Developing an Inclusion and Diversity Strategy in the Workplace

Companies today must demonstrate a culture of diversity and inclusion in order to succeed.  Potential employees and customers consider these qualities to be critical.

Many RFPs even require a section on diversity and inclusion, where bidders must demonstrate their commitment to these principles.

It’s no longer enough to say that you support diversity in your workplace. You have to put your money where your mouth is. You have to show demonstrable evidence that you have undertaken systems to address these issues.

Here are five ways your company can create an effective diversity strategy for your workplace.

1. It’s All in the Data

In order to assess whether you are pursuing effective diversity strategies, you need to track the numbers. 

You need to know how many people of color, women, and other under-represented groups like LGBTQ people and people with disabilities work for your company. How many hold supervisory positions? How many people from these groups have you interviewed for positions in the last year?

By keeping accurate records of your diversity efforts, you will see where you need to improve. 

If you employ more than one hundred people, you are required by law to report on the characteristics of your employees to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This agency is dedicated to preventing discriminatory actions in the workplace.

2. Leadership Comes from the Top

For a diversity and inclusion program to work,  it needs support from leadership. Managers and other mid-level supervisors will follow the lead of the company president or CEO. Therefore,  how the leader approaches the issue of diversity is very important.

If you decide that increasing internal diversity is important, your president should promote this priority. He or she should mention it frequently in company newsletters and interviews.  You can create a dedicated page on the company website.

Mentioning the company’s commitment once or twice is not enough. You should distribute a yearly report which transparently reports if diversity strategies have been successful. If they have not, company leadership should address why the objectives have not been met and how they will try better next year.

3. Implement Goals and Ways to Meet Them 

Another way to ensure your diversity strategy has teeth is to five it ways to implement its ideas. A strategy needs a budget, goals, and a vehicle to put its principles into action.

One approach is to create a diversity committee, made up of employees from all over your organization. They might work with other groups, both internally and externally.

For example, a diversity committee might work with the company’s Gay-Straight Alliance. They might collaborate with nonprofits in the community, to support events like Gay Pride week. 

The committee could also take the lead in planning events, such as implicit bias training. Some employees may not realize the incivility of certain jokes or expressions.

Diversity events can be fun like parties or cooking classes focused on ethnic cuisine. They can be serious, like discussions of the Black Lives Matter movement.  

The committee should work with company leadership to create specific goals for the year, like increasing interviews of diverse candidates for leadership positions by 40%.

A goal could be the scheduling of four or five events a year to raise awareness and promote solidarity with a diverse audience. Another goal could be to raise funds for organizations committed to diverse causes.  

4. Training 

Startups have a bad reputation for cultivating unfriendly cultures. There is a stereotype of frat-boy behavior in some industries that can make members of diverse groups uncomfortable. 

If you want to really encourage top talent to come work for you, you need to educate new and existing employees on what behaviors are and are not tolerated in your workplace. 

Training should be given to both staff and managers on how to avoid unconscious bias, how to prioritize diversity, and how to create a work environment that is productive for all.

This is also an important mitigation tactic. If your company is ever sued for discrimination,  proof of bias training rebuts any assumption that you endorsed illegal behavior.

5. Dedicated staff 

Depending on the size of your company,  you may want to consider creating a dedicated staff position in charge of diversity, equity and inclusion. This person would hold primary responsibility for leading diversity initiatives, tracking statistics, and exploring new ideas.

Creating a Director of Diversity or similar position shows that you are serious about this value in your company. 

If your company is not yet large enough to justify a full-time employee in this area,  you should carve out specific responsibilities for this within any existing job description. 

6. Why Do We Do This?

Maybe you already hire people regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation. You may think you do not need to have a program dedicated to diversity in your company. You may even think that because members of your team are diverse, you do not need to be so formal about this.

A formalized diversity strategy accomplishes several goals. It shows your employees, clients, prospects, and the general public what is important to your brand. It lays out definitive evidence that your efforts are more than lip service.

Many government agencies and private companies require that the businesses with whom they contract show a verifiable dedication to diversity.  Many colleges will not let you recruit on-campus unless you can demonstrate your commitment to this.

To attract the best workers, you want to show them you are open to a wide range of perspectives. To attract customers, you want to show that you are inclusive to all and you do not discriminate.

If one of your employees is accused of behaving in a discriminatory manner,  a strong diversity program will counter the assumption that you condone his behavior. 

Diversity Strategy: A Necessity for Success

If you want to attract and retain great employees, create a diversity strategy that encourages a culture where all are welcome. By making diversity a priority in your workplace, you can cultivate a culture where a wide range of perspectives are welcomed and respected.

These are the qualities of a company that is on the road to success.

For more information on building a healthy and diverse corporate culture, check us out.

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