How to implement diversity in the workplace

Businesses that actively promote diversity and inclusion have a clear strategy in place, here's how to build your own

Kimberley Fellows, Senior Talent Partner (D&I) at software solutions firm Advanced, offers businesses a step-by-step guide to implementing diversity in the workplace.

Diversity in the workforce is crucial for organisations seeking to widen their talent pool and make the most of a rich cross-section of experience and skills. Everybody’s life journey is different, and each and every event contributes to the person we are and the things we are able to achieve.

Businesses that actively promote a diversity and inclusion policy and have a clear strategy about how to implement it are giving themselves a competitive edge. They recognise that employees who feel genuinely valued for who they are, and are properly rewarded for their work demonstrate greater loyalty, are more likely to stay with the business, and are more effective and productive within their roles.

Here are some suggestions that may help in shaping and implementing a diversity strategy:

1. Start with data

Identify how your organisation is diverse with voluntary, anonymised data collection on the diversity characteristics of your people. This will then inform your reporting, accountability and help to identify times when milestones are reached.

2. A strategy is key

Once you have your objectives, you need a strategy to guide you in making changes and doing things in a different way. Redefining your HR strategy might be a good place to start, including looking at ways to locate and identify talent from new sources.

3. Get leadership involved

Diversity and inclusion work often fails without the support of senior leadership, so it’s important that senior business leaders are not only onboard with the diversity strategy but that they actively promote and embody it every day. The appointment of a member of the senior leadership team as a diversity lead, accountable for the development and evolution of the strategy and its success, will help ensure that diversity is a priority across the business.

4. Champion diversity leaders

Consider inviting all employees to adopt the role of Diversity Leader through the formation of employee resource groups, giving them the opportunity to help to shape policy and strategies for increasing diversity. People are usually most committed to changes when they feel they have a stake in them and have some ownership over the solutions.

5. Report the gaps

Undertake a diversity pay gap report to identify the ‘glass ceiling’ in your organisation. By making salary transparency mandatory, with comparisons to third party data and market rates, you will be confident about fair pay. Though equal pay is a legal obligation in the UK, pay gaps often exist for minority groups due to underlying barriers to representation in senior positions. Diversity pay gap reporting can identify pay gaps by looking at average salary and can help determine the next steps for closing those gaps.

6. Keep an open mind

Keep an open mind when recruiting, perhaps dispensing altogether with former considerations that focused on the CV and instead focus on potential. Not everyone will tick every box with their skills, qualifications and experience, but many will have transferable skills with alternative experience and education that could really enrich your business operations.

7. Use HR platforms

Use internal HR platforms to promote diversity and inclusion within the organisation. Inviting feedback and involvement from all employees can be a very useful tool for understanding where any barriers exist and where prejudice and unconscious bias might be working against your diversity strategy.

Use those platforms to keep employees updated with progress and celebrate reaching objectives and milestones so that they feel confident this represents an authentic shift in company culture rather than a one-off exercise.

8. Flex your flexibility

Flexibility in working practice, driven to new heights during the pandemic, has demonstrated how offering the option of remote working can significantly increase the size and quality of the talent pool. Moving forward, continuing to be flexible will allow businesses to further explore and get the best out of their people, whether it is supporting existing staff members whose circumstances have changed during 2020 or recruiting new people without geographical, physical, or social restrictions.

9. Communicate, communicate

Accept that some of the conversations that surround diversity and inclusion will involve negative experiences and the flipside – prejudice. This may be difficult for some employees who will find it easier to ignore the issues or deny they exist. However, approaching these conversations regularly and with an attitude of learning instead of judgement will allow people to feel more comfortable over time.

10. Get in it for the long haul

Recognise that this is a long journey. Prejudices that may have previously stood in the way of a truly diverse workforce are likely to be a result of unconscious bias rather than deliberate discrimination. Everyone has experienced some form of unconscious bias in the workplace and has benefitted or been held back by it, sometimes both in different measures under different circumstances. Your diversity strategy must be flexible and continue to evolve in order to stay fit for purpose and relevant.

Everyone has the right to feel truly welcomed, valued and safe to express themselves in the workplace. Digital technologies enable more people from diverse backgrounds and experiences to contribute to business success than ever before. However, it also requires a commitment from business leaders to create workplaces that fully embrace the importance of diversity and inclusion.

It’s good for people, and it’s good for business.

Kimberley Fellows is Senior Talent Partner (D&I) at Advanced.

Rate This: