Diversity is a key element for worker engagement and productivity, reducing turnover, and boosting profits. Here are 11 ways to create a diverse workplace culture.

11 Ways to Increase Workplace Diversity

Feb 3, 2021

by Mark Crawford

Workplace diversity results when companies make it a point to hire people who have different characteristics, such as ethnicity, religion, cultural backgrounds, sexual orientation, and gender. The goal is to create a culture where individual differences are respected and all employees are treated equally and receive the same opportunities for growth and advancement.
 
The benefits of inclusion are well known. These include increased collaboration, higher employee engagement, reduced turnover, improved profits, and stronger brand identity. A 2018 study from McKinsey & Company found that companies with highly diverse boardrooms were 43 percent more likely to attain higher profits.
 
Diversity starts with hiring and retaining diverse talent. Here are 11 ways for organizations to help create a diverse workplace culture.
 
1. Leverage diverse job boards. Post openings on job boards that specialize in diversity. Examples of these include Diversity Working, one of the largest online diversity job boards, Recruit Disability, which helps locate potential employees with disabilities, and HBCU, a network of students and alumni from Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
 
2. Highlight diversity on the career page on your website. Be sure your company’s diversity statement and any current initiatives are obvious on your career page and reference it in every job description that is being offered.


 
3. Provide targeted internships and scholarships. Provide high-value internships and scholarships to employees from under-represented groups that will help them advance more quickly in key roles within the organization.
 
4. Offer diverse mentorships. Mentorship programs help ensure everyone has the opportunity to advance and also create closer employee relationships. Establishing an inclusive mentorship program can help foster diversity.
 
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5. Conduct diversity training. It is likely the executive team and other leaders will require diversity training. which will likely surprise them when it points out their shortcomings. They can then take this new awareness to launch meaningful cultural and sensitivity training throughout the organization.
 
6. Create an inclusion council. Recruit a council of eight to 12 top leaders who are committed to inclusion. They themselves should be as diverse a group as possible. The council then meets regularly to create strategies that increase diversity. 
 
7. Reward diverse referrals. Ask employees to refer job candidates they know from under-represented groups in your company and offer rewards or bonuses for recommending diverse candidates who join the company.
 
8. Celebrate employee differences. Invite employees to share their backgrounds and traditions in the workplace, including religious and cultural practices. For example, for the fifth straight year, Merk has sponsored its GD&I Experience Month, a full month dedicated to fostering diversity and inclusion across all its global locations.


 
9. Unconscious bias training for recruiters. For even the most experienced recruiters, being unbiased is one of the biggest challenges in hiring. Recruiters, hiring managers, and others who participate in the hiring process should be aware of potential biases. Train HR staff to recognize and avoid bias in the recruitment and hiring process, which may require outside consultants.

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10. Incorporate diversity into company policies and practices. Develop or amend workplace policies to be more inclusive and diversity-friendly, from hiring practices to performance reviews, promotions, and benefits. Check if your company is an equal opportunity employer and has been approved by the Federal EEOC.
 
11. Strengthen anti-discriminatory policies. According to a 2019 article in Harvard Business Review, about 75 percent of respondents reported that the language of their anti-discriminatory policies was insufficient to drive improvements in diversity and inclusion. Conduct a thorough review of existing policies and report the results to top leadership and/or the inclusion council. 
 
Moving Forward with Technology
 
Many studies show that the hiring process tends to be biased—typically unconscious sexism, racism, and ageism. A report from IBM indicates that bias impacts every aspect of recruiting, retaining, and engaging talent.
 
To eliminate unconscious bias, HR software programs and tools have been developed that utilize artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to make better diversity and inclusion hiring decisions.
 
“Some tools and applications use machine learning algorithms to create a more inclusive and unbiased interview process,” stated Headstart, a provider of applicant matching and management software, in a 2020 report. “Algorithms in these tools help managers and recruiters build diverse interview panels that reduce individual bias and attract more diverse candidates.”

Further Reading: Does STEM Diversity Promote Workforce Diversity?
 
AI-powered recruiting tools also help write unbiased job posts, find best-fit candidates, reject irrelevant applications, offer fairer salaries, and speed up screening. “AI will continue to help companies build more diverse, talented workforces,” Headstart reported, “as long as business leaders—both those building the AI tools and those implementing them—make diversity and inclusion a main priority.”
 
Mark Crawford is a technology writer based in Corrales, N.M. 

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