Creating a diverse workforce and a company culture of inclusion

Fostering a diverse and inclusive work environment can lead to more creativity and innovation, higher levels of employee engagement, and stronger competitive advantages. In fact, a survey conducted by McKinsey and Company, reveals that companies with a diverse workforce are 35% more likely to have financial returns above industry averages.

Full team buy-in, from upper management to entry-level employees, has the potential to bring positive changes to the workplace culture and ultimately lead to company success. When all employees feel included and validated, the level of creativity rises as they become more comfortable sharing their opinions and ideas. These ideas can offer insights into a wide range of customers wants and needs and expand your business into new markets.

Many global and fast-rising companies recognize the advantage of hiring a diverse workforce and create diversity and inclusion initiatives within their organization to ensure that they are fostering a positive workplace culture.

Creating a diverse workforce

Hiring for a diverse workforce creates a competitive advantage when it comes to obtaining the best and brightest talent. Take a look at the language of your job postings, the career fairs your company has a presence in, and your overall recruiting efforts. When you make diversity and inclusion a part of your company’s overall goals and missions, your team and prospective new employees will know that this is not a one-time initiative.

You can create a welcoming impression to new candidates by becoming an Equal Opportunity Employer and by developing a hiring committee that focuses on recruiting for diversity. Create job descriptions that focus on what an applicant can expect to accomplish in the position rather than specific skill sets. A study by Harvard Business Review shows that men apply for jobs they feel 60% qualified for, while women will only apply when they feel 100% qualified. Setting clear expectations of job performance may open the door to a broader range of diverse applicants.

Don’t limit your talent pool to just employee recommendations. If your company isn’t already diverse, this could stall your efforts to attract more diverse candidates. Widen your talent pool by posting on third-party job websites. Take a look at your company’s website and marketing materials to ensure that they represent a diverse demographic. New candidates may be deterred from considering your company if you show a mostly homogeneous representation.

Here are some other tips to help diversify your workforce.

Obtain management buy-in

Management cooperation is necessary to outline the strategic goals for your initiatives and establish clear roles and responsibilities for the initial program roll-out. Managers should understand what is expected of them and be equipped with the resources need to inform, educate, and empower employees. Establish a diversity manager who is responsible for monitoring and enforcing company standards and hiring practices regarding diversity and inclusion.

Conduct an internal survey

An internal survey can help to identify existing issues and understand the demographics of your workforce. If you are an Equal Opportunity Employer, census information can found in the EEO data collected for compliance requirements. Any additional information obtained through a survey should be provided voluntarily by the employees. Diversity survey templates can be found on the Society for Human Resource Management and SurveyMonkey websites. When creating the survey, take into account all types of diversity including race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, and religious beliefs.

Create a communication plan

Identify clear guidelines on the kind of language employees should use and avoid. Provide training to address how employees should talk to colleagues about diversity and how to intervene when they witness discrimination or harassment within the workplace. Role-playing scenarios can help provide relevant examples of situations that could occur. Share the communication plan through executive presentations, company social media, internal marketing materials, and email communications.

Expand your talent search

By hiring internationally, your company will expand its reach into a global market and will truly be hiring the best of the best. International employees bring unique perspectives and experiences that help encourage creativity and collaboration in ways previously untapped. Foreign employees also help to fill roles that have a known shortage of qualified US candidates, such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) professionals. Sponsoring foreign employees for H-1B visas and other employment-based visas do come with their own set of costs, rules, and requirements; however, it may be worth the effort if it means hiring valuable talent. Consult with a reputable immigration attorney to understand your visa sponsorship options.

Making inclusion a priority

Some companies that implement a diversity recruiting process can fall short in retaining the employees due to a lack of inclusion. To avoid this, prioritize creating an environment where all employees feel that they can freely voice their opinions and suggestions.

Consider conducting a survey that gathers feedback on the hiring and onboarding experience from minority applicants. Their feedback can help identify and guide the organization through the positive changes that should be made. The key to inclusion is to listen, validate, and learn from your mistakes. Conduct exit interviews and to be open to assessing and determining why minority employees leave the company. Be willing to make changes.

Surveys can help drive your company’s focused and data-driven initiatives to have direct impact on employee satisfaction, engagement, and retention. Once you’ve determined the demographics of your employees and what they value, the ideas below can help create a more inclusive company culture.

Recognize all holidays and events

Create a company calendar that highlights a wide range of cultural and religious holidays and events such as Eid, Gay Pride Week, and Black History Month. Make it company policy to accommodate cultural and religious holidays as well as culturally significant apparel choices. Stress the importance of recognizing your colleague’s cultural and religious practices when scheduling meetings and working lunches. Host monthly events that focus on creating dialogue and sharing cultures such as a book club, movie night, or international potlucks.

Initiate a mentor program

Match employees with mentors who can provide perspectives and insights regardless of their race, gender, age, or other factors. Every team member brings valuable viewpoints, backgrounds, and experiences. Encouraging discussion through a mentorship program can help to strengthen workplace culture and employee engagement.

Develop community outreach

A diverse and inclusive culture does not have to be contained within the office. Incentivize employees to participate in community events and organizations that promote diversity. Offer internships and scholarships to minority students. Sponsor organizations that empower underrepresented groups.

Share new perspectives

Use internal communication platforms like emails and intranet to highlight the company’s diversity initiatives, upcoming community events, or employee interviews that highlight diversity and cultural insights. Ensure that all employees feel connected and included by encouraging them to think from different perspectives. When scheduling meetings, share in advance the agenda and any topics of discussion so that non-native English speakers and introverted employees have time to prepare and process the information. Ensure that meetings are collaborative and all are properly recognized for their ideas.

Create measurable goals

Creating specific, measurable, and attainable goals can help to hold leaders and managers accountable and determine the initiative’s success. Some measurable metrics can include an increased representation of minority groups, or improved employee satisfaction and retention. Also, establish periodic reviews of your program to ensure a continuation of positive performance over time.

Don’t focus on diversity for diversity’s sake

Companies who create diversity programs for public relation or marketing purposes can lose sight of the high value of a diverse workforce. Promote diversity and focus on inclusion because the results form a better company culture for everyone. More than that, a diverse and inclusive workplace drives innovation, reaches a broader audience, and produces better results.  

Challenge your company’s status quo and identifying areas that could benefit from a different perspective. If the senior level executives all share similar characteristics and backgrounds, consider hiring a consultant to bring a fresh look that reflects your company’s diversity goals. Ask employees tough questions on what needs to change and make a commitment to develop programs that help all employees reach their highest potential. All things are possible when diversity and inclusion play a major part in your company culture.

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