By: Alyssa Mossman
As the demands for representation in the workplace grow louder, companies are pressured to increase the diversity of their staff.
This is great news because there are targets being put in place. Programs like Affirmative Action, that guarantee more representation for women and minorities in the workforce. The downside is that while many companies have quotas in place, they don’t know how to create an inclusive environment for their team. Worse still, some employers begrudgingly fill those quotas without much thought to why they exist in the first place.
Elements of Diversity
With a diverse workplace, there are multitudes of benefits (besides financial), including:
– diverse ideas and views
– greater market insight
-access to more resources
-broader knowledge base
-more diverse customer base
-wider range of skills
Though these advantages cannot be unlocked if employees don’t feel engaged, respected, and supported at work. For example, “when women feel they are hired to fill quotas, it negatively affects relationships between coworkers.” That’s why employers need to focus on inclusive environments.
TIPS FOR INCLUSION
- The HR department shouldn’t be the only department concerned with diversity. Make sure all levels of staff know the true benefits and reasons for hiring diversely. Have a zero tolerance policy for discrimination.
- Take a genuine interest in your staff. Learn about them, and make sure they feel supported and able to voice concerns. Encourage them! listen to them!
- Make sure everyone ‘sits at the table’, as Sheryl Sandberg urges in her famous TED Talk. (She noticed too often female employees of almost equal rank to their male coworkers would sit to the side of the room in a meeting, instead of at the table with the rest of the men.)
- Be conscious of your words. We live in a society that has normalized language and ideas that are sexist, racist, ableist, homophobic etc. Be aware, and if you put your foot in your mouth, sincerely apologize. Take the responsibility to educate yourself on your team on sensitivity. That way everyone can learn how to communicate inclusively. Words can hurt, regardless of if they were well-intentioned.
In summary, true workplace diversity is a 2 step plan:
- Physical inclusion – hiring and promoting women and minorities
- Emotional inclusion – creating an environment where everyone feels like an equal member of the team. Where employees feel safe, supported, and heard.