Your company isn’t diverse. You know you can do better, and you want to increase workplace diversity and equity. So, what now?

You’ve got a problem, and you’re not afraid to own up to it.

Your company isn’t diverse.

You know you can do better, and you want diversity and equity to be a priority in your organization. So, what now?

Let’s jump right into this important topic and get clear about:

  • What diversity in the workplace really looks like
  • Practical practices you can start implementing
  • Your goals and timeline to increase workplace diversity
  • Some mistakes you’ll want to avoid

Diversity, equity and inclusion: a business strategy

When we think about workplace diversity, usually, we think about the demographics of our employees.

We ask ourselves if we have diversity based on factors like:

  • Race
  • Gender
  • Age
  • National origin
  • Physical ability
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation
  • Socioeconomic background
  • Veteran status
  • Parent or family caregiver status

This is called representation – simply who is represented within your organization. And while representation is foundational to workplace diversity, it’s actually just the ground level of what we should be aiming for.

The next important piece is inclusion – assessing whether or not you have an environment that accepts, appreciates and acknowledges all job applicants and employees.

But diversity in the workplace should be more than just a staffing or HR consideration. Diversity, equity and inclusion should be part of every single component of your company’s business strategy.

This means when you’re developing your:

  • Marketing strategy
  • Recruiting strategy
  • Vendor relationships
  • Corporate and social responsibility policies
  • Finance strategy

You’re also thinking about how diversity, equity and inclusion can play a role in all of the related decisions and goals.

For example, when you’re marketing your product or service:

  • Are your communications geared toward one particular audience, or are they inclusive of all audiences?
  • Do your messaging and deliverables ensure that no one feels isolated, less than or marginalized?

When you’re establishing vendor relationships:

  • Are your suppliers diverse?
  • Or do you only deal with vendors who look just like you?

When you’re designing your corporate and social responsibility programs:

  • Are you donating to organizations that also support diversity, equity and inclusion?
  • Or are your contributions geared toward organizations that appear to only support a certain group of people?

Companies who lead in the diversity, equity and inclusion space bring that commitment into every component of their overall business strategy and goals.

Recognizing where you can improve

You can become a more diverse workplace following the same strategy you would use for any other type of business initiative.

Step one: Assess your current status.

Representation is easy to measure. Whether you run simple reports or have access to in-depth people analytics, you’ll know fairly quickly how you’re doing in terms of representation.

However, inclusion is harder to assess. Most companies use surveys to find out if their employees really feel included. You can conduct surveys yourself or through a third-party, which may help some of your staff open up more.

Here are some statements you can ask your employees to rate in a survey on a scale from 1 to 5:

  • I feel valued at my organization.
  • My manager makes me feel that my contributions to the organization are valuable.
  • I’m comfortable talking to my manager about my concerns within the organization.
  • There is adequate representation of people who are like me within the organization.
  • There are opportunities for me to advance.
  • My company is committed to increase workplace diversity, equity and inclusion.

Step two: Determine your desired status – where you want to go as an organization.

This is what we talked about above, applied to your organization and what you feel is attainable.

You may also want to look at diversity factors in your local community and customer base to help you determine where you want to be in the future.

Step three: Build an action plan that helps you reach your goals.

Read on to learn how to build an action plan.

Practical steps to increase workplace diversity, equity and inclusion

Let’s consider some actions you can take to help your organization move toward your goal of increasing workplace diversity, equity and inclusion.

If your business has a representation problem

You can:

  • Audit your recruiting practices. Are you always recruiting from the same pool?
  • Reach out to minority and underrepresented organizations when you have job openings.
  • Look into how your hiring managers are recruiting. Do they tend to hire and promote people who mostly look like them?
  • Reconsider having an employee referral program. These programs aren’t always beneficial to diversity efforts because people tend to refer others who are just like them.

When your employees don’t feel included or valued

You can:

  • Create employee resource groups (ERGs) or affinity groups.
    • ERGs are made up of co-workers who share common demographics, backgrounds or interests.
    • They are voluntary and employee-led.
    • These groups align themselves with the company’s overall business strategy and goals, and then work alongside leadership to help them understand how that group of people can execute on the organization’s goals.
  • Create diversity in your leadership positions.
    • What may look like only a representation goal is also an opportunity to bolster inclusivity.
    • It’s common to assume your company is diverse when diversity actually stops above your entry and mid-level positions.
    • But when there’s diversity among top leaders, those “at the table,” it signals that all voices, all perspectives and all types of people are being considered when decisions are made. So, diversity in leadership is a matter of inclusion, too.
  • Create a diversity task force.
    • Give these individuals the responsibility of becoming more familiar with concepts related to diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace.
    • Ask them to help your organization apply best practices.
  • Avoid approaching inclusion initiatives with a defense posture.

Setting realistic goals

When setting goals for your organization, again, this is just like any other business initiative.

It may take you three-to-five years to reach your desired status as a diverse organization, but you can set benchmark goals along the way.

Here are some examples of measurable goals:

  • Within the first six months, we want to identify three new sources from which we can begin recruiting more diverse candidates.
  • Within the next year, we want to make sure our workforce population is representative of X.
  • In the next two-and-a-half years, we want to make sure that 25 percent of our leaders are women.

Mini goals like these ensure you’re taking steps, moving progressively toward your long-term goals.

Final considerations

Increasing workplace diversity, equity and inclusion is not a sprint.

It’s a marathon.

Know that change doesn’t happen overnight – this takes work.

If you’re not where you want to be as an organization today, that’s okay. Just start the work, and start today.

For more insight into how to build a better workforce, download our free e-book: How to develop a top-notch workforce that will accelerate your business.