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March 2, 2021
February 18, 2021

Workplace Diversity and Why it Works

Workplace Diversity and Why it Works

By now you’ve realized that diversity in the workplace is important, but it’s not just about filling quotas or checking boxes. Hiring people from diverse backgrounds has a tangible ROI. If you still don’t think diversity has a huge impact, you should know it’s becoming an increasingly important factor for people as they look for places to work. 

Diversity means making sure your team, or company, is made up of people that come from various backgrounds and experiences. This can include people with disabilities as well as people of different races, ethnicities, socioeconomic status, gender, sexual orientation, and more. 

Racial diversity in management increases productivity.

In a sample of high tech firms, a study found that racial diversity in both upper and lower management increases productivity. Furthermore, firms with a more racially diverse upper management out-produced firms with a more racially diverse lower management. As you increase racial diversity at your company, it will have the biggest impact when you have diverse perspectives present when decisions are made. 

In another study in the United States, researchers found a linear relationship between racial and ethnic diversity and better financial performance. Companies with the most ethnically diverse executive teams are 33% more likely to outperform their peers when it comes to profitability. 

Hiring diverse talent increases creativity by bringing people with different perspectives to the table. Having this creative edge will put your company ahead of its competitors when it comes to innovation, profitability, and productivity. 

Avoiding bias when hiring.

One thing to acknowledge is that we all have implicit biases, whether they’re intentional or not. Affinity Bias causes us to hire people who we feel like we can relate to or find a connection with. This can lead us to be more interested in a candidate who looks like us, went to the same school, talks similarly, or other characteristics. We can even have a bias toward individuals with certain names. This can be avoided by carefully considering why you value one candidate over another, and having diverse recruiters and interviewers as part of the hiring process is a great way to ensure your biases don’t get in the way of your hiring. 

Today’s hiring managers are looking for a good culture fit in addition to skills and experience, but culture fit can be used as an excuse, whether intentional or not, to write off candidates that the hiring manager doesn’t immediately relate to. For example, some people say, “you should hire people you want to hang out with outside of work.” However, if you look at the people you generally hang out with, they’re usually about your age and you like them because you have similar interests or backgrounds. The workplace shouldn’t be the same because you’re not hanging out, you’re working together to solve problems and fulfill a variety of tasks. Diversity will help you solve problems faster and with greater accuracy, and you definitely want that in the workplace.

Finding diverse talent.

Sometimes there is an argument that there isn’t enough diversity to hire, but there are some things you can do with a little extra effort to expand your pool of applicants. 

Employers can expand their applicant pool simply by showing they care about diversity. A survey found that 72% of women and 62% of men consider workforce diversity important. This same survey also found that 89% of black respondents, 80% of Asians, and 70% of Latinos said it was important to them. That’s a solid majority, and displays the importance of diversity to the individuals that make up the workforce. Overall, 86% of job seekers say it's somewhat or very important to them that people of different backgrounds are represented in the workplace. Potential employees will be interviewing you as much as you’re interviewing them and company culture is becoming increasingly important to job seekers. 

As you hire diverse talent, consider if your job listings reflect how you really feel about diversity. Are you using inclusive language? Are you being welcoming to people of all backgrounds beyond the required diversity “equal opportunity employer” statement? Here’s a fun fact: did you know you can rewrite the EEOC statement about being an “equal opportunity employer” into your own words? When you copy and paste it at the bottom of the listing it seems like an afterthought or obligation rather than something you’ve carefully considered, but it can be so much more. Take a moment to show people that diversity is important to you beyond what is legally required. 

Embracing diversity improves employee engagement.

Once you’ve recruited more diverse talent, you can work on retention by focusing on inclusion. Consider how you can make all your employees feel comfortable and valued at work. Half of all diverse employees stated that they see bias as part of their day-to-day work experience. They don’t believe their companies have the right mechanisms in place to ensure that decisions such as who receives promotions or recognition are free from bias.

Recent statistics from the Human Rights Campaign stated that 46% of LGBTQ+ workers feel closeted at work. Creating a workplace that encourages employees to bring their full selves to work increases engagement and productivity. 83% of millennials (the majority of your workforce) are actively engaged when they believe their organization fosters an inclusive culture.

As you increase diversity at your workplace, it’s not just about increasing the number of people who fit a certain demographic, it’s about embracing individualism and allowing their diversity to have impact on company policies and work projects. Allow all of your employees to consult on issues and provide their feedback. Listen when they bring up issues you may not have considered. 

Equal recognition. 

Programs aimed at diversity and inclusion should focus on acceptance of individualism, collaboration, teamwork, and innovation. 

Recognize the work that your employees do across the company. Make an effort to recognize a variety of people in your company. Often leaders get the most recognition, and since a shockingly low percentage of diverse candidates are in leadership positions they may not feel as appreciated. In addition to promotions and fair compensations, make recognition frequent and feedback more accessible to your employees. Create a culture that recognizes everyone’s hard work. 

Improving diversity in your workplace.

Depending where your company is with diversity you may have a lot of work to do, and it can be daunting. However, improving diversity in the workplace can start with simple assessments of your processes and building from there.

Here are some questions to continually ask yourself:

  • Am I eliminating bias in hiring? 
  • Am I measuring work in a way that eliminates bias? 
  • Have I diversified my hiring and leadership teams?
  • Is there a demographic I haven’t yet considered as my company diversifies?
  • Am I recognizing, rewarding, and compensating people without bias?

Making diversity a priority will pay off. Diverse talent will help you think outside the box, innovate, and problem solve faster than if you stay within one or two demographics. It’ll increase engagement and retention. As you understand and overcome your biases you’ll be able to make better, more profitable decisions for your employees and your customers. 

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