How to Let Your Employees Know that Your Company Values Diversity and Inclusion

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The need for companies to show that they value diversity and inclusion has never been more important. Leaders have a mandate, an obligation and a requirement to lead in a way that creates an environment that is diverse and inclusive, so that every employee feels special and is valued for their uniqueness and contribution.

Recognizing and truly understanding the unique differences between people is a challenge - but it is definitely worth the effort. The process of valuing diversity, then, is to honor the differences of staff by hiring and employing a diverse group of people.

These employees vary greatly in gender, ethnicity, age, religion, race, sexual orientation, socio-economic status or physical disability, and have different characteristics such as talents, experiences, lifestyles, personalities, perspectives, opinions, family composition, educational background, job tenure and world views.

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Then it is important that you also find ways to help each employee add their own personal voice and value to your workplace. This is valuing inclusion. Inclusion means creating a work environment where every employee feels valued and included in decisions, opportunities and challenges. Every employee believes that their interests are valued equally with those of every other employee and that their voice is heard.

Note: Hopefully your organisation is already on this path of diversity and inclusion. However, no matter how successful you are, you always have the opportunity to improve the environment you provide for your employees.

Here are seven activities that can help foster an environment of diversity and inclusion:

Seek employee feedback


Ask your employees how well you are currently doing in valuing diversity and inclusion. Don't make assumptions. Depending on how much trust you have developed in your workplace, they may provide an answer, especially in small groups of supportive staff or one-on-one with a trusted leader.

Foster a supportive and safe work environment by asking difficult questions, asking for honest, realistic feedback and having difficult conversations in a protected way to build relationships.

Tip: To determine your current success, consider that an anonymous survey may provide better information from employees. You will want to survey your staff regularly to assess progress in demonstrating that you value diversity and inclusion and in the culture you have developed with your staff.

Inform your senior staff and leadership teams


Focus on educating your senior leaders and others in leadership positions in your organisation about the value of diversity and inclusion. Senior leaders provide the framework and foundation for the cultural environment in which everyone else works. They must assess the current environment, design an approach and lead the implementation of plans to increase diversity and inclusion. Their commitment must be unwavering and their sense of purpose, showing respect for everyone in the organisation, must be evident every day.

The sense of psychological safety that employees experience is clearly linked to the actions and commitment of the leadership team. It also helps if the members of that team demonstrate the diversity you claim to strive for.

Company leaders need to prioritise workplace policies and norms that make employees feel like they can express the core of 'who they are' at work, and celebrate them for those qualities. When employees feel they have to hide or mask key parts of who they are at work, it can impact motivation, engagement and ultimately retention and turnover rates," say Jeremy Mittman and Corey Singer of SHRM."

Make diversity and inclusion part of your cultural norms to keep your workplace happy, mentally healthy and strong. Create a culture where every person can contribute to their full potential - without fear. Set goals and assess and report honestly on your goals, progress and shortcomings when talking or reporting to your workforce about diversity and inclusion.

Consider building a Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Team


The diversity and inclusion leadership team would need to meet quarterly to discuss ongoing feedback from staff and review survey results. The team would then provide feedback to the whole organisation and senior management on progress, challenges and ongoing development and change needs.

The key component of their contribution is to set the expectation that change is needed, progress is valued, and the pursuit of equality, diversity and inclusion of all staff is always ongoing.

Train managers to promote diversity and inclusion


Introduce a training program for managers on how to promote diversity and inclusion in their respective departments. You should start by building consensus in your management team that your company has some diversity and inclusion issues. But what if some of your colleagues feel that there is no problem? For example, according to Robert Livingston of Harvard Business Review, "If feedback surfaces through communication channels that whites feel they are the real victims of discrimination, then diversity initiatives are perceived as the problem, not the solution. This is one of the reasons why such initiatives are often met with resentment and resistance, often from mid-level managers. Beliefs, not reality, determine how employees respond to efforts to increase equality. The first step is to get everyone on the same page about what reality is and why it is a problem for the organisation. "

Don't focus so much of your training on eliminating unconscious bias and identifying issues with diversity and inclusion. Instead, focus your attention on the actual, specific actions managers can take in their day-to-day management coaching and interactions with employees to promote a sense of belonging, diversity and inclusion in their work groups - for every employee.

Hold team norms and team building meetings


Hold effective team meetings to practice team norms and team building so that all staff feel listened to and heard. One of the most important ways to develop a team that shows employees that it values diversity and inclusion is to ask each team to develop a set of norms or guiding principles that will govern their actions in their group. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), it doesn't matter if the team is a department or a project work group: "The most successful companies have found that it makes the most business sense to attract talent and ideas from all segments of the population." The EEOC adds that inclusive hiring and promotion practices bring segments of the workforce into the organisation that can provide a competitive advantage in the increasingly global economy. However, systematically excluding these segments denies the organisation these resources and reduces the chances of potential success.3

Review your application and selection process


Review your application and hiring process to ensure you are looking for ways to reduce unconscious bias and hire diverse candidates. All people have unconscious bias, so during the interview and candidate selection process, identify the best ways to minimize its impact. A good example of this is the language you use in your job postings to ensure it attracts both male and female applicants.

Remove identifying information from resumes before having managers review them to minimize the difference in name choice for one race or another, whether white, black or Hispanic. Conduct systematic interviews to minimize the differences in information received from each applicant so that you can easily compare responses. Consider developing a work sample test so that you can fairly evaluate one applicant's work compared to another's.

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