Amidst the fallout from the pandemic, the Great Resignation and uncertainty across industries, companies are in heavy pursuit of strategies to enhance company culture and overall productivity — to keep their most valuable team members around long-term and ensure organizational efficiency stays high. An increasingly important area of focus for companies is their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). In fact, a study from WorldatWork found that 80% of responding organizations say they have been taking action on DEI initiatives in the past year.
A diverse and inclusive working environment is a linchpin in ensuring employees feel seen, heard, welcomed and valued — which ultimately boosts employee morale and retention. Read on to learn more about why a diverse workforce is essential today and the top strategies for organizations working to foster greater diversity and inclusion.
What do we mean by diversity in the workforce?
Broadly, workforce diversity refers to the collective mixture of employees' differences and similarities — which includes the variety of values, beliefs, experiences, backgrounds and behaviors that inclusion encompasses. It has become clear that creating a truly diverse workplace requires more than just employing workers of different backgrounds and experiences — but rather dedicated time and effort on the part of employers, managers and organizations to ensure these unique voices are heard and utilized.
Why is workforce diversity an essential aspect of the workplace?
Diversity not only gives your organization access to a wider range of talent but also provides valuable insights organizations need to succeed in today's quick-changing work environment. You may ask - what, here, is meant by "access"? By the strict definition of the term, it means that an organization that prioritizes diversity looks to recruit and retain talent who may be underrepresented in traditional candidate pools, either due to historical discrimination or adverse impact. In a broader sense, access means - how is the organization "accessing" the full talent and potential of every single employee? Diverse teams learn, discover, and contribute best in different ways, so it is not enough to simply hire individuals from different backgrounds. Organizations must then also engage employees in ways that enable each to access their top-level capabilities.
Ultimately, diverse teams are more likely to understand your customers' needs and identify ideas to fulfill them. Moreover, employing a well-represented staff from all walks of life creates an environment where employees feel comfortable being completely themselves.
The benefits of a more diverse workforce
Prioritizing DEI efforts is not only a valuable way to support all candidates and team members but also helps organizations see a host of valuable benefits. Employing workers with different perspectives and diverse backgrounds can lead to significant advantages including:
- Opening access to a wider range of talent: The value of diverse talent pools can't be understated. As companies continue to search for qualified candidates amid the Great Resignation and war for talent, ensuring they consider all candidates will be a key element in reaching capable workers — to avoid costly vacancies or employees who are a poor fit for the role.
- Generating a positive company brand: Showing support and advocating for all employees is not just the right thing to do - it is an exceptionally prudent business decision. Generation Z job seekers are more discerning than ever when it comes to an organization's DEI practices, so showing tangible, good-faith efforts is imperative for company growth.
- Fostering greater innovation: With a homogeneous team, you run the risk of becoming an echo chamber of similar ideas. Teams that take advantage of diverse voices not only make better decisions but are also 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders in their market, per a report from Bersin & Associates.
- Improving talent acquisition: As organizations commit to DEI initiatives, access a wider pool of talent and improve their company reputation, recruitment will see significant impacts. According to a survey from Deloitte, 80% of respondents indicated inclusion was an important factor when choosing an employer.
- Boosting employee engagement and performance: A work environment where employees see the representation of diverse backgrounds and different perspectives allows everyone to be comfortable being themselves. This ultimately leads to happier, more motivated and more productive employees.
- Increasing profits: Multiple studies have shown the same results — diverse teams simply perform better. According to Fundera, not only have 85% of CEOs with diverse and inclusive cultures claimed profits have increased, but companies with highly inclusive environments also reported 2.3 times more cash flow per employee.
Challenges and strategies for organizations trying to foster a more diverse workforce
While the copious benefits that inclusive companies experience are clear, organizations must put in the effort to bring their diversity goals to fruition, so they can enjoy the advantages a more diverse workforce can offer. For organizations working on these initiatives, here are some of the common pitfalls to avoid and the best practices for establishing greater workplace diversity:
Common challenges to expect
- Moving from planning to implementation: Designing a comprehensive diversity program is only the first step. Implementation requires the right teams, support and resources in place to carry out these initiatives successfully.
- Training management: True organizational diversity necessitates cooperation from all individuals across the corporate ladder — but especially from business leaders who serve as a significant example to lower-level employees. DEI training is becoming increasingly important to help employees understand their company's diversity goals and what's expected of them to achieve these objectives.
- Overcoming unconscious bias: Unconscious bias, also known as implicit bias, has a way into our thoughts and behaviors — whether we like it or not. While a majority of organizations actively work to reduce implicit prejudices in the workplace, 39% of employees claim they still experience bias frequently, per a report from Deloitte.
- Mitigating internal resistance: Unfortunately, it's not uncommon to experience internal resistance throughout any diversity initiative. Frequent communication and education surrounding diversity and its importance will be a key element in helping employees keep an open mind along the way.
Top strategies for introducing diversity in the workplace
- Prioritize inclusive recruitment: For more successful results, inclusivity should touch all aspects of your diversity efforts. This includes within your job descriptions, interview process and continuously in the workplace once diverse candidates join the team. HR professionals can focus on networking and building relationships for diversity hiring to streamline the process.
- Hire culturally inclusive leaders: Business leaders that prioritize inclusion actively create a company culture where workers have a sense of belonging and are able to be completely themselves at work. According to the Harvard Business Review, teams with inclusive leaders are 17% more likely to report they're high performing, 20% more likely to claim they make high-quality decisions and 29% more likely to report behaving cooperatively.
- Utilize reward systems that cover the needs of all of your team members: Diverse employees are likely motivated by different things. A universal reward and promotion system may not be an effective solution — making it essential for team leaders to focus on the needs of unique team members. This is a significant strategy for keeping performance, engagement and motivation high throughout your workforce.
- Foster open communication: A diverse workforce necessitates an environment where employees feel free to express their opinions and speak their minds. Opening the lines of communication and paying attention to employee needs will be critical to creating a diverse workplace successfully. A report from Team Stage emphasizes this, reporting employees would be 4.6 times more motivated to produce quality work if they felt like their voice mattered.
- Organizing Employee Resource Groups (ERGs): ERGs are a beneficial way to allow individuals of similar cultures, ethnicities, religions and more to communicate with each other across an organization. Discussing common issues and sharing ideas will facilitate a sense of belonging for employees, while an employee resource group can also provide a valuable opportunity to address and improve diversity recruitment.
Streamline your sourcing for diverse talent to drive better business results
Despite the clear need for diversity efforts in the workplace, only about 40% of organizations have mature diversity initiatives, according to a report from HR Research Institute. This is often because the effort and commitment required throughout diversity initiatives can feel daunting. However, working with dependable partners can help your organization significantly streamline and simplify the process of fostering a more diverse workplace. At Beacon Hill, we are not only passionate about solving your workforce challenges but we are dedicated to encouraging diversity, equity and inclusion.
Integrated staffing and talent solutions from Beacon Hill can help your organization build diverse teams effectively with:
- Access to a wider pool of talent than most individual employers — we speak with candidates every single day, all across the country.
- A larger recruiting team than individual companies, allowing us the ability to scour more resources, in a shorter period of time.
- Our experience supporting an array of companies on their DEI recruiting initiatives — building a solid foundation to draw from when determining how to employ an effective diversity hiring program.