3 Key Steps To Starting A Diversity And Inclusion Program In The Workplace

It is no secret that diversity and inclusion are the pathways to a happy and productive society. And the workplace is a great place to start! 

Employers who understand this have an edge over their competition by respecting the value of all their team members. In return, diverse and inclusive workplaces earn more commitment and trust from their employees.

Although the primary objective of an effective diversity and inclusion program is to make all employees feel valued, it can also help companies become more competitive and profitable. Yet so many organizations  are falling short, and employees aren’t noticing positive results in many cases.

This article will discuss the importance of diversity and inclusion programs and how to develop an effective one that will promote a positive and productive work culture.

Defining Diversity and Inclusion 

The first step is to define these two terms. While they are related, they are actually separate and distinct concepts. 

Diversity refers to individual and group differences. Diverse organizations consist of employees from a variety of unique backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. 

Inclusion refers to an environment that celebrates diversity. An Inclusive work environment provides the opportunity for employees from diverse backgrounds to thrive and feel a sense of belonging.  

For an organization or business to fully benefit from the value and potential of employees from a range of backgrounds, it must be BOTH diverse and inclusive. 

A workplace that hires many different genders, races, nationalities, and sexual orientations and identities but only values the input of a certain group is diverse while not inclusive.

However, even with those well defined terms confusion exists. Research from Deloitte indicates a generational gap in these perspectives. Older generations tend to view diversity by focusing on categories like gender, race, and religion. Younger generations expand the concept to include cognitive diversity, or the diversity of thoughts, ideas, and skills.

Why Diversity is Important in the Workplace  

According to The Society From Human Resource Management (SHRM) organizations implement diversity programs because they:

  • View diversity as an important value (the right thing to do)
  • Seek to discover what a broader range of backgrounds and skill sets can bring to the table
  • Are required to be compliant with equal opportunity laws and prevent discrimination claims
  • Believe diverse workforces can relate to and better understand the needs of various consumer groups, resulting in improved sales

Benefits of Inclusion and Diversity in the Workplace

There are many reasons why companies should incorporate diversity and inclusion programs into their corporate strategy. Here a few that stand out.

Job seekers gravitate to diverse workplaces

In order for a business to attract a wide range of strong candidates they need to have a reputation for being diverse. Both job seekers and employees have strong expectations for a high level of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. 

Diverse companies are more innovative 

A Harvard Business Review study (2018) revealed that the most diverse companies also seemed to be the most innovative, as they had the ability to attract a wider range of customers. Having a diverse pool of employees allowed for companies to take the lead with multi-faceted innovation.

Diversity leads to company growth

Diversity can also have positive impact on a company’s financial bottom line. Businesses that are diverse tend to perform significantly better than those who are not.  McKinsey estimates that companies that have both gender and ethnic diversity can financially perform up to 25% better than the national median.

Building and Implementing a D & I Program

So let’s explore how to create an effective diversity and inclusion program that works for all members of an organization and gets results. 

Step 1: Collect the Data

Any effective plan for change starts with a baseline. You need to measure and benchmark the current state of diversity in your business to discover areas of concern and track progress over time.  Typical categories for data collection include state and federal protected demographics, but can also include factors like personality type, learning style and life experience.

Some data may be available through Equal Employment Opportunity records, while others require voluntary reporting. An anonymous employee feedback questionnaire is a method that many people feel comfortable with.

Step 2: Identify Areas of Concern and Develop Objectives

Once you have the data you can identify areas for improvement. The list of concerns will determine the objectives of your program, to move your company towards a more inclusive and representative culture.

You will be able to review demographics to discover areas of underrepresentation, and take note of departments, and positions in which it occurs. Perhaps you will identify a need to improve recruiting efforts and hiring practices. Employee survey results can drive objectives as well, based on common themes. 

Step 3: Design and Implement D & I Training

Diversity and inclusion initiatives can target many areas. They can include changing policies and procedures, training, and offering D&I awareness events.They have the most impact when they relate to your specific areas of concern and align with the objectives of the business. 

It is important to engage all employees in D&I planning, and not only human resources. Informal workshops and online training on D&I topics are a great way to promote involvement.

Once those three key steps have been achieved you are well on your way to building a more diverse and inclusive workplace. However it is important to view your program as a work in progress and always strive for continuous improvement. 

Communicating and Tracking

It will be important to communicate all initiatives with upper leadership because they are ultimately accountable. The success of these programs largely lies with senior executives. And ongoing communication is critical to keep these initiatives in the forefront. 

And lastly, measuring and dispatching results play a big role. By comparing the results to the baseline you can determine if there have been improvements with representation, employee satisfaction, company profits, and more.

Keep mind, the goal is not to craft an impressive document for the employee handbook, but rather to develop a vehicle for positive change in your workplace!

For Support with Building Your Program

Getting started can seem overwhelming but you don’t have to go it alone. Professional Diversity Network can help you transform your diversity recruitment strategy. Our expert compliance and auditing team will provide you with customized services to ensure you meet the OFCCP and EEO regulations. In addition, as the leader in diversity job distribution and reporting, we can connect you with large, talented population of job seekers. Reach out today; we would love to partner with you! 

Further Reading