Experts predict that 2019 signals a movement towards greater diversity and inclusion initiatives within workforces across North America. Much of this is driven by the need to attract and retain the best talent. As recruiters have gotten more creative about where they are sourcing candidates, employee diversity has flourished as well. The idea of remote teammates on the other side of the world or multiple generations in one team is no longer that unusual. With social movements also mirroring this call for more inclusion, society is shifting and taking the business world with it. A diverse and inclusive workforce helps organizations in many ways, including reducing turnover, increasing innovation, and supporting a competitive advantage in a global economy. It is up to every company to take steps to reduce bias in recruitment and hire candidates based on their skills and performance, and not on "gut instinct" which may screen out highly qualified candidates.
Why are diversity and inclusion important at work?
When 10,000 leaders were surveyed by Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report, two-thirds said diversity and inclusion are “as important” or “very important” to business. Additionally, Deloitte research shows organizations that have inclusive cultures are 2 times as likely to meet or exceed financial targets. Combining inclusivity and diversity nets 8 times more positive business outcomes.
In fact, having an inclusive culture is critical to the sustainability of any organization. It’s not enough to simply hire a few candidates who are from diverse backgrounds (which could include gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, or workers with disabilities to name a few). A company should focus on not only hiring a large percentage of employees from various different backgrounds but also on taking the time to embrace the value they bring to the table in terms of different ideas and experiences. Creating an environment where different opinions are welcomed helps employees feel more comfortable at work and leads to increased creativity and innovation.
And don't just take our word for it. There are tons of examples out there of companies that have changed their policies and increased their productivity. One example is that of Nestle. Last year, Nestle made the Thompson Reuters 2018 Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Index. The American consumer food product company employees some 48,000 people around the U.S., but the brand is a world-known favourite. Nestle is described as, “an open and inclusive environment that provides accelerated career growth opportunities, excellent work-life balance and flexibility, and the ability to impact business results quickly.” And true to walking their talk, the company has steadily increased in profits and value since 1990.
What does inclusion actually mean?
It is important not to confuse the terms diversity and inclusion, although they are often used interchangeably. Diversity often comes first and is about getting the right mix in the workplace. It recognizes the need for different voices and viewpoints to be present within the company. Inclusion is more about what you do with that diversity once you have it on your team. Kayla Kozan, an HR expert at Ideal, describes inclusion as, “a collaborative, supportive, and respectful environment that increases the participation and contribution of all employees”. Another way to define inclusion is the extent to which all employees feel like they belong in the organization. Inclusiveness is often part of the overall corporate culture and it is built into the core values of the company. It should be noted, however, that a company can be both diverse and not inclusive. The goal is about striking the right balance between both concepts and working to create a consciously inclusive environment for all employees.
The signs of inclusion often include:
All employees are treated with respect
All employees are given the opportunity to participate in decision-making or leadership roles
The company includes diverse teams who collaborate well
Leaders are developed across all levels of an organization from diverse backgrounds
Consideration and support is provided to all employees regardless of disability or ability
What do the numbers say?
It’s easy to talk about diversity and inclusion as abstract concepts you’ll get around to at some point. But companies who are committing to their diversity efforts are seeing real traction. When you dig into the numbers you’ll find:
- 70% of companies think they’re good at attracting diverse employees when in reality, that number is closer to 11%. What a gap!
- 56% of companies asked report they believe diversity drives innovation.
- 60% of companies use metrics to actively track the success of their inclusion efforts.
It’s not enough to give lip service to diversity efforts in the workplace. They need to be as strategic and as monitored as any other company project to ensure they remain effective. And when handled properly, these efforts can lead to a boost in creativity, innovation, and company culture.
Getting started with promoting a more inclusive environment
Why bring in inclusion to your workplace? Well, companies are more productive, workers are happier, your employer brand benefits, and turnover decreases for starters. So why aren't all companies rushing to embrace diverse hires? To start with, the decision to become an inclusive company has to come from leaders of the organization and spread throughout every level. Colin Walsh, co-founder
How do employees feel about their work environment?
Do employees need to monitor their language in order to fit in?
Do employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas with others?
How comfortable are employees when working with peers?
Do employees feel respected and welcome in the company?
But don't just leave things at asking a few key questions. Bringing inclusion into the workplace isn't easy and it goes beyond keeping tabs on culture. Gallup finds
Adjusting hiring strategies to reduce bias
Recruiters are on the front line of increasing diversity and inclusiveness. Unfortunately, this means that they often inject their own unconscious bias when selecting candidates. This bias isn't necessarily malicious either. Bias comes in all forms from remembering the first and last candidates in an interviewing stream better than those in the middle or liking someone because they express a shared interest. Often it's hard to even recognize these
Other ways that recruiters can adjust hiring strategies to avoid bias include:
Hiring from a wide variety of accessible sources and networks
Write better job descriptions that leave out jargon and terms that imply preferences
Use collaborative hiring practices so that candidates are evaluated by multiple people
Get training and self-evaluate on how their personal ideas influence bias
Increase the focus on employee referrals which can increase diversity
And don't forget the power of adding an assessment component into your hiring strategy. While bias training is very helpful for recruiting or hiring managers, you're never going to eliminate all bias (even Amazon's AI robots ran into it). Leveraging pre-hire assessments can help measure all candidates against a fair standard
It takes a lot of group effort for any organization to increase their diversity and inclusion standards. Don't fall prey to the idea that it will "just happen." Unless you're very lucky, it won't. Improving the diversity of your company needs buy-in from all levels of the organization but particularly from the top. It takes a structured company culture that supports and encourages inclusion, perhaps with HR staff dedicated to the initiative. And lastly, it takes a hiring program that uses the tools required to sort out bias and hire more fairly. Even with those three things, the road to an inclusive workplace might be bumpy. But persevere. Because if you do, you'll create a happier, healthier, and more productive company that welcomes all.