Creating a diverse work environment offers several advantages, including greater creativity and the ability to connect with additional customers. Images of workplace diversity might call to mind a mix of different genders, ethnicities, and ages.
But establishing and maintaining a work environment that embraces inclusion requires more than hiring employees with different demographic characteristics.
Bringing a diverse group of employees on board takes considerable planning, effort, and an ongoing strategy. Creating an inclusive workforce is often just as much about retention, training, and communication as it is about recruiting practices.
This applies whether you’re considering the need to diversify for the first time or want to prioritize inclusion further. As a business owner and leader, here are four tips you can use to help your workforce become more diverse.
1. Hire Globally
It’s common practice for businesses to fill most positions with candidates who live nearby. Even some jobs that are mostly remote will specify that applicants must live within a certain radius or time zone. However, these types of hiring restrictions could be preventing your company from finding the best possible person for the job.
Though your business might not be a large, international conglomerate, there are ways to broaden your recruiting and hiring practices.
Your company can use an employer of record service instead of limiting the pool of candidates to your local area. According to Remote.com, an employer of record works on your company’s behalf by onboarding and managing workers who live in different countries.
Your business won’t have to go through the hassle of establishing separate legal entities in the countries you recruit from. The employer of record your company uses will also keep track of international labor laws so you remain compliant.
Plus, comprehensive service providers will help you and your international team establish and preserve collaborative working relationships. Your business will gain access to wider skill sets and global perspectives that it wouldn’t otherwise.
2. Broaden Referral Programs
Companies often rely on employee referral programs as part of an overall recruiting strategy. By incentivizing current workers to refer candidates, some of HR’s job is already done before these applicants walk in the door.
The current employee has already sold them on the company’s culture and mission. Furthermore, existing staff members are likely to know who will fit in with the company’s culture and its practices.
The problem, however, is that referral programs can result in teams that look, think, and act alike. Homogeneous workforces are more likely to come up with similar ideas and find it harder to produce innovative solutions.
This especially applies if a company is facing a difficult problem it hasn’t been able to solve for years. The same old approaches that stem from groupthink and people with nearly identical views aren’t likely to help.
McKinsey & Company’s research shows that firms with highly diverse teams are 35% more likely to enjoy above-par financial performance. By rewarding employees who recommend diverse candidates, your business can better leverage its referral program.
Encourage employees to refer potential candidates that come from different backgrounds and underrepresented groups. It’s important to communicate to your staff the need to bring in diverse perspectives.
3. Examine Promotion Practices
If diversity exists in the lower ranks but not at the top, you might be sending the wrong message. Leadership greatly influences an organization’s culture, including hiring, retention, and promotion practices. When most of your executives and managers represent the status quo, diverse employees on the front line may feel unwelcome.
While you can’t necessarily boot out an existing leadership team immediately, you can look for biases in your promotion practices. Investigate whether a diverse range of candidates are applying for open management and leadership positions.
If they are, determine whether there are legitimate reasons why they’re not being selected. There may be unconscious biases at play within promotion committees that could necessitate training and intervention.
You’ll also want to examine internal leadership development, manager-in-training, and mentorship programs. Managers can gravitate toward employees and candidates who are similar to their personalities and backgrounds.
They could be selecting workers for future promotion opportunities that tend to represent existing leadership. Although these behaviors often occur unintentionally, they may be perpetuating a homogenous working environment.
4. Establish a Diversity and Inclusion Panel
An internal committee can help come up with strategies to increase diversity and inclusion in your business. If possible, the panel should be made up of members who represent different groups.
The panel can also include various functional perspectives within the organization, such as HR, legal, and customer service. Consider hiring consultants for the committee if your current workforce isn’t diverse enough yet.
Panel members can assist with examining current pay practices, job description language, and ways the company may be deterring diversity. Besides strategizing methods to correct existing deficiencies, the panel can also develop new, welcoming practices.
For instance, internship programs focusing on colleges or organizations that cater to underrepresented groups might establish a future talent pipeline.
The committee may end up recommending a lot of changes. These could include your website’s copy and visuals, in addition to the ways employees interact with each other and customers.
It’s often subtle behaviors and viewpoints people think of as “normal” that end up creating exclusive environments and messages. Companywide sensitivity training and reinforcement of inclusive practices are effective ways to start building a new foundation.
Doing the Work
Diversifying your workforce becomes a more difficult task once you’ve been in business for several years. Your leadership team and cultural practices are already cemented, meaning you’ll usually have to implement change management techniques.
However, even established companies built on cultures of diversity and inclusion like Disney still have to work at it.
Broadening recruitment and leadership development strategies and establishing continuous monitoring and improvement methods are ways your business can prioritize diversity.
With conscious effort, your workforce will represent a wider range of perspectives. That, in turn, will lead to a better understanding of the marketplace and more innovative solutions.