Developing greater diversity in the workplace

Society has taken considerable strides forward – especially in recent years – to make the modern workplace a diverse and more equal place with opportunities for all talented individuals regardless of gender, race, ethnic background, sexual orientation, disability or any other identifying factor. At the same time, it's impossible to deny that a significant number of businesses all over the world aren't as diverse as common contemporary standards would dictate. As just one example of this issue, research by Catalyst found that women represent just 40% of the managers in U.S. companies despite making up about 47% of the country's entire labor force, and the majority of women in management are white. 

It's critical for company leaders to comprehensively assess just how diverse their organizations really are. If such an examination reveals a lack of proper representation, the next step is making any adjustments necessary to rectify the issue.

Stick to an evidence-based approach 
Make a comprehensive list of your staff and look at it closely to determine the demographics therein by percentage. You may see macro trends, such as a massive majority of white men across the entire organization, or more concentrated issues, like a marketing department that's reasonably gender-diverse but has little or no Latino or African-American staff. If you start from the most objective stance possible, you will have the best chance of understanding exactly what your organization's diversity issues are and addressing them appropriately.

Evidence-based approaches are also crucial when you get further into the nuts and bolts of your diversity and inclusion initiatives, whatever those may specifically be: For example, in an interview with HR Technologist, BetterUp's chief innovation officer Dr. Gabriella Rosen Kellerman noted that instituting formulaic "diversity training" is not effective by default, even though American companies spend $8 billion on it each year. By contrast, actions informed by close data analysis of what your diversity issues actually are have a much greater chance of success. 

Avoiding tokenism at all costs 
No two ways about it – workplace diversity is an immensely sensitive issue. Approaching it the wrong way, even with the best possible intentions, can ultimately be disastrous. Specifically, you don't want to engage in tokenism and hire a handful of women, people of color or individuals from other minority groups just for appearance's sake or to meet conscious or unconscious "quotas," as explained by Vanderbilt Business. Not only is tokenism only marginally less offensive – at best – than outright exclusion in the first place, but it often eschews any serious thought about token hires' actual qualifications for various positions.

The best way to avoid this is to widen your talent search as far as possible – so that you won't ever be making "diversity hires," but instead onboarding to bolster your workforce diversity while also objectively improving the company. 

Using technology to eliminate bias 
One of the biggest roadblocks to your attempts to bolster diversity and inclusion throughout your organization is one you may not be aware of at all – unconscious bias. Because it's not intentional, it can be that much harder to detect. Dawn Frazier-Bohnert, the global diversity and inclusion officer at Liberty Mutual, explained in a separate interview with HR Technologist that it could be something as simple as gendered job descriptions, like "rock star" or "superhero." (The fact that such terms are assumed to imply masculinity in the first place could generate its own spirited discussion, but for our purposes it's neither here nor there.) 

Various HR software platforms with functionality enhanced by artificial intelligence can help mitigate this particular risk by analyzing job descriptions and pointing out any language that could be seen as coded. But it will be important for you and your HR team to look at recruiting materials directly as well, as AI can't be considered foolproof by any means. (At least not yet.)

A true culture of inclusiveness and equality
According to research by Accenture, there's a considerable disconnect between how inclusive managers think their workplaces are and what employees think of them: Although 68% of company leaders think they create empowering environments that include everyone, only 36% of their workers feel the same way.

It will be important for your business to bridge this gap in perception between tiers of the organization and work hard to create an atmosphere in which every staff member feels included and understands that their contributions are valued. This can mean anything from mentorships between senior and junior staff to informal town-hall meetings where workers can speak frankly about the pros and cons of their working situations.

This type of open company culture is essential for any business looking to improve diversity and inclusion. If you can't include evidence of a tight-knit team in your recruiting materials you most likely won't attract a diverse pool of applicants in the first place, stalling your efforts to create a more diverse workplace before they can even get started.