Diversity can be a significant driver for addressing some of society’s most pressing issues, from employment to health care. And a growing body of evidence suggests that diversity improves team performance—and is good for business. Leaders who encourage diversity and inclusivity can improve the work environment while increasing profits.
Here are ten ways to make diversity and inclusivity part of your company’s culture.
1. Provide Mentorship, Training, and Development
Employees who feel supported by their managers are more likely to stay at the company; employees who feel supported by their coworkers and leaders can be more productive and innovative. Providing mentorship and training programs that promote inclusive behavior is good for both employees and the organization. Employees whose skills are developed will contribute more value to their companies while also gaining a sense of personal satisfaction from helping others reach their full potential, something we all strive for (unless you’re a sociopath or some such).
2. Create Reasonable Expectations and Rules
Policies like “no dating within the workplace” might sound like a good idea, but this type of rule can create a workplace that makes people feel uncomfortable. Rather than prohibit certain behaviors, set reasonable expectations and follow them with clear consequences, if necessary.
3. Provide Tools for Reducing Communication Barriers
One of the biggest challenges that employees with disabilities face is being unable to communicate due to barriers effectively. Companies looking to make their workplaces more inclusive should provide software-based solutions for deaf workers and hardware solutions like screen readers for visually impaired workers. Non-software-based things are also crucial though software seems easier because it’s software.
4. Encourage an Open Dialogue
There’s often a fine line between “inclusive” and “political.” Inclusivity without politics is about having an open dialogue among employees from different backgrounds to understand one another better—while respecting boundaries. It helps people feel included when they see others who look like them in positions of leadership and when their ideas are valued despite differences in background or opinions. This also means that you should check your own behavior: Don’t let subtle (or not-so-subtle) biases affect your actions.
5. Focus on Relationships, Not Quotas
Groups with a history of discrimination aren’t likely to trust an organization preaching diversity until they see proof it’s more than just lip service. Making diversity a priority can improve employees’ relationships with their managers, teammates, and organizations.
6. Create a Diverse Talent Pipeline
Study after study has shown that companies who hire from diverse backgrounds see benefits ranging from improved financial performance to better creativity and decision-making. Diversity is more than just hiring; employee referrals are often the most effective way of ensuring diverse hires—but those groups may not always know where to look or feel welcome if they do look. Help them out by providing them with information, opportunities, and support (like networking events).
7. Maintain Transparency Around Salaries
While pay transparency isn’t the norm yet in the business world, it can be an essential step toward closing wage gaps among your workforce. This allows staff members to make informed decisions about fair pay and ensures that salaries are based on skills, experience, performance rather than gender or other personal characteristics. A study by Payscale found that employees who didn’t know what their coworkers made were twice as likely to say they were underpaid.
8. Celebrate Differences
You can’t enforce diversity policies without celebrating differences at the same time. Remember how your company chose to handle diversity? If you’re walking around saying “diversity” but calling people “thugs,” then guess what? You’re not actually promoting diversity; you’re just perpetuating intolerance. Whether it be having a cross-fit competition or something else entirely different like paintballing, make events that embrace diversity, and you’ll find employees will be more open to ideas, theories, and plans from people of diverse backgrounds.
9. Promote Inclusive Leadership
People are more likely to feel comfortable with those who remind them of themselves—people they can relate to and see as one of their own. That’s why creating a structure for inclusive leadership is important: ensuring that your company has visible role models (especially in positions of power) helps show others that there is a place for them within the company. It also helps potential hires picture themselves working at your organization before they even land an interview.
10. Encourage Communication Across Silos
Silos aren’t just bad for business—they’re also bad for diversity. They create a culture of secrecy, fear, and distrust, leading to job insecurity among employees who are not in the inner circle. Breaking down silos means giving employees opportunities to broaden their networks, share ideas and learn from one another, creating an environment where everyone feels respected.
Creating a diverse workforce isn’t just the right thing to do; it also makes good business sense. Make sure your employees are empowered, aware, and inspired (not only by their colleagues but management too), and you’ll be well on your way.