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8 Min Read

How to Promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace

Claire Beveridge

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is a hot topic in the workplace. Many businesses are starting to understand the benefits of a more diverse and equitable workforce, and when launched and managed well, DEI initiatives help engage employees and promote workplace happiness. But how do you ensure your well-intentioned plans yield results? 

Diversity in the workplace is more than hiring a few people of color and putting one woman on your leadership team. Building a diverse, equitable and inclusive organization takes work every single day to mitigate biases that impact hiring decisions, ensure wage transparency and equity, and provide workplace safety and inclusivity for marginalized and diverse groups. Let’s take a closer look. 

How to promote diversity in the workplace

Use diverse hiring practices

A lack of diversity stifles innovation and promotes groupthink while alienating the needs of younger workers who value diversity and inclusion. To counteract this, businesses must reexamine their hiring practices to attract and retain a more diverse workforce. 

One easy tactic is hiring remotely (if you’re not doing so already.) By looking further than locally, employers can readily access a diverse talent pool and attract a wide range of applicants with different life experiences. 

Unconscious biases are stereotypes and assumptions about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. Everyone has unconscious bias, and in the workplace, this typically shows up during the hiring process. One way to mitigate this is by removing name, gender, age, and other personal information from resumes while reviewing them. For example, Sarah and James get more callbacks than Rashida and Farooq.

Lastly, make sure your hiring process is accessible. Not everyone has the time to complete a three-hour take-home assessment in 48 hours and go through five rounds of interviews on Zoom. Keep things short and to the point to enable stay-at-home parents, single parents, and people with disabilities to have a fair chance of getting hired. Furthermore, be mindful about making the process accessible for candidates with disabilities. Make sure these candidates know that they can request an accommodation, such as adjusting the interview time or location, reviewing interview questions ahead of time, and opting out of personality assessments.

Have diverse representation at all manager levels

When we see people who look, move and sound like ourselves, it actively helps to increase our self-esteem and allows historically underrepresented groups to feel validated. Representation matters, and diversity needs to be showcased at all levels to be effective. For example, there’s no point in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion if your six-person leadership team is all white men. 

Diverse representation includes hiring Black women, Asian women, lesbian women, trans folks, older workers, working class, neurodivergent people, and those with disabilities. Look around your workplace and ask yourself how many of those demographics do you see? If the answer is not many, this might signal that you need to diversify your workforce and ensure better representation. 

How to promote equity in the workplace

Be transparent about wages

In December 2022, New York launched significant new legislation that makes it illegal for businesses to withhold information on salaries and pay. The reason? Women earn between 83 and 57 cents for every dollar made by men. 

By telling companies they have no choice but to legally show salary data, the process will help reduce discriminatory wage-setting, improve hiring practices, and aim to fix “the racial and gender-based wealth gaps that leave women in the workforce far behind their peers,” according to State Senator Jessica Ramos.

Include salary and benefit information on your job postings to ensure that you’re promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. Not only will this attract a more diverse candidate pool, but your talent acquisition teams won’t have to answer the awkward, “what’s the salary band for this role?” question a thousand times over. 

Ensure diversity training is held

For maximum impact, think about who could benefit from diversity training the most. Is putting Gen-Z through mandatory diversity training going to be the most impactful? After all, this cohort is already known for its progressive stance on diversity in the workplace already.

Instead, focus on key players throughout your hiring process and draw in middle management to take specialized diversity training to help them unpack areas like unconscious bias, cultural competencies, and discrimination while working toward creating a safer workplace for all. 

Training managers on DEIB topics is especially important because the manager/employee relationship is the most important relationship in the workplace, and an employee’s experience of being treated equitably and inclusively is largely shaped by how they interact with their manager and their direct team. If managers don’t practice  inclusive behaviors and build psychological safety on their teams, company-wide diversity efforts will not be successful or sustainable.

Welcome open dialog about equity

We are all wildly different human beings. Some folks might prefer a lively, chatty working environment, while others will function better in a quiet, remote setting. What’s important is that we seek to understand each other, ask questions to create open conversation, and view people as individuals with different needs than our own. This will help foster an equitable workplace that ensures all team members are on an even footing.

Strengthen anti-discrimination policies

Despite the practice being illegal, discrimination in the workplace is still widespread. A report by Glassdoor found that 61% of U.S. employees have experienced or witnessed discrimination based on age, race, gender, or sexual orientation, 30% of employees have witnessed or experienced racism at work, and 25% have witnessed or experienced LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace. 

Businesses need to strengthen anti-discrimination policies by collecting data on their employment practices and disclosing this for greater transparency and accountability while strengthening complaint systems to avoid disputes and equipping HR with additional resources to successfully address and implement anti-discrimination initiatives.

How to promote inclusion in the workplace

Acknowledge all cultural holidays

It is crucial to recognize and respect all cultural holidays, whether they’re wildly celebrated or not, and make sure that all employees have a chance to celebrate their culture. So make sure that all cultural holidays are acknowledged and employees are given the opportunity to celebrate their culture—regardless of whether it’s widely celebrated or not. 

Make accessing employee resource groups easy

According to McKinsey, employee resource groups (ERGs) are highly effective at fostering inclusion, improving diversity, and promoting external impact, and over 90% of Fortune 500 companies run ERGs. Walmart boasts seven in their company alone, which sounds impressive. But given their 1.7 million associates, only seven groups representing the diverse melting pot of employees is what Gen-Z would call “not passing the vibe check.”

Businesses take note. Employee resource groups are a goldmine for fostering an inclusive workplace because they help make work feel more authentic and deepen workplace relationships.  

Be pronoun friendly

He, she, they, xie, yo, ze, ve, ey, en, co — whichever pronoun people ask for, be respectful and use it. No one expects you to get it right 100% of the time, but educating yourself and learning is the biggest first step to ensuring that pronoun usage is acceptable while progressing to a more inclusive work environment. 

Respecting an individual’s pronouns is not just a nice-to-have; in states like California, it is actually the law – “An employer can be liable when customers or other third parties harass an employee because of their gender identity or expression, such as intentionally referring to a gender-nonconforming employee by the wrong pronouns or name.”

Normalize customization

Customize the employee experience by leveraging tools and resources such as employee benefits to meet diverse needs, tailored communication to keep workers engaged, and create a personalized onboarding process to help instill a sense of belonging, which will help promote inclusivity. 

Promote physical and psychological safety

Safety in the workplace is paramount to employee safety. Make sure your workplace feels physically and psychologically safe for all employees. Monitor for microaggressions, which contribute to employee burnout. And remember that mental health is just as important as physical health when it comes to the well-being of your employees. Lead from the front and be an advocate for mental health in the workplace

Foster diverse thinking

One key reason you need diversity in your teams is to encourage different ways of thinking. For example, let’s say you lead a team that’s 90% highly-educated, heterosexual white men. This cohort is likely to have similar life experiences, which inhibits diverse thinking because they’re all pulling ideas from the same box, which could stagnate business growth. 

Instead, foster diverse thinking by hiring diverse employees, each with different aspects and outlooks on life, to help you create a more inclusive workplace and generate out-of-the-box thinking.