There's a reason diversity and inclusion have become popular buzzwords among recruiters and human resource reps: Companies reporting the highest levels of racial diversity bring in almost 15 times the sales revenue of companies with the lowest levels of diversity, diverse teams solve problems faster than their homogenous counterparts, and inclusive companies are more likely to be innovation leaders in their markets.
All in all, hiring and growing diverse teams can increase productivity, creativity, and profits while also improving employee engagement and company reputation, and reducing employee turnover.
But beyond the statistics, which are in every company's favor, the greatest benefit of fostering diversity in the workplace is simple: It's the right thing to do. Talent is talent regardless of gender, race, physical or mental ability, age, sexuality, or whatever other reason you might think is an excuse not to hire someone despite their qualifications.
Here are a few steps companies can and should be taking to move toward diversity in the workplace.
To diversify your workforce, you need, first, to understand what diversity means. Like we mentioned above, diversity is more than race or ethnicity; it's also gender, age, ability, sexuality, gender identity, socioeconomic status, and other factors. Diverse teams represent diversity of thought and experience -- and the presence of opposite perspectives brings more innovation to your team. You don't want to hire 17 of the Paul-the-Yacht-Club-Guy types because everyone, literally everyone, would think the company should host an annual christening party.
Understand the problem
You need to know why your team is the way it is. A quick glance around the office will tell you whether 90% of your employees are white men, but it won't show you which factors influence whether diverse hires feel comfortable in the space -- which may be contributing to your office imbalance. Asking for and accepting transparent feedback are key to addressing problems you might be overlooking.
Say, for instance, you've hired women before, but they've all left within a few years, and you now have a team of all men. You should be asking employees why they're leaving during exit interviews and taking note of any boys' club factors in your office environment. You can also use platforms like ours to gather data about why your former employees might have left -- and why current employees might not feel so comfortable. Scoring low in categories like "equal opportunities for women and men" tells you women employees believe they're not advancing because of their gender. It's easier to address that perception, accurate or not, if you know what your employees are thinking.
Change the way you hire
Based on what you found when you assessed where your company is diversity-wise, you should have specific goals in mind to guide your hiring process. If you're still unsure, look at the demographics in your community: Does your workplace reflect the diversity you see outside your office?
With that in mind, expand your search for candidates. Variations of the following phrase apply: "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always had." That's true of diversity in the workplace, especially where recruiting is concerned. If you're relying on the same network or even the same job boards to find potential hires, you're likely going to get the same results. Reach out to different colleges, sign up for job showcases, or talk to organizations that represent different subsets of your community to find candidates you wouldn't come across otherwise.
When interviewing, remember to check your bias: You might be influenced by someone's prestigious university, their background that's similar to yours, or even the fact that you can both talk sports for hours. Those aren't the reasons you're hiring for the position. What you should see in your future employee is an aptitude for learning, work ethic, and potential for growth, not to mention good culture fit and an interest in the company. Ignore irrelevant information.
Foster an inclusive company culture
Once you've diversified your team, you want it to stay that way. You can do this by educating your team on the importance of diversity and addressing subjectivity and bias, hosting inclusive events, continuing to listen and respond to feedback from your team, and providing support to all of your team members. Mentorship programs, internal support groups where employees can talk through what they're experiencing, and team-building exercises are all good ways to ensure employees feel seen and heard.
Provide benefits that support your changing workforce
All employees need support, but expanding your benefits to accommodate your diverse workforce is an excellent way to show employees you care about keeping them on board. Consider implementing flexible work hours; expanding parental leave benefits to accommodate birth, foster, and adoptive parents; adding telecommuting options; or offering on-site child care or child care stipends.
Not sure what your employees need most? Ask. We cannot emphasize this enough: Transparency is the most important part of this process.