The concept of diversity and inclusion (D&I) has continued to gain traction in corporate circles in recent years, as business leaders are beginning to see the untapped benefits to corporate culture and business success. When we mention these terms, most HR leaders generally give a nod in support, suggesting that they’ve checked that box off their company’s to-do-list for workplace growth. However, a deep dive into workplace data shows that only a few companies have truly embraced diversity and inclusivity in the workplace.
Think of diversity as selecting footballers from different countries and national teams to join a club team. These footballers differ in skills, strengths, and tactics, as well as cultural and religious backgrounds. Selecting these players with diverse attributes is one thing, making sure each player’s skillsets and strength are harnessed to contribute to the overall success of the team is another, and that’s inclusion.
This is similar to workplace diversity, where employees differ across race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, as well as educational background and experiences. Removing all barriers of discrimination and intolerance that may stem from these differences and pulling from the robust pool of diverse experiences, knowledge bases, and personalities drive both individual success and overall business growth.
When employees who differ in a lot of ways from their colleagues feel that their presence in an organization is valued and respected, they flourish, and the company, in turn, benefits from their unique ideas and skills.
However, not many employers have realized this potential.
Less than half (48 percent) of senior executives in a survey by Forbes Insights strongly agreed that a diverse and inclusive workforce is integral to driving innovation in the workplace, while 37 percent say they somewhat agree, and 14 percent disagree. The survey involved 300 Senior executives from the major global regions: the Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East, and Africa.
The survey data reveal that workplaces and organizations with a strong culture of diversity and inclusivity are few and far between; although much progress has been made in creating a robust corporate culture that is all-inclusive, there are still barriers that impede its widespread adoption.
So what are the ways business leaders and HR managers can drive diversity and inclusion in the workplace?
Lead by Example
How diverse is your team of executives? That’s a good place to start the D&I conversation. The makeup of your C-suite and other executives in your organization is a major pointer for the rest of your workforce to how much you prioritize inclusion and diversity.
A recent survey by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that only 24 CEOs among the Fortune 500 companies were women, constituting only 5 percent of the total number of CEOs. The report also showed that among the 500 CEOs, only three were blacks, three were openly gay, and one was a lesbian.
Are men and women equally represented in your team of executives and managers? Do you have a fair representation of people from various cultural and religious backgrounds among your senior executives?
It’s also not just in the numbers and representations, but also in understanding, recognizing, and curbing biases and prejudices that contradict the culture. Does your executive team model the corporate culture, or your team consists of individuals with palpable biases? It will be difficult infusing this model into the workforce if your leaders don’t set the paradigm.
This is where educating and training your leaders come in. For example, pharmaceutical giant Merck & co. Inc. organizes regular training in unconscious bias for executives and managers at every level. The training helps leaders to recognize this form of discrimination and its impact on the affected individuals and the entire workforce. The company also has a global D&I team that evaluates its organizational culture and values, and helps managers learn how to better handle and manage diverse groups.
Make the Workplace Inclusive
How does your workplace model inclusive behavior? Does it reflect in your workspaces and workplace policies that you accept and honor multiple religious and cultural practices? You can start by acknowledging these differences and integrating them into your workflow and structure.
For example, do your Muslim employees feel included in holidays and office parties? Or are your workplace celebrations just focused on traditional Christian events, such as Easter and Christmas?
For instance, the HR team at Bak USA, hold potluck parties to celebrate the over 14 nationalities represented in its workforce. These events showcase the tradition of some of their employees’ home countries as a way to drive the inclusive culture.
Before the pandemic, Merck also celebrated the differences among its nearly 70,000 employees in more than 140 countries, making presentations about how diversity and inclusion influence the company’s business success.
To ensure inclusion and fair treatment of your diverse workforce, you must identify their unique needs and understand their perspectives. Conduct a regular comprehensive evaluation of your company’s demographics and the unique needs of various employee groups to develop appropriate strategies to drive inclusiveness. These strategies are effective only when they address the needs that are unique to your brand.
While designing a special refrigerator for Kosher foods could drive inclusivity for some employees, others may feel a sense of belonging when your HR team makes it easy for them to apply for a day or two off to observe a Jewish Holy Day. Find out what works for your company through these regular surveys.
Nonetheless, you must back up these actions with a commitment to strengthen anti-discriminatory policies. What happens when an employee is a victim of religious or racial prejudice at your workplace? Does the offender just get a slap on the wrist or faces serious consequences? These actions impel and sustain the workplace culture of inclusion.
Integrate Diversity and Inclusion into Recruitment, Evaluation, and Performance Management
Research has shown that the employee hiring process is largely full of bias. Although not intentional, much of it stems from unconscious sexism, racism, and other forms of discrimination. Your hiring managers may unconsciously reflect their own bias in the recruitment process, undermining your company’s success in the long run.
Some strategies to de-bias the hiring and evaluation process include creating a blind system or algorithm to review resumes that de-anonymize a candidate. Personal identifies, including gender and religion, are automatically wiped off when a hiring manager is reviewing resumes. Further, you may also need to set and review diversity goals to ensure recruitment into different levels is as diverse and inclusive as possible.
Another strategy to sustain this culture is by creating an inclusive council. The council should consist of influential leaders who have passion and dedication for driving and upholding an organizational philosophy centered on diversity and inclusion. The council also needs to be as diverse as possible otherwise it defeats the purpose of pushing an inclusive culture, if the council itself isn’t inclusive.
The inclusion council would be involved in reviewing policies around recruitment, employee retention, and promotion, and addressing employee issues among underrepresented employee groups. The council must meet regularly to review policies, evaluate employee feedback, and proffer solutions and recommendations to the C-suite to sustain an inclusive work model.
In the ever-changing world of business, one of the key drivers of success is people. As the world becomes a global village, you’ll have more people in your workforce that come from different backgrounds, religions, and countries. Harnessing and fusing ideas and experiences from this diverse team of workers is a huge boost to your business, and is a key determinant for your business success. This important metric has sparked a conversation around diversity and inclusion in the workplace, which for so long has received less attention than it required. Going forward, review your company’s work culture, values, and policies to adopt a more diverse, and inclusive model. If you want to learn more about how you can improve company culture register for free for Healthcare Revolution.