July 29, 2020
By Skye Schooley, Business.com
Learn what companies are doing to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Diversity and inclusion has never been more important in the workplace than it is right now, and businesses are reviewing their internal processes to see what they can do better. Although many companies have released corporate statements on the topic, workplace diversity and inclusion requires more than a simple declaration. We reached out to small business owners to see what real changes they’ve made to improve their organizations’ diversity and inclusion, and we found seven examples of great initiatives.
What is diversity and inclusion?
A diverse and inclusive workplace is one that not only represents a variety of workers from different backgrounds, but also provides the support they need to help them perform their best. Creating a diverse workforce starts at recruitment. Your hiring team should focus on a candidate’s ability to perform a job, regardless of race, color, religion, sex, gender, national origin, etc.
An inclusive workplace starts at the top and echoes throughout your company. As a business owner, you have a responsibility to foster a company culture that is accepting and inclusive of all employees. Educate your team on what is acceptable and inclusive behavior, and have strict policies in place for compliance with your diversity and inclusion initiatives. Creating a workplace where every employee feels safe and accepted is essential for a successful business.
How important is diversity and inclusion in the workplace?
Employers are starting to recognize that creating a diverse and inclusive workplace is not only the morally right thing to do, it is also great for business. For example, diverse and inclusive workplaces attract and retain top talent. In the era of globalization and technology, the best candidate may be located across the world. By restricting your hiring criteria in a way that makes your company more accessible to one specific gender, race, nationality, etc., you are significantly reducing your ability to find qualified candidates.
A diverse and inclusive culture means every employee is supported, accepted, respected and safe at work. This type of environment boosts employee morale and performance, improves your company’s reputation, and increases employee engagement, productivity, creativity, innovation and retention.
How companies are prioritizing diversity and inclusion
It’s all too easy to hitch onto the diversity bandwagon and simply send out a corporate statement about how your company supports employees from diverse backgrounds – but that is not enough. Some organizations are making real changes to improve diversity and inclusion initiatives in the workplace.
For example, we frequently hear about the large organizations like Accenture, Starbucks and Visa that have gone to great lengths to ensure their employees are heard and respected. They have clearly defined diversity policies that reverberate through every aspect of their organizations, and they provide access to special resources for internal and external use.
Although these companies are doing it right, we wanted to take a closer look at what small businesses are doing to create diverse and inclusive workplaces. Learn what these small businesses have done to get ideas for things your business can do.
1. Celebrate diverse holidays as a team.
One way to show your employees that you care about their cultural events, holidays and movements is to celebrate as a team. Whether this means giving your employees the day off or celebrating in the office, it is important to acknowledge and respect the traditions and celebrations of employees from various backgrounds. Ask your team what holidays are important to them and how you can help them celebrate. This can also be a way to increase awareness and educate yourself and your team about celebrations you may not have otherwise known about.
“We always celebrate, as much as we can, different holidays that show that we support gender equality, like Gay Rights Parade or Women’s Day, and we also celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day to show that we respect different races, especially African Americans. We come together as a team and celebrate these special occasions to show that we support our employees.” – John Howard, founder and CEO of Coupon Lawn
2. Create a peer-to-peer buddy system.
Another great way to facilitate an inclusive environment is to use a buddy system. You can pair up employees from different backgrounds to foster closer connections and a better understanding of other cultures. A team that understands each other builds the foundation for a positive company culture. This activity will also show you areas where employees can improve and may need additional training.
“A great strategy in fostering diversity and inclusion is the buddy system. This is where tenured employees guide the onboarding employees for a specific number of days or months. They walk through the company process together, and they even eat together during lunch breaks. I personally implemented this approach in my business. This is to test the maturity of both employees (tenured and onboarding) in adapting to changes.” – Karl Armstrong, founder of EpicWin App.