversity and inclusion processes. That’s a big win for your company and employees alike.

Workplace DEI Career Advancement Inclusive Women of Color in STEM Workplace Culture Diversity and Inclusion