Workplaces are changing for the better. Albeit little by little, the modern workplace has seen more progressive changes geared toward the welfare of workers. But though we’re a far cry from where we were fifty or more years ago, there is still a long way to go before the office can be a safe space for all.

Diversity and inclusion (D&I) is a pillar in the modern workplace. With companies increasingly realizing the need for more diverse and inclusive environments, more discussions have been centered on D&I in recent years.

However, for a business to truly embrace diversity and inclusion, they must be recognized as more than mere buzzwords to drive organizational initiatives. Rather, diversity and inclusion should be among any business’ core values and thus integrated into each aspect of the organization.

How will your business benefit from a more diverse and inclusive workplace?

Diversity and inclusion may frequently be mentioned in the same breath, but it’s important to acknowledge their differences.

An organization is diverse when it comprises individuals of different races, ethnicities, ages, genders, physical abilities, educational backgrounds, skill sets, and personalities. Inclusion is a step further by ensuring that these individuals have a sense of belongingness, empowering them with equal and fair opportunities and welcoming their contributions to the group.

Businesses benefit from creating a diverse workforce and structuring their processes around the importance of inclusivity. According to McKinsey, ethnically and racially diverse companies outperform their industry competitors by 35%.

Other benefits brought about by a more varied workforce include increased innovation and creativity and better decision-making. Employees value diversity and inclusion, too—it leads to higher employee engagement and retention.

What can you do to promote diversity and inclusion in your workplace?

Although it can be easier said than done for businesses, fostering a more diverse and inclusive workplace is possible by taking a top-to-bottom approach. Below are some steps you can take to achieve this:

  • Strengthen policies

Programs initiated by the human resources department of your company are a welcome step toward understanding diversity and inclusion further. But for changes to trickle down to all members of the organization, it must start with policy. Some of these include anti-discriminatory guidelines for recruitment, diversity training, and an input system for employees.

  • Reform your recruitment process

Recruitment in itself is inherently laden with selectiveness and bias. To truly commit to a more diverse and inclusive recruitment process, it is important to acknowledge this partiality and see where you can fill the gaps.

Begin with the way your company screens applicants. Do you usually fill roles through internal hires? Moving away from a referral system leads to a more diverse talent pool and, thus, a less homogeneous workforce.

  • Take on diversity training

Diversity training can be a fruitful means to make management more accountable in terms of inclusion policies.

However, it is crucial for this training to be structured as growth opportunities rather than mandatory programs. Research has found mandatory diversity training may actually backfire and spark bias or animosity. For diversity programs to succeed, management and employees must be allowed to choose to show up and be educated.

  • Celebrate multiple cultures and religions

A multicultural perspective is crucial for building a more diverse and inclusive workforce. Include policies for various cultural and religious practices and celebrations. Consider offering flexible or floating holidays, so workers are free to select holidays not counted in your standard calendar at their discretion.

You can also consider celebration months across various demographics such as Pride Month, Women’s History Month, African American History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, National Deaf History Month, and more.

  • Welcome multiple languages

Using multiple languages is especially helpful for multicultural workplaces. Eradicating language barriers is a step further into evoking a sense of belongingness among the members of your organization. Although translation services are more common among larger companies, it’s also important for small business employees to express themselves comfortably, using whatever language they choose.

  • Show transparency in opportunities

Apart from the recruitment and hiring process, biases are also prevalent when it comes to growth within the company. One way for companies to address this is to be transparent with raises.

Companies should make it a goal to eliminate pay gaps and discrepancies. The first step is to acknowledge and examine existing policies. Internally tracking performance and compensations will help managers to see clearly if diversity goals are being met. Though unconscious bias inevitably seeps into these processes, these should be monitored proactively to provide truly equal and fair promotion opportunities.

  • Cultivate a safe space

For individuals to genuinely feel a sense of connectedness, they need to express themselves freely and gain a sense of value for their contributions or opinions. The organization should aim to have a platform where individuals can share their diverse viewpoints without fear of consequences. Openness is crucial for this to work. Consider a communications platform for your workforce.

A transparent and flexible grievance and complaint system will also help encourage individuals to flag significant concerns affecting them and avoid a hostile workplace for all. Consider a more personalized approach to mediating conflict so that employees don’t hesitate to air their grievances.

Finally, periodically ask for your team members’ input and hold dialogues. Touching base on a regular basis is an effective way to help each worker feel involved in the team.

  • Continue learning

Lastly, learn to acknowledge your gaps when it comes to fostering a more diverse and inclusive workspace and endeavor to continue working on them. Achieving diversity and inclusion is not a linear process. With the way organizations are innately structured, businesses will need to keep learning how to overcome bias and discriminatory practices long term.

The work to come

Once businesses decide to make diversity and inclusion a core part of their strategies, it’s vital to acknowledge the work that awaits them. A top-to-bottom approach with a focus on the individual level, along with these steps, is a good way to start. From there, it’s just a matter of listening and acting.