Workplace Diversity: Why It Matters and How to Cultivate It

Employers in all industries are prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives to make sure teams are set up for success. Diversity in the workplace isn’t a trend or a requirement. Creating an inclusive environment within your company can improve productivity and employee engagement, increasing profits and customer satisfaction. Yet, adopting DEI initiatives to create a truly diverse and inclusive workplace comes with challenges and a considerable amount of effort. Learning about the benefits of diversity in the workplace, common challenges many organizations face, and actions you can take to promote diversity and inclusiveness can help your company make successful changes.

Benefits of Diversity in the Workplace

There’s little doubt that creating an inclusive workforce within your organization can improve its reputation. Yet, that’s not the best reason to consider it. A diverse workplace describes an organization with employees who have a wide range of varying characteristics and experiences. These may include:

  • Race
  • Gender Identity 
  • Ethnicity
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Physical Abilities and Disabilities
  • Culture
  • Military Status
  • Geographic Orientation
  • Education
  • Language
  • Socioeconomic Background

Employing a diverse workforce does a lot more than improve your company’s reputation and bottom line. Consider these additional benefits of workplace diversity.

New Ideas/Perspectives

Ideas are not simply abstract thoughts pulled from the air, they’re created by people. When your workforce is composed of teams with varied ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age, experience level, educational background, expertise, etc., they are more likely to have a wide array of ideas for success. Diverse teams can generate ideas to reach successful outcomes more quickly and cost-effectively because they develop more pathways to the final result. A diverse workforce can also help eliminate ideas that may alienate customers, impede company growth, or harm the brand.

Bigger Talent Pool

Nearly 69% of companies have reported talent shortages and difficulty hiring. The reasons for such a wide skills gap are varied. The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the employee landscape, highlighting the reality that skills required for many workplace roles are constantly evolving. For employers, this makes recruiting employees more challenging. Intentionally seeking a diverse group of employees gives companies access to a wider talent pool with the qualifications to fill empty positions.

Better Performance 

In a workplace where employees see a variety of cultures, backgrounds, and ways of thinking, they are more likely to feel comfortable being themselves. This authenticity creates greater psychological safety, which is the pathway to deeper employee engagement and an increased feeling of being included. Highly diverse and inclusive organizations see a 26% increase in team collaboration and an 18% increase in team commitment.

More Innovation

Companies in every industry must embrace change and new ideas to attract and engage customers and keep them satisfied with products and services. Innovative companies grow more quickly, stand out among competitors, and remain relevant during changing times. Employees with similar cultures and backgrounds are likely to use the same methods for solving problems and cultivating new ideas. Conversely, a group with a variety of perspectives is more likely to come up with creative ideas. 

Increased Profits

According to McKinsey’s research, racially and ethnically diverse workplaces outperform industry averages by 36%, and those that are gender diverse see a 48% advantage. Perhaps more importantly, companies in the bottom quartile for both ethnic and gender diversity are less likely to achieve above-average financial returns than other companies in the same industry. This means, instead of simply not leading, these companies are falling behind.

How To Promote Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

While there’s no denying the benefits of diversity in the workplace, creating an inclusive environment requires more than a simple agreement to employ a more diverse team. To be truly inclusive, an organization must create a culture where all employees feel that their contributions are valued and that they are connected to their colleagues. These strategies can help you create an inclusive workplace.

Develop Inclusive Hiring Practices

Diversity in the workplace begins with inclusive hiring practices. A McKinsey & Company study reveals that non-inclusive job descriptions cause companies to lose 39% of job applicants. Consider how the words used in job descriptions can make certain groups of people feel left out.

  • Specific pronouns can imply the job is reserved for one gender.
  • The term “native English speaker” can eliminate racially diverse candidates who speak fluent English.
  • Terms like able-bodied, digital native, recent graduate, and energetic suggest candidates should be young.
  • Phrases like see, speak, lift, carry, walk, and drive can eliminate disabled candidates who are capable of recognizing, communicating, moving, and accessing transportation.

Hiring practices that rely on actionable data will help employers seek out candidates who meet the most qualifications for a specific role.

Invest in Training to Overcome Bias

Deloitte’s 2019 State of Inclusion survey revealed that 39% of employees experience bias at least once a month, and 83% of these biases are characterized by microaggressions. All too often, unconscious bias is revealed in statements or actions that seem harmless but make others feel uncomfortable or insulted. Unconscious biases are rarely aligned with the moral code of the individual, making them easier to overlook. Targeted training can help supervisors and co-workers understand and overcome unconscious bias. Other ways to reduce unconscious bias include:

Avoid Common Mistakes

Policies that are ineffective or even offensive can destroy your efforts and lower morale. Your DEI initiatives should be more of a shift in the way your organization interacts than a policy for employees to follow. Avoid these common mistakes when building a more diverse and inclusive workplace.

  • Diversity and inclusion efforts that begin and end in HR
  • Reinforcing stereotypes through training
  • Devising policies that exist only on paper and aren’t followed up with actions
  • Using another organization’s actions or paperwork as a template
  • Hiring based on diversity but failing to make employees feel like valued members of the team
  • Basing diversity on a single demographic
  • Making marginalized employees champion the cause or help create change

The Challenges of Diversity in the Workplace

Like any other change within an organization, creating an inclusive and diverse workplace will bring challenges and disagreements. Individuals are uncomfortable facing their own biases, and many people naturally resist change. 

Aligning DEI Tactics with Organizational Goals

Creating an inclusive workplace doesn’t mean your company should change its goals. Instead, your DEI tactics should align with your company goals to help you create teams that naturally steer your company’s success. Adopting the diversity and inclusion tactics that help another company succeed could mean you’re focusing on goals that don’t match your organization.

Communication Issues

Whether you’re actually speaking a different language or simply failing to understand the norms of other cultures, communication issues can cause offense and unintentional disagreements. For instance, in Germany, arriving late is extremely offensive, while some Latin countries expect individuals to be fashionably late. Other actions that are offensive in some cultures include thumbs up, tipping, and laughing with your mouth open.

Forgetting Management Training

Managers and people in authoritative positions provide a valuable example for employees to follow. Beginning with management training can help avoid issues where managers or supervisors unintentionally set a controversial tone. 

Creating Inclusivity for a Variety of Demographics

An inclusive workplace means different things to different people. For instance, gender-fluid employees might feel more comfortable with gender-neutral bathrooms and added pronouns in company correspondence. Working parents may be interested in flexible working hours or a childcare flexible spending account. A veteran suffering from PTSD may seek mental health benefits or flex hours to see a therapist.

Internal Resistance

Humans are creatures of habit. Most people are comfortable with what they know and are already accustomed to. Internal resistance is often simply resistance to change and worries that existing positions are in jeopardy. Other times, internal resistance is a result of individuals who are actively opposed to the idea of intentionally building diversity. Creating transparent communications about the company’s motivations and goals for these changes can help reduce internal resistance.

Promoting Workplace Diversity & Inclusion Matters

Promoting workplace diversity and inclusion is one way to drive change.. Understanding the benefits for your organization and the challenges you might encounter can better prepare you to create DEI efforts that promote your company’s mission. Utilizing specific data from your employees’ performance and satisfaction rates can help you create inclusive hiring practices and extend inclusivity into your workplace culture.

Want measurable and practical feedback for improving inclusion and collaboration at your organization? Check out the RallyBright Inclusive Collaboration Toolkit, which enables organizations to measure, diagnose and improve inclusive collaboration through team assessments and reports, benchmark data, strengths and vulnerabilities, and actionable roadmaps. Schedule your free demo to learn more!