Companies across the globe are talking about removing bias, giving everyone equal opportunities, and creating healthy, diversity-friendly work environments. However, diversity is too often just a buzzword. Creating an inclusive culture is a bit more complex than merely saying your workplace supports diversity and inclusion. Instead, you must work all year long to show that your team truly promotes diversity, and embodies diversity and inclusiveness. It takes a complete team effort as well as constant education to truly promote and adopt diversity in the workplace.
So, if you're not sure where to start to accomplish this, here are seven effective ways to educate your team about diversity and create a truly inclusive work environment.
1. Hire diversely
First things first, you can’t promote or educate your employees on diversity unless you’re practicing it. Hiring diversely is the number one step in the process of nurturing a diverse work culture. This means that you must start with your recruitment and hiring process and do all of the following: invite diverse candidates to apply, remove bias, educate your HR and recruiters, and hire people with different backgrounds and qualifications.
Showing you truly nurture a diverse culture, instead of just talking about it, is essential. You should also make it an essential part of your company policy, to make sure everyone feels welcome and appreciated. If you need help with writing your company policy or any other type of written content, search for samples online to discover how to write it the right way and avoid the wrong way.
2. Create diverse teams
True diversity includes accepting the differences and seeing those who are not the same as you as people you can learn from and collaborate with successfully. To teach your employees about the benefits of diversity, you need to put together diverse teams. Avoid creating teams that are entirely made up of men or women, or that only combine people with the same college degree. Instead, mix things up and create teams that include people of different, races, work experience, type of education, social background, and skills and knowledge.
Help the teams find common grounds and teach them to allow one another to contribute. Your employees will learn how to listen, learn, and teach. And that's the true meaning of accepting diversity.
3. Celebrate diversity
Celebrating diversity in the workplace means respecting the individual needs, customs, or characteristics of the people working for you. So, if there’s someone on your team celebrating a religious holiday you’ve never heard of, encourage them talk about it to other team members. They could teach them a bit about their culture and what it means to them, while others will learn to embrace and respect it. Show an open mind and inspire others to do the same.
4. Organize diversity training
Apart from practicing and advocating diversity in the workplace, you should go a step further and set up official diversity training within your company. It should be mandatory for every employee to complete, from leadership to entry-level employees. The training should show your employees:
You should also allow for open discussions and exchanging opinions on the subject matter. The training should be repeated after some time, and incorporate the new findings and conclusions you've reached.
5. Allow for open conversations
Diversity isn't something you can learn about in a day and say "OK, I'm pro-diversity!" It's something you and your employees need to learn about constantly and be able to discuss at any given moment. So, it's your job to set up an open conversation policy in your company. That means your employees must know that they can always do the following:
You should also inspire your employees to talk to one another and try and understand each other's points of view.
6. Condemn discrimination
If you're trying to build a strong and positive diversity culture, you must make sure there's no discrimination, bias, or unpleasant situations happening in any of your offices. If you only talk about diversity but you don't work for it, your employees won't take it seriously. So, you must condemn any form of discrimination such as:
Things as allegedly minor as giving one employee a funny nickname based on their race, gender, sexual orientation, or any other diversity factor need to be addressed and condemned. You can't let these things slip away or carry on happening without addressing them.
7. Make sure everyone feels valued
To feel confident and happy about the work they're doing, your employees need your feedback, support, and approval. It’s also important to make sure everyone feels valued—which nurtures diversity. To accomplish this, you should regularly communicate with all your employees about:
You should also ask team members to talk about other team members' contributions and inspire open conversations of team building and support. By knowing their value and everyone else's value, your employees will be more aware of the importance of teamwork, individual work, and diversity.
Marques Coleman is a content writer at subjecto, blogger, and HR specialist. He mainly blogs about talent recruitment, workplace policies, and building strong teams of happy employees. He always provides actionable tips and useful advice to his readers.
Mikaela Kiner is an executive coach, entrepreneur, and HR consultant who recently authored the book Female Firebrands: Stories and Techniques to Ignite Change, Take Control, and Succeed in the Workplace, in which she interviewed thirteen successful, mission-driven women to learn about personal and professional obstacles they’d faced and how they stayed resilient.
We recently spoke with Mikaela about her book, the unique and harrowing experiences shared by women and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous People of Color) in the workplace, and what employers must do to create a culture of inclusion that protects the rights of all their workers.
Earlier this month, President Trump issued a memo to federal agencies ordering them to cease diversity training for employees, which he labeled "divisive". The order comes at the end of a summer fraught with nationwide protests against racial injustice and renewed calls to reform the institutions that reinforce systemic racism.
The most successful companies know that having a diverse workforce, especially in their leadership teams, strengthens their organizations. They know that a diverse staff strengthens company culture, improves decision making and problem solving, and gives them access to a wider, more diverse customer base—who increasingly want to work with diverse and inclusive organizations.
If your company isn’t thinking about how to increase its diversity and inclusion right now, it might be asking for trouble down the road. Less engaged employees, lower productivity, losing talent to competitors, and even litigation are all serious risks.