Following the global pandemic and a surge in social justice movements highlighting racial and gender inequality, more and more emphasis is being put on diversity and inclusion programs in the workplace. As these programs take effect, it’s clear to see that diversity programs really do drive business results.
Diversity in cultural backgrounds, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, education, and inclusion for those with disabilities has become a key motivation during the hiring process, with businesses realizing now more than ever that a strong company is a diverse one. Diversity and inclusion are no longer just buzzwords, or something companies add to their mission statement.
What is Workplace Diversity?
When many people think of diversity in the workplace, they think of racial and gender representation. However, building a diverse company is about more than creating more representation for women and people from minority groups. Diverse companies take actionable steps to ensure that the full spectrum of diversity is represented and, more importantly, everyone is included, accepted, and empowered to use their voice.
This definition from Ferris State University perfectly sums up what diversity is: “Diversity is the range of human differences, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical ability or attributes, religious or ethical values system, national origin, and political beliefs.”
Why Does Diversity Matter?
Recruitment agency Lensa, who has recently crunched the numbers and compiled a list of the most diverse companies in 2021 based on their own D&I score, hits the nail on the head when it comes to the benefits of diversity. According to Lensa, teams with different points of view often outperform those who share a very similar one “because when everyone in the room follows similar lines of thought, there are always gaps in perspective.”
Indeed, a team that welcomes different perspectives and allows everyone to be completely themselves fosters a stronger sense of belonging and creativity. When a company has a wide range of mindsets, diverging perspectives, life experiences, and personal stories, it tends to have better decision-making abilities and a unique perspective. Not only that, it dramatically reduces the risk of marketing campaigns or product development that marginalizes certain groups.
For companies who are struggling to keep employees engaged, a lack of diversity or a non-inclusive culture could be to blame, according to Lensa. Employees who don’t feel like they are able to be themselves in their place of work will often find it difficult to make meaningful connections with their colleagues. This can lead to a lack of engagement which, in turn, could negatively impact their work and their mental health.
Employees want to work in teams where innovation is high thanks to a diverse range of views, voices, and experiences. As innovation and employee retention soars, inevitably so do profits, making businesses with diverse workforces and leadership teams more successful. Put simply, different voices with a common goal not only make for powerful decisions and more creative results but also boosts employee engagement and retention.
Lensa’s Top 10 Most Diverse Companies in 2021
After using its unique position as a Recruitment agency to gain in-depth insight into how diversity currently looks in the job market, Lensa published this list of its top ten players who are taking big strides to create a diverse workforce and an inclusive culture to maintain it.
Real estate company Re/Max nabbed the top spot on Lensa’s list of the most diverse companies in 2021, landing a D&I score of 98.95%. With a gender ratio of 50.3% males and 49.7% females, it’s clear that Re/Max takes gender diversity seriously. Re/Max has shown its dedication to diversity and inclusion with a range of initiatives, including Diversity training addressing issues of diversity and cultural differences, fair housing, an inclusion resource page on its website, and its recent sponsorship of the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance.
Re/Max has taken measures to make diversity a reality by creating its own Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, which, according to Re/Max, “intends to increase awareness and inspire positive behaviors through diversity and inclusion training, involvement in community events and improved communication.”
Another real estate company, Coldwell Banker Howard Perry and Walston, took second place on the list thanks to its efforts to support diversity and fair housing. The real estate leader has put in place a host of diversity initiatives, including its monthly Mastermind series called Agents of Change which celebrates the achievements of diverse agents and highlights cultural best practices. Other initiatives such as its Fair Housing pledge and Inclusive Ownership program help to ensure that all of its agents are educated in diversity and inclusion in the housing market.
But the company didn’t stop there. It has also established a number of progressive company policies to truly make it a diverse and inclusive place to work. Some of the most notable policies are the Equality Act designed to “add clear, comprehensive non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people to our nation’s civil rights laws,” providing full transgender benefits to employees and their spouses, and unconscious bias training for managers and curated diversity and inclusion training courses for all members of staff.
How Can Organisations Become More Diverse?
Companies who want to take real measures to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion have something to learn from the companies making it to the top spots on these lists. Diversity and inclusion require more than just talk. It requires action – starting with diversity hiring.
Thanks to recent breakthroughs on the benefits of diverse companies, diversity hiring is set to be a high priority in the future, with real, actionable steps being put in place to make sure that organizations are doing more to hire underrepresented groups and create a diverse and inclusive culture.
What is diversity hiring?
No matter how professional an HR or Recruitment team is, keeping unconscious biases out of the hiring process is incredibly difficult. Recruiters tend to let their own biases on age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, physical appearance, and other social or cultural factors affect their judgment when selecting a candidate.
Diversity hiring aims at breaking this pattern by shining a light on the unconscious biases most of us have that can cloud judgment and influence that “gut feeling” we have about a candidate. Unconscious bias is deeply ingrained in our belief system, and it can be hard to identify what is an objective opinion and what is a learned stereotype.
If an organization wants to have a truly diverse workforce with employees from different races, genders, origins, educational backgrounds, physical abilities, lifestyles, and mindsets, it needs to revamp its recruiting process. Providing HR and Recruitment staff with training to learn about cognitive biases and a clear recruitment process based on merit and fair assessment is at the heart of creating a more diverse workplace.
Diversity and Inclusion: What’s the difference?
