Today more than ever, we live in a diverse world, where different people live and work together. Our workplaces are becoming a space where people with different backgrounds, ethnicities, and beliefs work side by side. It is both exciting and challenging. But not all organizations are embracing it. And that is why diversity in the workplace has become more of a contentious issue over the past few years.
In this article, we explore the topic of diversity and why it is important for organizations to be aware of it and to take an active role in integrating diversity into their business objectives.
What is diversity in the workplace?
In 1964 the United States passed the legislation (The Civil Rights Act) that declared it illegal to discriminate against people based on their race, gender, religion, and other individual traits. This law also later prohibited discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy, age, disabilities including the discrimination of employees based on sexual orientation.
In the United Kingdom, there are similar provisions for discrimination in the workplace provided for under The Equality Act 2010. This legislation consolidated various Acts and Regulations that were created to deal with discrimination and included the Equal Pay Act 1970, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Race Relations Act 1976, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, and other legislation protecting employees from discrimination based on religion or beliefs, sexual orientation or age.
Respect for people’s races and personal beliefs has long been a constitutional right in most countries. Diversity in the context of employment simply means that companies acknowledge and respect individuals’ differences. This means that companies will actively ensure that they encourage diversity during the recruitment process and in the workplace as a policy. But more importantly, they will not discriminate again those from certain groups of previously disadvantaged groups.
These differences may be diverse, and may include the following:
- Nationality or Ethnic Origin
- Cultural Practices
- Religion or Beliefs
- Sexual Orientation
Diversity has to do with the personal differences and preferences of an individual which may even require a company to take steps to accommodate them.
An example of diversity in the workplace:
An organization may decide to hire individuals with physical disabilities such as blindness. This may require the organization to make certain changes to their workplace to allow their employees to work effectively. This may include specialized equipment, changes to the office layout, or other considerations for the employee.
But not all individuals will need such changes to the workplace. There may be more of a need for the company to develop a culture of encouraging individualism and diversity. This will need to be led by the leadership within the organization for it to be truly effective.
Simply employing people from groups that have been previously discriminated against, does not automatically make your organization a leader in diversity in the workplace. It’s about the attitude of the leaders and organization as a whole, that will determine whether your company is seen as having a real culture of diversity.
Why make diversity in the workplace a priority?
The world has become a smaller and smaller place to live in. Globalization and the ability for people to travel and work in foreign countries has never been easier to do. And companies around the world are finding that their workforce is becoming more diverse with each day.
According to the US Department of Labour 17% of their local labor force is made up of foreign-born employees. This is a significant percentage. What this highlight is just how many employees are from different ethnic backgrounds, speak other languages, and have different religions and cultural characteristics.
This is not only a US phenomenon but rather a global trend. And in the last two years, the pandemic has accelerated the need for companies to embrace diversity in the workplace. It has forced organizations to build remote teams, limiting physical contact, and this has also opened the door of opportunity for more foreign talent. Companies old and new are embracing digital transformation in the workplace which has ramped up opportunities for people from different backgrounds and countries to work for global companies.
Diversity in the recruitment process
Building diverse organizations or teams requires both leadership and cultural support. It should filter down to how you hire staff too. This may be challenging for organizations to achieve depending on the size, industry, and various other influences. Here are some ways to prioritize diversity in the recruitment process.
Educate your organization
Education is the key to applying diversity within any organization. The better managers and staff understand it, the better equipped they will be in applying it to their departments, and how they manage processes that require a sensitivity to staff differences.
You can start by creating a reference document outlining diversity and all your research on the subject. Take time to gather all the facts and information that may help you and your staff understand the extent of it.
Also, it would be wise to gather any documentation relating to legislation that is relevant to your country or region. This is critical for your company to understand to help your organization abide by the relevant regulations. The information should be made available and referenced by managers and employees alike. This will help everyone better understand the purpose of prioritizing diversity in the workplace and encourage collaboration.
Survey your employees
You may already have a diverse group of people working for your organization. Take advantage of the opportunity to gain insights into how your current staff perceives diversity from an employee’s point of view. This exercise will help you understand the diversity you already have within your departments, teams, and staff. All decision-makers should also be involved and feedback should be gathered from all levels.
A diversity survey could help you start thinking about ways to improve your organization now to better cater to your current employees. This will most definitely have a positive impact on the morale and attitude of your staff as they see the company take more interest in who they are as people.
Create a strategy
Once you have clear documentation and have surveyed your staff, you can begin to structure a strategy of how to best implement it within your organization. This can include identifying target groups you want to attract to your organization and how you plan to support and encourage them within your organization.
- Set your objectives.
- Identify target groups.
- Identify who will manage the process.
- Define how you will implement it.
- Define your outcomes.
- Clarify how you will monitor your progress.
Defining a clear strategy is crucial in helping you and your organization effectively implement and achieve success in building a more diverse workplace.
Increase diversity in the workplace with talent assessments
One of the biggest challenges in the recruitment process is removing bias towards any particular group of people. And as discussed increasing diversity in your workforce requires non-bias processes. To encourage the appointment of candidates based on their skills and ability to do the job your staff needs to exercise inclusiveness.
A talent assessment platform like Testlify can assist HR managers and hiring teams to focus more on a candidate’s talents and ability. It is able to hide information relating to candidates’ diversity like religion, race, and other details.
On your dashboard, your team will be able to view candidate rankings and test scores which will exclude information that could influence a biased decision. This can dramatically change how your hiring staff evaluates candidates and selects candidates.
Try Testlify for free – simply signup to get access!
Ensure job descriptions are inclusive
When posting jobs on job boards your staff need to be sensitive to the language they when posting on job boards. Ensure you use inclusive language that won’t create any bias. This could be crucial in industries where a particular group of people has historically struggled to find work.
For example, the automotive industry has long been the domain of men, yet in recent years more women are interested in working in the industry. So be aware of industry trends and what groups of people to focus on. This could benefit the image of your organization as more women will feel comfortable applying for positions at your company.
If you are not sure how to assess your job descriptions, you can start with a job description tool for optimizing your job posts.
Diversity in interviews
Interviews are a great place to show candidates that your company values diversity. It is as simple as asking relevant questions to find out more about a particular person’s background or diversity.
Find out how they see being diverse within the organization, and how have they been treated at the past organizations. This kind of insight will help your team learn more about the candidates and help you become aware of any potential issues that you could address.
Ultimately taking interest in a candidate will reassure them that who they are will be respected. Even if they are not chosen to work for you, they will feel like your organization cares and take interest in building a better workplace.
Why embrace diversity in the workplace?
The world is getting smaller, and remote jobs are becoming the norm, rather than the exception. People from diverse backgrounds are seeking employment, both locally and internationally. And remote organizations are taking the lead in setting new standards for who they employ.
As an organization whether traditional brick and mortar or remote business, it has become more important to be sensitive to the diverse nature of your workforce. In fact, international businesses need to be open to understanding and catering to the diverse nature of their workforce.
This isn’t simply a good idea, but a crucial step in developing a stronger company culture that encourages their employees to be themselves. And when your employees feel respected and understood, they will feel more positive about their work and company. A company that encourages diversity in the workplace will ultimately win in the long run and gain the benefits of a more dynamic team.