If it wasn’t obvious before, it surely is now: The only way we’re going to survive and thrive is by working together. Businesses can help lead the way through these challenging times by demonstrating a commitment to increasing inclusion and diversity in the workplace.
It’s not only the right thing to do for your employees and customers — it’s also essential for your business. Companies with racial, ethnic and gender diversity are at least 15% or more likely to have above-average returns, according to a McKinsey & Company Diversity Matters report. The study also found companies in the top quartile for racial, ethnic and gender diversity are 35% more likely to have higher financial returns than national averages.
Businesses of all sizes — Mom & Pop to Fortune 500 — can benefit from a diverse workforce. Here are 7 ways you can help your company make diversity and inclusion part of its culture:
1. Understand what it is
Gender, ethnicity, race, age, background, and sexual orientation or identity are all important parts of diversity — but it goes deeper. Being truly diverse and inclusive means harnessing a variety of perspectives to make your company stronger, more competitive and relevant to your customers. Diversity is an asset that can help your company innovate.
2. Value the variety
Knowing your customers is imperative if you want your company to stay relevant. Employing people who reflect the customers you serve will give insight into how your customers think. Take advantage of this important competitive edge by welcoming the ideas and contributions of every team member. Encourage healthy debate and challenges to the way you’ve always done things.
3. Make it the social norm
Embedding diversity in your leadership, strategy and culture will show your company walks the talk. Ensure your benefits package provides the flexibility to support employees through different life stages and extends beyond spouses to partners. That’s never been more important than it is now, as we all adapt to a new way of working. Create a culture of openness and acceptance that allows people of all backgrounds to thrive in the workplace — or at home.
Employee surveys are a good way to keep a finger on the pulse of employee sentiment and engagement. Asking for feedback can help track progress over time while showing your employees you care.
4. Remove barriers
We’re talking physical and social barriers here. Most of your team may be working remotely now, but you’ll want to ensure your building is wheelchair accessible and easy to get around for staff with disabilities or limitations. Check for other physical barriers, such as restrictive bathrooms that could be uncomfortable for people.
Rework company policies — recruitment, onboarding, maternity or paternity, harassment and discrimination — to protect all employees. Consider adding specific protections, such as transgender or sexual expression policies. Managers should have access to training, toolkits and informative sessions that promote inclusivity, including unconscious bias. Tap into industry groups and professional associations to find these resources.
5. Create internal champions
Embed diversity in corporate initiatives and decision making by identifying a senior executive or board member who can use their sphere of influence to champion the cause.
Involve employees by establishing employee resource groups of staff who identify with diverse groups, and others who support a truly equal workforce. Consider implementing professional development programs to include diversity in the future success of your company.
6. Align with community partners
Community partners who champion causes around diversity and inclusion can help advance your cause. These partnerships not only communicate externally that your company values diversity, but you’ll likely have access to resources that can help your company along the way. Check with your area’s United Way organization or groups such as the National Diversity Council to find local partners.
7. Keep moving forward
Creating a diverse workforce and an inclusive work culture doesn’t happen overnight. Challenge your team to keep building on progress and pushing the boundaries on its journey to equality. The very act of taking these steps will signal to your workers that diversity and inclusion is more than a program — it’s company culture.