Diversity and inclusion often go hand in hand, but they refer to two separate principles. Diversity can be described as the ‘what.’ It’s about building a workforce of people of different races, genders, and backgrounds. Inclusion, on the other hand, is more about the ‘how.’ Inclusion is the culture that embraces and empowers a diverse workplace to come together and thrive.
Diversity starts with recruiting. It is how employees are selected and the opportunities for them to get promoted or grow in the business.
Inclusion is how a diverse workforce is retained. It comes down to the policies and culture that make each person feel a sense of belonging and provide equal growth opportunities.
Ferris State University defines inclusion as “involvement and empowerment, where all people’s inherent worth and dignity are recognized. An inclusive university promotes and sustains a sense of belonging; it values and practices respect for the talents, beliefs, backgrounds, and ways of living of its members.”
What can organizations do to increase diversity?
Increasing diversity in the workforce starts with employer branding and continues through the lifecycle of an employee. Here are some ways to build a more diverse and inclusive workforce.
1. Get senior management onboard
When trying to change the company culture or mindset, these changes need to start from the top. Diversity and inclusion can’t just be an HR strategy. It needs the backing of top leaders to make it a success. There’s no point hiring a diverse group of staff members if the company mindset doesn’t accommodate them.
Exclusion and discrimination will increase staff turnover and kill morale, making it essential that leaders step up and ensure that the company culture supports and empowers diverse employees. If leaders make an effort to set an example and demonstrate the inclusive culture they want to build, this will trickle down through the organization, leading to positive behavior changes over time.
2. Make sure job descriptions encourage diversity
Words hold a lot of power, and the use of certain language can cause candidates to read between the lines and steer away from a company. An example of this is word choice. Choosing adjectives such as “strong” or “competitive” may deter female applicants, while descriptions such as “dynamic, young team” could make older candidates not feel comfortable applying. If organizations are serious about opening up the candidate pool, job descriptions should be gender-neutral. Tools such as The Gender Decoder can aid recruitment teams in removing bias from job descriptions.
Statistics show that men will typically apply for a job if they meet 60% of the required qualifications and skills listed in the job description, while women generally only apply if they fulfill 100% of the criteria. This can lead to a disproportionate amount of male applicants for certain positions. One way of evening the playing field is for organizations to only include the core skills and qualifications required, rather than an extensive “wishlist” that most managers don’t actually expect candidates to fulfill.
3. Hire based on merit and skill-testing
The days of hiring someone because they’re a good “culture fit” are coming to an end. This type of hiring is based heavily on unconscious bias. More and more businesses are replacing resume screening with on-the-job simulations and skills testing software.
This style of assessment allows candidates to showcase their skills and knowledge related to the job they’re applying for without the risk of bias skewing the selection process. AI diversity recruiting software even provides recruiters with a list of candidates ranked by their qualifications, eliminating the screening process where unconscious bias often comes into play.
4. Create a more inclusive interviewing process
Organizations should rethink how many people are involved in the hiring process to avoid unconscious bias from creeping in by getting more employees involved, rather than an interview by one person. Creating diverse interview panels and including underrepresented employees in the hiring process will show new hires that diversity is a key cornerstone of the company culture. It will also make sure that recruiters are getting input and feedback from employees from diverse backgrounds. This, in turn, reduces unconscious bias.
5. Retaining a diverse workforce
When we talk about company culture, we’re not talking about casual Fridays, gym passes, or free fruit. While these are nice little perks, company culture is about inclusivity. Do employees feel like they belong? Are they encouraged to be their authentic selves?
Organizations that want to retain their employees need to first understand who their staff is and what drives them. Companies shouldn’t make assumptions. Surveys and direct conversations should be the basis of finding out what they should do to make underrepresented groups feel included.
Mentoring initiatives and mandatory training programs around cognitive biases, imposter syndrome, and cultural awareness training can go a long way in creating a clear blueprint for employees. Company policy also needs to reflect this pledge to improve diversity with gender-neutral parental leave policies, pronoun options for non-binary employees and adopting more inclusive, compassionate leave conditions.
Measuring the Effectiveness of Diversity Initiatives
Organizations need to have clear metrics and key performance indicators to make sure that their efforts are working. These metrics shine a light on issues and biases that may have gone unnoticed, which could be holding back progress. Companies can use them as benchmarks to monitor their progress and set future diversity and inclusion goals without turning them into a box-checking exercise.
Companies can use data on industry benchmarks to see if their numbers compare. For example, an organization can compare the percentage of a specific underrepresented group with the industry average to see if they are similar. If not, the company can then use this data to go back and rethink how it can reach this group in the hiring process and retain this group through company culture.
Another key metric is retention rates among underrepresented groups. Suppose organizations hire a diverse workforce, but retention is low among underrepresented groups. In that case, this is an indicator that the culture is not as inclusive as it needs to be and may need work.
Organizations should also keep a close eye on the percentage of people from underrepresented groups applying for positions compared to the percentage who are being hired. The same goes for promotion; this needs to be addressed if the business has a diverse group of employees, but advancement opportunities are limited to a small group –with very few people from underrepresented groups. True diversity calls for people from all backgrounds to be put in decision-making positions and managerial roles.
Addressing diversity and inclusion in the workplace is a long process that requires time, work, and education, but the results are worth it. Diverse organizations are more innovative, have better results, and have higher employee retention rates. There are many actionable steps that a company can take to increase diversity, starting with removing unconscious bias from the hiring process and building a culture that welcomes and empowers people from all walks of life to feel like they belong.