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How to Advocate for Diversity and Inclusion in Your Organization

Globally, companies around the world are taking a serious initiative to bring more diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) into the workplace. These companies spent nearly $7.5 billion in DEI initiatives in 2020 and are expected to double this amount to $15.4 billion by 2026, according to McKinsey & Company. They are finding a host of benefits when they have a diverse workplace available that is safe and accommodating, as this method also improves employee retention rates. Learn about the importance of diversity in the workplace and how to advocate for it in your company.

What is Diversity in the Workplace?

Workplace diversity is the concept that people of varying ages, physical abilities, races, genders, cultures, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and academic skills create a heterogeneous working environment. Hiring practices are geared toward bringing in people of differing backgrounds who all feel included, welcomed, and valued by the company. In this manner, diverse workers with varying backgrounds feel that the company takes active steps to address everyone's needs equally to create a positive and productive office culture.

Why is Diversity Important in the Workplace?

When you have a diverse workplace, it allows each individual to bring unique ideas, perspectives, and skills to the company. You can tap into these qualities to create more well-rounded teams collaborating to complete projects. Many candidates actively seek out companies with policies geared toward a diverse enterprise, as it shows that they take the opportunity to learn about their employees and their varying backgrounds. Also, companies want a workplace that reflects a diverse society and the customers purchasing products or services from them.

Benefits of a Diverse Workforce

Creating a diverse workforce can positively impact the company and its employees. Some examples include:

  • Enhancing creativity and innovation
  • Boosting employee engagement
  • Raising morale

A diverse workforce brings multiple ideas and concepts to the table, increasing creativity. These ideas can lead to innovations that help the company grow and outpace its competition in the market segment. Creating a diverse environment also allows workers to see other cultures and feel comfortable working with others to reach goals. Employees better motivate themselves and each other, which helps to boost employee engagement and morale.

Advocating for Diversity -- Where to Begin?

Existing coworkers and leadership often have misconceptions or unconscious biases regarding what diversity is and how it can apply to the company. Diversity can be a new concept or idea they’re unfamiliar with, but it can be implemented with the proper training.

Educating Yourself and Others

A good start to bringing more diversity to the office is educating everyone on this concept and how it will benefit the work environment. Begin by initiating open dialogues with leadership and coworkers. Listen to their concerns and address the misconceptions head-on. You can provide reading materials and suggest speakers who can further dive into this concept, as they can lead to proactive steps in initiating diversity and inclusion policies and recruitment practices.

Building a Business Case for DEI Initiatives

Some companies will need to see the hard facts and statistics regarding how diversity will benefit the company. To build your business case for DEI initiatives, gather evidence from reputable studies and reports on how diversity leads to better operational development. Show how it can lead to more creativity and innovation, employee retention, a positive brand image, and other benefits.

Developing and Implementing a Plan

Developing and implementing a diversity plan will require analyzing the existing recruiting and retention practices. You will also need to identify operational infrastructure weaknesses preventing the making of a diverse team. You'll want to outline diversity training and resources and the associated costs. You'll also have to identify risks to implementing the plan, such as biases toward hiring a specific type of candidate or if there will be problems onboarding people due to a lack of accessibility.

Empowering Underrepresented Voices

Keep in mind that when you hire from a diverse pool of candidates, they may find that they are not being seen or heard by the existing leaders or managers who are still used to the old status quo. You want to empower these underrepresented voices by providing opportunities to share their ideas and concerns regarding the workplace culture. They can offer advice for improving the workplace culture.

Cultivating a Culture of Transparency and Allyship

Even with teaching the benefits of diversity, a few team members may hinder the attempts to implement the plan. You want to develop a culture of transparency and allyship. Ensure that there is a system for employees to bring their concerns to the table and be transparent when there are arguments or people deliberately being excluded from tasks and meetings. Develop an allyship where existing team members advocate for the concerns of the underrepresented voices in the office.

Measuring Progress and Celebrating Milestones

You'll want to establish hiring benchmarks and measure progress to ensure the diversity plan works as intended. Celebrate milestones when the opportunity arises, which will help employees feel valuable when contributing to the cause. They will also be more open to creating a dynamic and productive work environment when their efforts are rewarded.

Strategies for Advocating for Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion initiatives require planning, collaboration, and communication. It also involves checking that those plans work as intended and adjusting them if needed. Some examples of incorporating DEI in the workplace include the following:

Provide Diversity Training

Before bringing in new people, you will want to offer diversity training to the existing workplace to prepare employees for the changes. Many types of diversity training are available, including awareness training, cultural sensitivity training, unconscious bias training, and inclusion management – just to name a few.

Reviewing Hiring Practices for Diversity

Evaluate the existing hiring practices and look for gaps in your workforce where recruiters may not hire workers based on race, ethnicity, gender, physical abilities, academics, sexual orientation, and other factors. Change your hiring practices to ensure that all candidates are given a fair chance of being hired by the company.

Developing an Inclusive Leadership Style

An inclusive leadership style will focus on equitability for all team members in the workplace. You'll want to respect all employees' ideas and individuality while removing all biases from the workplace culture. Offer the support and resources your employees need to cultivate a workplace environment that is motivated and conducive to personal and business success.

Effectively Communicating and Collaborating

Establishing communication and collaboration will be the main focus when you have a diverse team. You want to emphasize the company's objectives and bring in teams to collaborate on projects. Ensure no employees are disengaged from their work due to biases and address concerns immediately when issues arise.

Sustaining Long-Term Initiatives and Overcoming Challenges

You may encounter obstacles when initiating DEI practices in the workplace. There may be employees who actively resist the changes or leaders who show favoritism toward particular employees. Other times, leadership or stakeholders may say that diversity practices don't align with the company's practices, there is no money in the budget for diversity training, or that the plan is too complex to implement.

You will want to address each concern and establish short-term and long-term benefits of diversity and inclusion. Show how the initial costs will lead toward a return on investment by accessing a larger talent pool, bringing innovative minds to spur deeper levels of competition, and how diversity can be marketed or promoted to build a positive company reputation to potential customers. You can show how having a diverse workplace will allow the company to tap other customer markets, potentially increasing profits.

Also, you want to continuously evaluate the existing diversity plan and implement changes or modifications to sustain it while creating your diverse teams. Adopt changing technologies and innovations that can be used in your diversity plan, such as resources for remote work or to overcome communication hurdles, to become sustainable as the company grows and expands into other regions.

Become an Advocate for Workplace Diversity

Tapping into the potential of a diverse team relies on individuals who will do the legwork to bring awareness and attention to leadership and employees regarding existing hiring practices. Most often, companies are unaware that their recruitment excludes certain groups of people simply because they have not changed or modified how they recruit candidates since opening the business doors. They simply have not kept up with the societal or cultural changes.

Once you become a vocal advocate with a solid plan in place, you can start implementing the changes that need to be made to create a dynamic working environment. At Spelman College, we offer an online certificate in Diverse Leadership through our eSpelman program. This certificate is geared toward managers who want to learn the skills to effectively engage and motivate a diverse team to achieve company success. Find out more about this exciting program and how to earn this certificate by contacting us today for more information.