​7 steps to ensure diversity in the workplace

15 / 05 / 18

While our unconscious brain prefers the safety of familiarity of those that appear to be most like us, the modern workplace means that we must frequently interact and work with colleagues who are different; and that also, diverse teams and inclusion produce much better results for your organisation than homogeneous teams and exclusive behaviour.

First of all what is a ‘diverse’ workforce and why is this important?

If you’re looking to improve diversity in your workplace it is crucial to understand this term. Diversity is all about ensuring that you include people from all walks of life, at different stages in their lives and their careers - who between them can draw upon a huge variety of experiences.

Realising that ‘diversity’ means so much more than just a set of traits - how can you make sure that your business is attracting a wide pool of potential candidates while providing an environment which will make them want to stay? Here are some helpful ideas:

1. Improve your job announcements

Make sure you create job descriptions that have less ‘fixed’ requirements. For example, research shows that typically women feel that they must match nearly 100% of the job experience requirements before applying for a job, while men require a much lower match to feel confident in their applications. This means that if you’re putting out a long list of ‘required’ skills or experience, you are probably immediately discounting a large pool of potential candidates. Instead, describe any areas of support and development which can be offered to the candidate. Women, in general, are not self-promoters and may be put off by wordings such “be the best of the best” so make sure you are careful in your wording. Try instead to describe an atmosphere which promotes strong values, loyalty and progression support at work. This approach will tend to attract a larger pool of applicants from the outset.

2. Remove subconscious bias

So once you’ve got candidates to apply how do you make sure you’re giving them their very best chance of success? You need to understand that natural bias exists in us all. We are naturally drawn to people that we think are similar to ourselves and tend to lean towards people that share the same opinions or have the same likes and dislikes. For example, by developing a structure for your hiring process which requires set interview questions for every candidate, you can look to limit unconscious bias towards potential employees. This will be important if you want to hire a diverse range of candidates.

Try to neutralise subconscious bias by ensuring that multiple members of staff meet with any potential candidate separately and correlate scoring before commenting on things like ‘personal fit’ of the interviewee.

3. Introduce a pair-up system

Congratulations on hiring a good candidate! But what is it that is going to make them want to stay with your business? Matching up new starters with a member of staff that has been with the company for a while is great for allowing employees to speak informally about particular areas (especially any of concern) that they might not feel comfortable voicing. It is very important that such an arrangement is completely informal and that it is made clear that conversations are completely confidential. Their partner should be there to mentor and guide the employee in their role settling in and developing their role. This process seeks to reduce any potential drop outs.

4. Provide incentives

Try to create goals that actually incentivise all of your employees (eg a drink at the end of the week isn’t going to appeal to all, and actually excludes some, due to religious beliefs). The best way to find out what makes your staff tick and find out what is likely to incentivise them is to ask them what they would like to see happen and build individual incentive programmes around this research. Some employees might not actually feel comfortable in asking for incentives - so make sure you come armed with suggestions to encourage them all.

5. Create diversity & inclusion ‘champions’

Celebrate employees who champion diversity and inclusion – elect them to head up your team. This isn’t always easy to do. If for example, you don’t have employees that buy into the idea, you must start by educating them. Consider running workshops, or event-based days which have a particular focus on diversity. Many companies now allow diversity champions’ work to lead into promotion credits. The reality here is that it will allow you to put realistic targets in place which you can all work together to achieve.

6. Celebrate

Make sure that your success in diversity is aired - your wins, your champions - and how it has benefited the business. This is all fantastic PR! Try to ensure that it is clear from your branded material that this is something that your business is really invested in and continue to discuss your progress with potential employees and consultants. At the same time, be mindful not to showcase members of staff based solely on matters of diversity. This is extremely important to avoid creating a divide in the workplace, or to avoid creating any speculation of positive discrimination or making particular employees self-conscious!

7. Educate

Often the biggest challenge in any organisation is getting employees to understand what diversity is and why it has such value. There are many misinformed opinions about what building a diverse workforce actually means and the benefits it has upon your workforce. Create informed policies, run education programmes with workshops and get your employees to openly discuss questions they have about diversity.

‘A coherent strategy is needed to ensure that all policies and working practices across the organisation support an inclusive culture which embraces difference. The strategy needs to be supported with a well-communicated value system reflecting the importance of diversity. All employees should be trained to understand and engage with this in the way they do their jobs and work with their colleagues.’ (CIPD)

Peeps HR have been helping clients improve diversity in the workplace Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you would like to explore this topic further or be introduced to suitable resources.

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