Workplace diversity does more than just show that your business hires people of different races, genders, orientations, backgrounds, and other demographics. It actually makes your business stronger because these diverse employees all bring different points of view and different ideas to the table. Having these different points of view leads to discussion and may force some employees to confront beliefs or stereotypes they’ve held for years. These diverse opinions also gives you better insight into what your customers want, allowing you to better design products and marketing campaigns.
But how do you improve your workplace diversity in such a way that you improve your business instead of simply making sure you have all the different demographics represented?
1. Watch out for Stereotypes
In many cases, some executives don’t even realize they see a person as a stereotype and not as a complex individual. That’s why it’s important to be as non-biased as possible when hiring someone. If you want to test your own bias, have an employee collect resumes, give each a number, and remove the names. Now you have no idea of the person’s gender or race. Do you find that you select more minorities in this blind selection than you do when you know the person’s identity? If so, you may have unconscious stereotypes getting in the way.
2. Educate Your Employees
It’s hard to bring diversity into the workplace if your employees don’t understand why it’s necessary. Bring in real world examples of how diverse teams performed better than those without diversities. Show the positive impact diversity can have. Do try to avoid speaking negatively about anyone. For example, highlighting how minorities can perform better than white men may seem to showcase why diversity is good, but it may demoralize the white men on your team.
3. Be Flexible
Not all people have the same needs, and not recognizing that could be one of the roadblocks to creating a diverse team. Parents may need flexible hours in order to get their kids to or from school. Some may need more time off to take their children to the doctors. Having these flexible options not only makes it easier for your current employee, it can also help attract highly qualified individuals to your company.
4. Sponsor Employees
Going beyond mentors, sponsors not only help guide new employees but also advocate on their behalf. They suggest these employees for projects and promotions and, in general, help get them noticed by the company. This can be a good tool to use to get employees who are minorities recognized or provide them with the resources they need to move ahead in the company.
5. Host Company Outings
Company outings can give your team a chance to bond outside of work. If you see that your diverse group of employees doesn’t seem to be working together cohesively, it may be time to try organizing one of these outings. Corporate events can help by changing the atmosphere and letting your employees interact outside of the office. You may also want to get help from conference speakers. These professionals often know how to present diversity in different ways so that the idea clicks with everyone.
6. Look to See if You’ve Implemented Cascading Bias
A cascading bias occurs when a company’s performance review metrics are based on its current leadership. This leadership becomes the bias that all other employees, no matter their gender, race, or background, are held to. This can lock your company into only rewarding one type of leadership, leaving you without the benefit other leaderships styles can provide.
7. Speak to What Motivates People
Do you know what motivates your employees? Most people would say money, and while that may be a factor, it’s often not the only motivator. For some, in fact, it’s not even the main motivator. Some people are motivated by working at a company that is seen as an industry leader. Others are motivated by the flexible working conditions. Some are motivated by having a job that feels meaningful to them. Know what motivates your employees and speak to that. Doing so will encourage those who have other motivators besides money to seek positions at your company.
8. Encourage Participation in Outside Organizations
Joining professional organizations can help employees see the diverse world outside of your office. By attending professional conferences and meetings, they can see what others bring to the table and may become more open to diversity.
9. Encourage Diversity by Training High Potential Employees
High potential employees are those you could easily see running the company someday. These are often younger employees whom you can groom for success over the course of a number of years. If you give responsibility for workplace diversity to these employees, you’re very likely to see results.
These employees aren’t seen as “the boss” so they often have a more casual relationship with other employees. They’re not seen as giving down a mandate of diversity. They also have the advantage in that they can play the long game, slowly integrating diversity into the office as they rise in rank.
10. Understand that Men and Women Do Have Differences
Finally, while many people are being told that men and women are the same, recognize that there are inherent differences here. Anyone can become a high level executive, yes, but if businesses seek to eliminate the differences between genders, races, and other demographics, the diversity that makes teams so strong also disappears. Diversity is more than just what a person looks like—it’s also how they think. Make sure your company isn’t eliminating this type of diversity.
Men and women are motivated by different things. They may have different career goals and different needs. Just be sure you don’t stereotype when addressing such needs. Not all men aspire to be the CEO, while not all women need flex time to take care of children. There are women who want to run the company, just as there are some men who need an extra hour in the morning to get their kids to school.