How to Increase Diversity and Inclusion in Your Workforce

People Holding DiversityHaving a diverse and inclusive workplace can bring a myriad of benefits, including an improved bottom line, an increased ability to serve customers and improved customer relations. Diversity can also lead to higher productivity as different types of people bring various skills and talents to table.

But how does an employer go about increasing the diversity and inclusion of its workforce when, for example, an employer cannot ask individuals about their religion, national origin or sexual orientation etc.

Here are some key ways to resolve that dilemma and build a diverse workforce:

Start With Hiring

In order to hire a diverse workforce, an employer must look beyond the geographic pool and its present employees. Reach out to wide variety of networks, such as:

• Veterans’ organizations;
• Special interest groups;
• Colleges; and
• Unemployment centers.

What’s more, an employer should use the internet to reach a wide pool of applicants. Job advertisements should be neutral and written in such a way as to attract a wide variety of candidates.

In addition, biased job interview questions should be eliminated, and the employer should focus on finding the right individual based on an applicant’s experience, skills and qualifications. When practical, an employer should use a diverse panel to interview job candidates so it can gain various perspectives.

Develop Policies Encouraging Diversity and Inclusion

Another key step is to develop, implement and enforce policies and practices that encourage diversity, tolerance and equal access to opportunities in the workplace. The employer may seek to incorporate diversity into its corporate mission statement and make it a pillar of the company.

A strong policy prohibiting discrimination, harassment and retaliation as well as a multichannel complaint procedure can ensure that an employer is on notice of any unlawful behavior. The employer should also show that it will take all complaints seriously and follow up with an investigation and remedial, interim or disciplinary measures.

Tie Diversity and Inclusion to Business Goals

To create and maintain a diverse workplace, diversity and inclusion need to be tied to business goals and aligned with corporate strategies. It is especially critical to get the buy-in of the CEO, key stakeholders and upper management. These individuals must see the value that diversity can bring to the company in order to set the right tone.

That means showing how diversity can increase productivity, streamline operations and reduce costs by having all individuals work to their potential and concentrate on their unique strengths and talents. Diversity also can help to improve a company’s public image and branding while improving its ability to serve a wide base of customers in an increasingly global marketplace.

Provide Diversity and Sensitivity Training

An employer should consider providing diversity and sensitivity training to all employees and supervisors so they can root out stereotypes and prejudices. The employer should attempt to expand employees’ knowledge by increasing their exposure to different individuals and groups.
An employer should also consider providing antibullying training so employees know that hostile, abusive and offensive behavior is not proper workplace conduct and that all employees should be valued and respected for their individual contributions.

Provide Reasonable Accommodations

Under federal, state and local laws, an employer may need to provide employees with a reasonable accommodation if doing so would not create an undue hardship for the employer. As a result, it is crucial for an employer to strongly consider employee requests for reasonable accommodations based on factors such as disability, religion, gender and sexual orientation.

Accommodations are varied and may include:

• Modifications to grooming and dress policies;
• Modified schedules;
• Leave and time off from work;
• Changes to the physical workspace; and
• Modification of workplace policies.

Create Employee Resource or Affinity Groups

An employer should consider creating employee resource groups or affinity groups to bring individuals together such as women, veterans or lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals. Such groups will provide those employees with the chance to discuss common challenges they face in the workplace. It can also provide networking and mentoring opportunities within the organization as well as a sense of community and a feeling of belonging.

Has your company taken any steps that have worked to increase diversity? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Diversity Webinar 2016-02

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