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How to build diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Building a culturally diverse and inclusive workplace isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s good for business. Not only does it help represent your company in a positive light, but it also brings a wealth of different perspectives to the table while growing your business.  

How diversity & inclusion can boost your bottom line

Recent studies found that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry medians. And those with gender diversity are 21% more likely to have better returns. In addition, companies who are more diverse and inclusive can experience stronger business performance across several areas, including: 

Creativity 

The World Economic Forum says that creativity will be among the top three most important work skills by 2020. Diversity is the fuel many companies need to think outside the box and boost innovation. While many studies back this up, it’s also important to note that there needs to be real, meaningful interaction between employees of different cultures for it to be a true success.  

Productivity

Every business owner knows the value of increased productivity. Diverse experiences can help provide the lift needed in different problem-solving capabilities, which can lead to improving capacity and productivity. Consider this: inclusive teams outperform their peers by 80% in team-based assessments and organizations with more women serving on the board financially outperform their associates long term.  

Employee retention 

Keeping a great employee not only benefits your company, but it’s also a lot cheaper than trying to find a new one. The average cost of losing an employee is estimated to be about 33% of that employee’s annual salary. By prioritizing diversity and inclusion, you’re helping contribute to the top reasons employees decide to stay at a job, including: 

  • Respectful treatment at all levels 
  • Fair pay and benefits 
  • Trust between employees and senior management 
  • Job security 
  • Opportunities to use their skills and abilities at work 

When it comes to attracting fresh, new talent, diversity also plays a vital role. Millennials, which will soon comprise the largest segment of the workforce, believe that having different backgrounds and perspectives in the workplace is critical to growth and success. 

They’re also more likely than past generations to take notice of gender biases on the job. Companies that put inclusion and diversity on the backburner will cause this new crop of workers to search for opportunities elsewhere.  

Skills 

Keeping inclusion a top priority also leads to a group of employees with a broader skill base, leading to a better exchange of knowledge internally. And not just hard skills. Diversity improves employees’ soft skills, as well, like leadershipcollaboration and communication, which are the ones that business leaders (57%) identified as most important to them.  

Cultural insights 

With the advent of big box stores also came the arrival of homogenization. That’s changing. Today, even retail giant Walmart, which uses a “store of the community” approach, recognizes the importance of addressing the unique culture and lifestyle differences of its diverse communities. That’s where having an all-encompassing workforce with cultural insights into local markets can help businesses find product and marketing opportunities while advising on staffing, customer service ideas and more.  

Despite all these findings, many companies still aren’t prioritizing diversity. One survey found that 41% of hiring managers say they’re “too busy.” While building a diverse group doesn’t happen overnight, companies who are making the extra effort are reaping the benefits. 

How to get started with diversity and inclusion 

Whether you have an established business or are just beginning to build a team, here are some diversity and inclusion best practices: 

Consider blind hiring

One solution to combat discrimination is via the practice of blind hiring. In other words, removing job seekers’ ethnicity, gender, age and other attributes during the application process. The idea’s not new. One well-known example is the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in 1970, which was primarily male and white. To diversify, they started hiding the identity of those auditioning using partitions. When the sole consideration is talent, the result was a 30% increase in female musicians. 

Follow-up studies in other orchestras found the gain as high as 46%. The same rings true in business today. Recent studies found blind-application processes, based on skill alone, boosted the chances of minority and female applicants being offered a first-round job interview by around 40%. It’s not perfect, as bias can still exist during the in-person portion of the hiring process, which brings us to the next point. 

  • Start from the top down. 
  • Educate your leadership on diversity and help them understand how to strategically implement, manage and evaluate the progress of any diversity programs. 
  • Create a diverse leadership panel. It doesn’t have to be formal. This group can act as the voice of your working body. 
  • Listen to your employees. Use a free survey template to gather their input and learn what’s most important. Actively listening provides an avenue for them to communicate how they feel and what would make their work environment more comfortable.  
  • Observe employee cultural variances.  
  • Create fun and exciting experiences that expose your employees to a wealth of different traditions and beliefs. 
  • Provide Human Resources representatives with the ability to create internal programs for different cultures and genders. 
  • Create a roadmap, set milestones and track your progress. 
  • Identify different issues you would like to address and craft an actionable workback schedule. 
  • Build from the ground up.  
  • If your business is in its beginning stages, you have a lot on your plate already. However, building your company with diversity and inclusion in mind from the beginning gives you the foundation you need to avoid problems in the future and reap success as you grow. 

While creating an inclusive and diverse workforce is not without its challenges, coming up with a good strategy can help your company attract and retain top talent, improve its reputation and drive innovative results.  

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Business Insights and Ideas does not constitute professional tax or financial advice. You should contact your own tax or financial professional to discuss your situation.