At this point the discourse around workplace diversity is fairly consistent: more diverse and inclusive companies are better companies and result in more innovation, profit and employee satisfaction. Studies have shown that diverse teams make better business decisions1, produce 19% more revenue1 and improve employee intent-to-stay by 20% compared to other teams2. As a business or HR leader, it’s an easy pitch to the executive board that diversity and inclusion is a positive thing for everyone. But, how do you actually cultivate diversity at work?
Start by looking inward
Often, businesses don’t realize the things baked into their organizational culture already that are keeping teams homogenous. As you attempt to change things up, keep in mind there might be practices you need to weed out of your organization just as much as you need to integrate new processes.
Unfortunately, some of these practices might be heavily embraced by the company as “tradition.” Part of a positive attitude for change comes from believing that the challenges that come along with the change are for the best. Pushing back against this type of resistance might require some light educational efforts or showing how new traditions can be made. This could be in the form of information sharing through company newsletters, topics at staff meetings, or small group conversations.
Consider that some people respond better to numbers and “factual proof” while others are swayed by storytelling or other emotional appeals. It also helps to tie new efforts into existing stated company values, goals or leadership principles to demonstrate how changes are in line with the organizational vision.
Set and communicate expectations early on
Change management principles including thoroughly understanding, planning, implementing and communicating new policies, recommendations and processes are crucial in efforts such as these. Diversity efforts also present the opportunity to bring in employees from all levels of the organization to have ownership over changes being implemented. But keep in mind, just as there’s no quick fix for creating a more diverse workforce, there’s no one solution that’s going to feel quite complete to everyone.
Have a plan going into your effort to diversify and set timelines for appraisals of practices and the time it will take to implement new methods and measures. Just as you would keep open communication with a client about any delays, you should communicate openly with your institution about where efforts are being put and when they can expect to see changes.
Use your data
Pull demographic charts for every level of your organization. Using hard data can show you where diversity - be it gender, race, age, orientation and so on - is lacking versus where it’s thriving. For example, can you pinpoint a department where certain applicants are getting interviews and others aren’t? Could that be due to an off-putting screening process, interview style or language in the types of job postings? Pulling data or putting out surveys before any efforts are made will also allow you to benchmark and set goals for your organization.
Lead with compassion, then follow through
The first thing to know: there’s no quick or direct path forward. Plenty of businesses want to be more inclusive but don’t follow through on implementing the long haul changes that could make a meaningful difference in the lives of their employees.
If you invest time, resources and compassion into this effort, your business and employees will see positive outcomes in return.
Take a leading role in your organization’s path forward.
At the Graduate School of Management at Marquette University, we don’t just lecture about diversity and inclusion, we live it as a part of our Jesuit principles. Service, social justice and ethics are at the core of our curriculums for the online MBA and online Master in Management (MiM) programs and are taught by expert faculty including several who are widely published on the topics of organizational behavior, workplace relationships and stigmas. With our programs you can master business topics like finance, supply chain management, human resources development, and more, all through a lens of principled leadership. Start your application today or set up a call with an Admissions Advisor for more information.
- Retrieved on October 6, 2021, from forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2019/09/09/the-benefits-of-creating-a-diverse-workforce
- Retrieved on October 6, 2021, from gartner.com/en/human-resources/trends/workforce-diversity