In recent years, the topic of diversity and inclusion in the workplace has become far more prevalent, and the need for training around these topics has become essential for many businesses - to ensure that they are providing both existing staff members and applicants, with fair and equal opportunities.
In the past year or so especially, we have seen the terms ‘equity and inclusivity’ become everyday vocabulary in the workspace, and our homes, and there are many important reasons why.
In 2020 the world saw the tragic death of George Floyd, which started really important conversations, causing a ripple effect on several aspects in people's lives - one being the clear need for inclusivity and diversity in the workplace.
Although only recently being discussed, the truth is that there’s been a serious lack of inclusivity and equity in workplaces for generations, this is not a new phenomenon. Men have famously been paid more than women in the same roles, and a white person will majoritively earn more than their black coworkers - and receive more opportunities in the recruitment stage.
In response to the changes that need to be made in our society, the workplace is a great place to start. Many businesses and institutions are now making changes to increase equity and inclusivity in their workplace, from introducing diversity training to having inclusive application forms.
Promoting and supporting diversity in the workplace is an important aspect of good people management - it’s about valuing everyone in the organisation as an individual. However, to reap the benefits of a diverse workforce it’s vital to have an inclusive environment where everyone feels able to participate and achieve their potential.
While UK legislation – covering age, disability, race, religion, sex and sexual orientation among others – sets minimum standards, an effective inclusion and diversity strategy goes beyond legal compliance and seeks to add value to an organisation, contributing to employee wellbeing and engagement.
So how can you implement diversity and inclusion best practices into your organisation?
Improve job ad inclusivity
One way to implement inclusivity into your workplace is by starting in the first step - the job advertisement.
This is your first point of contact with potential employees, and so is the best place to start in your mission for inclusivity. Making sure that you have a thorough job description that clearly defines what the job is and the skills it requires without any unconscious bias is a great first interaction with a potential candidate. You want people who are considering going for your role to feel comfortable that they feel they have a fair opportunity to apply.
Every company is bound to come up with its own jargon, or language that they use throughout their business, but it’s important to consider how the job advertisement is meant to be welcoming to possible candidates. It could even be worth having a neutral person assess the language of your job adverts - this way you can avoid introducing any barriers between yourself and a candidate.
Always be careful not to include language that immediately alienates certain groups of people. A good, simple, and very common example of this is how often we see job adverts that contain excessive, confusing business jargon. This can be easily off-putting for younger, inexperienced or less privileged people. It's important to be careful around gendered words, and consider using pronouns that could fit either male or female. Your advertisement mustn't seem biased towards any gender, race - or any other factor other than the job description essential qualifications or desirable skills.
Equity in the recruitment process
Once you’ve received several applicants, the initial interview process will start. When interviewing candidates it's important to take into consideration the team that you already have and consider candidates that are underrepresented in both your own business and within society.
Although this process may seem ‘diverse and inclusive’, there are more things you can do as a hiring executive to find the right people to add to your team. This is a good time to consider reaching out to minorities via specific job portals.
Hiring managers and recruiters all know just how easily an interview can make or break the recruitment process - It’s a huge part of the selection process, and it’s an opportunity for both the candidate and the employer to impress the other. It’s crucial in the interview stage that you’re able to have a completely unbiased, inclusive and equal interview process, especially when you’re looking to promote equity in your workplace.
One of the ways you can implement this is to use psychometric testing. You can conduct this by asking every candidate the exact same questions and scoring them on their skills and experience - regardless of any background information. This can help to mitigate the effect of unconscious bias in the interview process, creating a fairer process for candidates.
Another way to implement a fairer interview process is by having as diverse a panel of interviewers as possible, this will make diverse candidates more comfortable, as well as demonstrate that your business is inclusive and welcoming. Keeping the tone friendly rather than tense and aggressive will do a lot to attract diverse candidates.
At this stage, you should now have an array of diverse candidates and when using the correct practices, the opportunities for equity and inclusivity in your workplace will increase.
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Access to development and opportunities
Once an employee is hired, ensuring that they get an equal footing in receiving developmental opportunities such as training and courses is crucial. Each individual in your workplace should be open to the same opportunities and training.
