Inclusivity and diversity – some companies just don’t get it. They make no attempt to put people on a level playing field and lean toward hiring mirror images of themselves, rather than seeking a balanced workforce of unique perspectives. When called out on it, some laugh it off or call people sensitive. It’s all the wrong people moving forward for all the wrong reasons. Unconscious bias run amok – a mindset that breeds toxic workplace culture.
No company or person is perfect – perfect doesn’t exist. There’s a lot of work to do in our current corporate climate. Matter is the minimum and there are things we should be doing now to make progress happen faster. A gap needs to be closed and employers and employees play a major role in closing it.
Beyond being the right thing to do, inclusivity and diversity also helps companies thrive. Today’s workforce is looking for equality and change. Employees want to be part of a culture that is progressive, teams that are diverse, and look up to leadership that doesn’t just pay lip service to causes. They want to be part of a company that actually cares.
When it comes to change, there’s no magical formula that will work for all, but there are many opportunities for employers and HR professionals to cultivate a workplace that inspires diversity and inclusion. Here’s just a few things we can do consistently to drive change:
Check your unconscious bias
A good place to start is to become aware of your own unconscious bias. We all suffer from it and it comes in many forms.
“Like Me bias” is where you have bias towards someone who looks like you or has a similar background.
“Confirmation bias” is when you only listen to information that confirms your own preconceptions.
“Anchor bias” is when you focus on the first piece of information you have been given about a person or subject. Anchor bias in particular, can have an adverse effect on salary negotiations.
Exploring opportunities to keep leadership and employees engaged in learning will go a long way in bias awareness.
Make your space safe for everyone
No, I’m not talking about fire exits and security cameras. Creating a safe space for every employee means asking questions, looking for feedback and facilitating sensitive conversations. Pretending that differences don’t exist is what creates divide. Learning how to become a better ally creates positive work environments.
There are many ways to help your employees feel heard and comfortable:
- When collecting feedback, use tools that offer the option to submit anonymous responses
- Use different tools and multiple channels for inclusive communication
- Solicit questions or feedback before, during, and after an event to give people time to process their thoughts
- Organize an inclusion team comprised of diverse backgrounds to help address underrepresented employee groups and build a comfortable space for finding solutions
Hold each other accountable
It’s important to practice what you preach. In order to create and maintain a healthy working environment, rules that are set in place must be followed and respected by the entire team – regardless of title.
Turning a blind eye is exactly how toxic cultures breed. Don’t say “Oh, that just how he is” or “She doesn’t mean anything by that.” When everyone is following the guidelines, nobody gets a pass. Remember, your team and your clients are holding leadership accountable. Unacceptable behaviour is no longer a thing that can be swept under the rug.
It’s up to employers to create and communicate a process to employees around how to hold each other accountable and what to do if someone breaks a rule.
Take a hard look at how you recruit and hire
Unconscious bias negatively affects recruitment and hiring. Bias makes it more difficult for candidates from underrepresented groups to get hired. You might be surprised to discover that your application and selection process unintentionally puts qualified women, immigrants, disabled people, LGBTQ2s people and people from minority races at a disadvantage.
What’s the best way to rethink your recruitment?
Audit your current recruitment process to see where barriers exist when it comes to attracting diverse talent. Look at your brand and your job postings to see where the gaps are.
- Provide awareness training for managers and leaders – There are many programs that help expose unconscious biases and provide tools to adjust automatic patterns of thinking
- Rethink your words – Be mindful of language. For example, adjectives such as superior and confident can prevent women from applying, and juvenile terms like rockstar, ninja, unicorn, and guru are just insulting to everyone
- Evaluate your website and social media platforms – Ensure your brand imagery and content represents a diverse workplace
- Try using blind resumes – where information such as names, date of birth, previous salaries, and schools are removed
- Standardize the interview process – Create a standard list of questions you plan to ask – the more you can level the playing field, the more you’ll give everyone an equal chance of impressing you
- Hold interviews in the same place for all candidates – Don’t let some come in person to the interview and others Skype in. Keep the process as similar as possible every time
- Make it known – Speak about a diverse culture in your job postings and career sections
- Do the legwork – Identify sources where diverse candidates can be found
- Ask for referrals – Encourage minority employees to refer their connections
- Promote from within –Advance diversity internally through hiring, developing, promoting and retaining diverse employees
Promote inclusiveness. Celebrate all your people. Rethinking company culture isn’t a one and done project – it’s fluid and ongoing. It requires attention and care to consistently align with vision.
You can be supportive and fun:
- Host potlucks to celebrate different nationalities within the company
- Support minority organizations or small businesses (business lunches, donations, etc.)
- Have a designated meditation or prayer room
- Hold mini events to celebrate different holidays
- Organize a book club that creates discussion around sensitive and diverse topics such as LGBTQ inclusion, racial equity, etc.
- Allow employees to decorate and personalize their desk space.
Without question, focusing on inclusivity and diversity within your organization will bring about positive changes and healthier mindsets.
Following these five tips won’t change everything overnight, but by incorporating these guidelines into your process and culture and communicating your aspirations and intentions to your team, you’re bound to attract better talent and build a better workplace for everyone.
Just remember, in order to keep the momentum going, it’s up to you to be diligent, educate yourself, and stay aware.