Forget naming, shaming and blaming; workplace diversity is everyone’s responsibility.
When it comes to encouraging inclusive company cultures, it shouldn’t be about pointing the finger at the lack of diversity in an organisation and hoping the bosses will get what’s coming to them. Instead, it should be about going, “right, this is the situation, something has to be done, how can it be made better?”
Regardless of whether or not you’ve been publicly outed over your organisation’s lack of diversity, everyone has to make the issue a serious priority. Take a look at the reputation repair work being done by Facebook, Intel and Google. Sure, it might have taken some really bad press to put the gears in motion, but the benefits these organisations will feel from addressing internal diversity problems will make it all extremely worthwhile in the long run.
Growth & empowerment
The pros of diversifying your workforce are abundant, from increasing passion and productivity on an individual internal level, to establishing your company as progressive and people-focussed from an external perspective. Additionally, from a business point of view, embracing and encouraging difference and uniqueness among employees fosters innovation, creativity and daringness, which will ultimately open new opportunities lead to greater success.
People who feel they’re a minority employee who doesn’t exactly ‘fit in’ at work are likely to feel less confident and empowered to lead from the front. What’s worse, these people might even feel compelled to conform; an idea coined in social psychology as Normative Social Influence. How disastrous? The key is truly nurturing and maximising various skillsets and backgrounds of employees to create an inclusive and positive environment.
Time to act
These days, there’s nowhere to hide. If your company is severely lacking in diversity and seen to be doing nothing about it, it’s only a matter of time before your stakeholders notice – not only employees and candidates, but customers and potential customers too. While it shouldn’t be your main driver for officially addressing the issue, it should be enough to at least get you thinking about the topic!
Your company might operate on the notion that when it comes to staffing, if it doesn’t appear to be broken, then don’t fix it. The danger here is that a lack of workplace diversity is often a silent business killer; sabotaging employee productivity, inhibiting growth, reducing retention rates and damaging reputations in the long run, with no flashing neon red warning signal. So, where to from here?
Make it mainstream
Diversity shouldn’t be a taboo subject. People need to talk about it, to make something happen. When it comes to talent attraction and recruitment, many companies and individuals are unknowingly biased, perhaps even unaware of how it’s affecting the organisation. Companies might not necessarily be actively trying to discriminate against people from certain demographics; it might just be occurring because of societal norms, long running trends and procedures which go many years back. The first step in tackling this issue is acknowledging there is likely room for improvement, and then committing to doing something about it.
Being proactive starts with analysis and understanding. Starting off is simple. Look around your company. How would you describe your internal workforce – dedicated, daring, delightful… diverse? If the latter doesn’t ring true immediately, where are there gaps?
We know women are underrepresented in technology and STEM careers in general. Is your company a culprit of continuing this trend? What other demographics are under or overrepresented in your business? What patterns do you see emerging? Conducting what could be called an employee audit, measuring race, gender, age and other metrics will give you a good starting point for putting some new methods into practice.
The next step is to analyse your recruitment and hiring processes closely. Can you spot ways that bias and discrimination are being silently encouraged?
Have a game plan
To make positive changes towards becoming a more diverse workforce, you need a game plan and support from the whole business. They say good management always starts from the top; a CEO’s attitudes to work, staff and the company will likely infiltrate down through the tiers of management and be reflected across the remaining workforce. To really make diversity and inclusion a priority, we’d recommend putting into place an actual team of people whose job it is to embed a framework that supports improvement.
It’s now or never
Whatever you do, don’t ignore diversity and inclusion as a serious issue! It’s important, and tackling the issue NOW will be better for everyone in the long run.