Malcolm Forbes, American entrepreneur and publisher of Forbes Magazine, once described diversity as “the art of thinking independently together.”
It’s true. Valuing diversity increases your company’s viewpoints, skills and experiences. This leads to more powerful problem solving. As MIT economist Sara Ellison says, “Having a more diverse set of employees means you have a more diverse set of skills, which could result in an office that functions better.”
Achieving gender and ethnic diversity may feel complex. But tackling it matters to your employees and your company.
When employees are exposed to a wide range of viewpoints from senior leadership or from peers, they’re challenged to learn and grow. The benefits abound: strong learning environments lead to increased happiness, engagement, and productivity.
Your business will benefit too. Companies in the top 25% for gender diversity are 15% more likely to see financial returns above respective industry medians.
More diverse companies are also better able to:
- Recruit top talent
- Keep and empower top talent
- Meet the needs of a diverse customer base
- Drive better decision making because of a larger variety of viewpoints
While there’s no silver bullet for building a diverse and inclusive workplace, we’ve outlined six suggestions to help you get started.
Look for Values
When recruiting, look for shared values. First, identify the values that are important for employees to own, like honesty, drive or empathy. What qualities should all employees at your company have?
Once you’ve identified those values, look for them in candidates. Employees can show honesty, drive, and empathy across a vast range of experiences. You’ll find yourself connecting with candidates with a wide swath of stories, backgrounds and viewpoints.
Looking for values is different than answering the ‘would I grab a beer with this person?’ test. The tendency with the ‘beer test’ is to look for candidates similar to yourself. Identifying honesty, drive or empathy in candidates, however, will illuminate a diverse range of qualified candidates that will strengthen your company culture.
Coaching is more task oriented and shorter-term than mentoring, which focuses on building long-term relationships within the workplace. Relying on a balance of both will give employees a comprehensive support system for professional development.
Coach your employees through building the skills needed to navigate the demands of today’s modern workplace. Empower managers to coach and/or connect employees with coaches through a program.
These coaches can guide employees through challenging projects, working relationships, and communications. Don’t restrict these programs to senior leadership. Instead, include employees across all levels — you’ll ensure that everyone has the same access to learning opportunities.
Build a mentorship program to foster relationships within your organization. Mentorship gives every emerging leader the opportunity to learn soft skills needed to progress to the next level. And it gives every senior leader the opportunity to offer personalized guidance.
Mentorship programs can offer everyone, including minorities, the opportunity to be heard and supported. Every emerging leader at your company deserves the support needed to grow.
Build a Leveling Framework
Creating a leveling framework for your company removes the subjectivity, however unconscious, from an employee’s career growth — something that will make a huge impact on your employees’ careers and your organization’s retention rates. According to this study from the Harvard Business Review, women are systematically more likely to receive vague feedback that doesn’t tie back to business goals. Removing any unconscious bias from performance reviews will ensure all high-performing employees receive the opportunities they deserve.
Leveling frameworks outline each job level at your company, including the skills required and the responsibilities granted. The framework should also outline the salary ranges of each level and the requirements needed to move from one to the next.
Doing so keeps career pathing focused. Employees know which skills to strengthen to grow, rather than encountering subjective feedback or even a lack of attention toward their growth (however unconscious).
Broaden Your Benefits Offerings
Incorporating a diverse mix of benefits and perks will help you care for employees with a diverse mix of needs. Your benefits package can also play a large role in hiring with diversity in mind.
Take a hard look at your benefits package. Does it correspond to a wide variety of needs? Start by reviewing your family leave policies, dependent care programs, relocation packages, and flexible work schedules.
Build a Culture of Inclusiveness
Encourage your employees to learn across functions. Getting to know fellow employees of all types will widen their viewpoints and foster learning.
Some ideas of how to do so include:
- Set up random lunches or coffees. Warby Parker, for instance, unifies the company culture by playing ‘lunch roulette’ weekly and pairing four randomly selected employees to get to know each other.
- Expand team outings from one team to two.
- Encourage cross-functional 1:1s. Take a page out of Freshbook’s book. The Toronto-based accounting firm sets up blind 1:1 meetings for interested employees across all levels and teams.