Everyone should be given adequate resources to do their job as effectively as possible, and responsive feedback should be given from their respective managers. As with any job, new employees should be started on probation or should receive performance evaluations termly. When conducting performance evaluations, it's important that feedback and proposals are fair and don't discriminate with promotions. A good way of ensuring performance evaluations are objective and in line with your values could be through hiring an HR advisor, or having your HR team evaluate before proceeding.
When new employees start, a great way of making sure they receive fair training is by having mentors or ‘buddies’. These tend to be experienced team members who can provide them with training in a less intimidating manner, as it might be if the manager was training you. For example, buddying a new employee with someone of a similar age or background could help promote comfortability and openness. Having somebody in a leadership position that comes from a similar background can offer them coaching and guidance is key.
If you’re trying to attract a more diverse pool of candidates, then one of the best things you can do is to simply create a company brand that reflects this. An employer brand that shows inclusiveness and welcomes people from all walks of life will, by its very nature, attract people from all walks of life. Make sure that potential candidates know how diverse you are and how important that aspect of your business is.
One of the best things you can do is to educate and train your existing team. Bias can run much deeper than just gender, race and religion, so helping your team to recognise their biases can be incredibly powerful - and create an understanding of why the team wants to promote diversity. Proper education and training is key to improving employee engagement and diversity.
To create a truly diverse business, it needs to be run by a diverse group of people. If your leaders and spokespeople are diverse, or intent on increasing diversity themselves, this will have a huge effect on your brand and public sentiment towards your inclusiveness.
Correct training in the workplace will cover a large spectrum of all things diversity and inclusion, including; race, colour, ethnicity, language, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, gender, socio-economic status, age, and physical and mental ability – and how your team should promote these factors. This goes beyond being “politically correct” and conforming to what you think looks good for your business and moves into the realm of learning how to embrace differences among employees correctly and including the valuable inputs and perspectives all employees bring to your company.
Diversity training is effective when it:
Lays out a company culture that is inclusive, not divisive
Respects, seeks out and embraces different approaches that are a result of diverse employees instead of merely “tolerating” them
Goes beyond a list of dos and don’ts to try to build true understanding
Simply put, diversity training needs to go far beyond “tolerating each other's differences”. This statement does not fit in with today’s workplace with its lightning-fast communication and global scope.
When used correctly and truly understood, diversity training makes employees feel included and part of a common effort leading to happier employees who stick around longer, increasing the overall expertise of the company and reducing hiring costs. If your employees feel happy and accepted in their workplace, they’re far more likely to stay longer.
Plus, happy employees are more productive, and happy salespeople sell more– 37% more.
How to create effective diversity training
So how do you create effective training that will help increase equity and diversity in your workplace?
It is not enough to lay out a list of prohibitive rules and expect people to follow them. This is, in fact, the exact opposite of what makes for successful diversity training.
Diversity training that presents acceptance as a choice that benefits everyone in the workplace results in positive returns that last longer- it will also promote a better environment outside of the workplace, creating better employees. Diversity training should;
Create common goals; Common goals will create bonds within your team, even when they may not have things in common outside of the workplace. Think about soldiers charging a hill – if everyone doesn’t move forward at the same time, the whole team will fail.
Confront unconscious bias: Everyone has unconscious biases that originate in the brain. This part of the brain reacts strongly when it sees pictures of races different from its owner. Recognising the nature of people and working with it can help remove this reactive response.
Focus on inclusion: Inclusion goes beyond just hiring for diversity. Inclusion actively seeks out, embraces, and encourages different ways of approaching and solving problems.
Move away from prohibitive language: Introduce the idea of choosing to lean into a diverse workplace instead of demanding or requiring that all employees accept each other. Adults don’t like to be told what to do – educating and changing mindsets is a priority at this point.
Once training has been completed and your team is understanding of what is expected of them in the workplace, it is important to monitor that each employee holds these values close and is an example of your company. Implementing retraining after a certain time could ensure that employees are up to date and reminded of your company's commitments to inclusivity - and disciplinaries could be put in place for employees who don't follow the values of your company.
As a startup, you must stay up to date on social causes and outside factors that could affect your business and its employees. You want to be a business that goes against any discrimination and exclusivity - and by doing so you will succeed.
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