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Diversity Management In The Workplace: Growing Future Teams

Rachel Buchanan
Rachel Buchanan February 07, 2023
diversity management in the workplace: growing future teams

There will soon be no one racial or ethnic majority across the U.S. Many workplaces and businesses strive to or will be looking at ways to have their workforce represent this diverse population. The theory is that businesses whose employees represent their customers and the general population will do better and become more profitable than organizations that ignore the issue.

Businesses with more diverse workforces should be happier and more productive, with increased employee well-being. HR teams and managers being tasked by business owners to increase diversity and inclusivity in strategic ways will need to consider diversity management in the workplace when growing future teams.

diversity management in the workplace

What is diversity management?

Diversity management refers to a specific and deliberate HR management strategy to ensure that there is a greater representation of backgrounds, races, cultures, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and disability across all employees in the organization. It can be described as the process by which an organization becomes more diverse and inclusive, and is a strategic decision from which actions and processes flow.

Diversity in the workplace covers two perspectives: how people see themselves, and how other people perceive them. For there to be true diversity across the workplace, there must be a representation of both, across all sexes, genders, ages, backgrounds, races, ethnicities, religions, disabilities, and cultures. There does not have to be equal numbers of each of these groups, but being represented in similar proportions to the general population is a good starting point.

Diversity management is creating deliberate strategies, structures, and processes so that recruitment and hiring come from the widest possible pool of available talent, and that this pool is rich in diversity so that when HR teams are making hiring decisions they can make successful hires that benefit the business.

Why is diversity management important?

Ensuring diversity in the workplace is essential to creating and managing a successful and profitable organization. It will ensure that the talent pool is the widest possible from which the best candidates can be chosen and who will bring the best skills to the business. If a business only ever hires from a specific background, demographic, or age, for example, it will be missing out on all sorts of skilled personnel who would drive improvement and ultimately help deliver against the bottom line.

A more diverse workplace fosters better employee well-being and a greater understanding of colleagues. A more engaged and happy workforce will work more efficiently, and harder, and achieve more. Corporate culture is enriched, and is more representative of the customer; allowing greater understanding and ultimately allowing the business to service those customer needs better.

Understanding cultural differences

A business should try to understand and support the cultural differences between employees, particularly where there may be departments or teams, or entire functions that might operate in different locations. Understanding and getting ahead of cultural differences will go a long way to warding off potential issues.

It can be particularly helpful to achieve strategic goals when expanding into or working in new markets, regions, or national or international markets if a workplace is already familiar with cultural differences and diversity. If the workforce is already representative of the wider population, it can take advantage of the benefit of employing a wide variety of staff. This might include access to specific languages, understanding cultural divides, and what may or may not be the acceptable way to behave in an unfamiliar market.

Having diverse employees will also benefit in gaining an advanced understanding of the customers in a specific or new marketplace, allowing the company to be more agile in producing new products or ideas, as well as a benefit directly to the bottom line as internal experts negate the requirement to seek - and pay for - external advice.

diversity management workplace

Strategies for effective diversity management

Originally businesses developed equality and diversity policies to protect against discrimination claims and those policies are still a good starting place for an effective diversity management strategy. These policies will need to be reviewed regularly and then the rest of the strategy can flow. Organizations can use these policies to decide on clear priorities and outcomes and what is required, such as more diverse new hires, or achieving growth in particular areas.

Establish clear expectations for all employees

A business's expectations for employees will stem from its HR policies. This will include specific diversity and inclusion policies but will also extend to all policies including those covering hiring, management, appraisals, reviews, and employee conduct. A good starting place to set expectations related to respect, inclusion, and equal opportunity to ensure that everyone understands what is expected of them when interacting with colleagues or customers from diverse backgrounds.

Create a culture of inclusion

Organizations should ensure that all employees, from new starters to HR leaders, are aware of the policies and have undergone the relevant and appropriate training for their role. The business should lead by doing, ensuring that at every opportunity an inclusive culture is presented, from providing equal pay to opportunities for advancement regardless of race or gender to ensuring all communications and brand guidelines include appropriate language and imagery. Managers should lead by example using communal areas, and allowing employees to work from alternate locations or different hours.

Create actionable initiatives

Once the business has analyzed the priorities and outcomes that the diversity management strategy will achieve, the next task is to create actionable initiatives. This could include implementing a prayer room, more kitchens, or an area for quiet breaks, through to new menu choices, more representative internal communications or imagery, child-care services, desk fans, flexible working, and so on. This could also include the setting up of internal groups and allies, and specific training for all those in management and/or recruitment roles, as well as anyone in a customer-facing position.

Implement processes to report harassment

Workforces will always encounter pockets of internal friction and this is particularly likely when working across different markets and cultural practices. It is therefore essential that businesses have robust processes in place to deal with issues including harassment where employees can report issues in confidence and gain internal or company-funded external support to resolve conflicts before any reach a problematic stage. This could include ensuring there are policies in place covering and complying with whistleblowing laws.

Provide employees with resources to deal with discrimination

Providing employee resources is similar but not identical to processes to report harassment. By empowering employees to have the skills and resources to deal with any potential discrimination, it sends a strong and positive message to the entire workforce that discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated and that action to deal with any discrimination that might take place will be dealt with at the cost of the employer. This may include providing counseling services or even legal assistance.

Get employee feedback

Closing the feedback loop is an essential part of any strategy, but crucial for diversity management to ensure that it is effective. This means not just actively creating a system that allows employees to feedback and make suggestions but also acting on that feedback and using that to inform and direct new actionable initiatives. The impact of this will be increased by appointing key stakeholders where objectives or targets are directly related to diversity management.

Key takeaways

Diversity management brings a competitive advantage to organizations that give it thought, care and attention and ensure it is built out throughout the whole business. By representing the diversity of the general population and customer base, businesses can access the best talent and speak to customers most effectively.

Building a diversity management strategy and process requires real commitment, and is not just a box to be ticked. By creating solid processes, procedures, actionable initiatives, and closing feedback loops, it is possible to benefit from the myriad reasons to celebrate and represent diversity across the business.

Rachel Buchanan
Rachel Buchanan February 07, 2023

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