Diversity and inclusion in the workplace: Creating a workplace where everyone belongs

Fostering diversity and inclusion in the workplace

With initiatives like period leave, gender-neutral anti-harassment policy, health benefits for same-sex partners, etc., diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace has become more than a compliance statement over the past years. As more and more companies realise the importance of a diverse and inclusive workforce, this will continue to remain a key area of focus. In this article, we will cover how you can get started on your journey towards diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

What is the difference between diversity and inclusion in the workplace?

While the terms diversity and inclusion may seem synonymous, they have different meanings.

A diverse workforce consists of people from various backgrounds and varying behaviour such as different sex, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, nationality, age, economic background, etc.

However, a diverse workforce is not always equal to an inclusive team. 

Your workforce is an inclusive one if it has the following characteristics:

1. Each employee feels that they don’t have to hide core parts of their identity at work. For example, do employees feel comfortable about exhibiting their religion? Do employees from the LGBTQIA+ community feel at ease in the office?

2. The diversity isn’t limited to a particular department or seniority level. For example, 50% of your workforce may be women, but if there are hardly any women in leadership roles, then it may not be an inclusive workplace.

3. Each employee feels valued irrespective of their background, behaviour, and position in the company.

As you can infer that a diverse and inclusive workforce isn’t limited to how many diverse groups exist. It involves making sure that diverse perspectives are welcomed and that each employee has an equal opportunity to contribute and advance. Hence, both diversity and inclusion (D&I) go hand-in-hand.

What are the benefits of diversity and inclusion in the workplace?

Diversity and inclusion strategies are increasingly becoming a key part of every organisation. Besides making workforces truly reflective of the society we live in, it serves the following purposes:

1. Leads to innovation

According to a study by Boston Consulting Group on the relationship between diversity and innovation, companies that had an above-average diverse workforce had a 19% higher revenue due to innovation.

A diverse and inclusive workforce helps you move away from a dominant perspective and unconscious bias. It brings forth multiple viewpoints and helps in innovating for a diverse marketplace. For example, if you are coming up with a new product, having employees of various backgrounds onboard can help you see what features different groups would want to see in the product. 

2. Helps with employee retention

If employees do not feel a sense of belonging, they are much more likely to leave the organisation. On the other hand, employees who feel comfortable about being themselves at work are more engaged in their work and less likely to quit.

A survey by Deloitte found that 39% of employees would leave their jobs to work in a more inclusive environment whereas 23% responded that they had already left.

3. Helps with talent acquisition

When you proactively hire for diversity, you tap into a larger pool of candidates. Moreover, when you have a diverse and inclusive workforce, more candidates from similar communities will apply as applicants will be able to see their representatives in your workplace.

4. Attracts millennials

Millennials tend to value diversity and inclusion more than the preceding generations. Given that 75% of the workforce could be made up of millennials by 2025, diversity and inclusion should be one of the priorities for your organisation. 

5. Increases revenue

Inclusive workplaces are more profitable, according to a study by John Bersin group. This could be due to the reasons mentioned above such as greater employee engagement and diverse perspectives.

What are some diversity and inclusion initiatives that you can use?

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace can be employed through a number of initiatives, both big and small. Here a few workplace diversity examples that you can start with:

1. Review your language to make it more gender-neutral

One of the simplest ways to get started is by reviewing the language that you use in your internal and external communication whether it’s job descriptions, career pages, meetings, or marketing content. For example:

i. Replace binary pronouns like he/she with gender-neutral pronouns such as they. 

ii. Make profiles gender-neutral. So, ‘salesman’ should be written as ‘salesperson’. Refrain from using terms like ‘ninjas’ and ‘rockstars’.

iii. Instead of addressing an audience as ‘ladies and gentlemen’, you can use ‘everyone’, ‘all’, etc.

iv. If you have a casual environment and you tend to use ‘guys’, replace it with ‘folks’.

v. If your company has employees bio, they can specify their pronouns such as they/she/he.

You can also use language tools like alex which detects language that may be inconsiderate and suggests alternatives.

2. Proactively hire for diversity

If the percentage of applicants from diverse backgrounds is less, you could be more proactive in your approach. One way to do this is by attending job fairs hosted for specific communities. For example, RISE (Reimagining Inclusion for Social Equity) by Pride Circle is a job fair that is organised for the LGBTQIA community.

Other methods include connecting with online or offline community groups, networking with diverse professionals online, and asking for employee referrals. You can also add statements related to being an equal opportunity employer (EOE) in your job descriptions and career pages. For example, HubSpot’s EOE statement:


3. Change hiring practices

Diversity and inclusion can often be hindered by conscious and unconscious bias. This bias can manifest in both resume screenings and interviews. Here a few practices that you can put in place to eliminate it:

i. Use blind resume screenings.

ii. Conduct structured interviews so that candidates can be assessed more objectively. The hiring managers can also be trained to reduce unconscious bias while evaluating a candidate for culture fit.

iii. Try to make the interview panel diverse. Whenever possible, have representatives from different communities in an interview panel.

4. Have inclusive washrooms

Besides workplace policies, your diversity and inclusion strategy should also address a basic necessity such as having washrooms that do not exclude anyone. This could be in the form of disabled-friendly and gender-neutral washrooms. 

5. Implement a disability inclusion program

According to the 2011 census, about 2.1% (21 million) of India’s population and 15% of the world’s population is disabled. Despite being a large minority, their needs remain largely unaddressed in workplaces. 

While many places may consider hiring disabled employees an impediment to productivity, organisations that proactively hire from the disabled community earn a 28% higher revenue than the ones who didn’t, according to a report on disability inclusion by Accenture. 

If you are a small organisation, then here are a few simple ways in which you can make your workplace disabled-friendly:

i. Wherever possible, have a ramp instead of stairs. Other infrastructure adjustments can include spacious workstations for employees in wheelchairs or adjusting the height of desks.

ii. Make your website disability-friendly. This will ensure that the candidates can apply for jobs and do their day-to-day job without any assistance. For example, provide the option to make the font bigger, include options for colour contrast, add alt-text to images, have descriptive URLs, etc.

iii. If you have an open office, provide the option of working in a quiet space. For example, a small conference room. This could help employees who may have trouble with sensory input such as bright lights, too much noise, etc.

iv. You can implement a buddy system at your workplace. The buddy is an employee who can help the new hire in adjusting to the new environment.

6. Create employee resource groups

Employees who share similar backgrounds can form voluntary employee resource groups. Although these groups are created by individuals with similar backgrounds, they could be open for anyone to join. These groups can give the employees a sense of belonging, be a safe space to discuss issues, and provide organic networking opportunities.

For example, Infosys has an employee resource group, Infyability, which comprises disabled employees. They address subjects of disability recruitment, engagement, retention, and engagement.

Netflix is another organisation that has 15 employee resource groups spanning different communities such as trans, disability, immigrant, parents, etc.

D&I at Netflix

7. Leave policy 

Here are a few ways in which you can make your leave policy more inclusive:

i. Parental leave for both parents who choose to adopt or are surrogate parents. 

ii. Leave for transition-related surgery for trans employees. 

Diversity and inclusion in the Indian workplaceD&I at Godrej

iii. Period leave for women including trans employees. This has been currently implemented by five organisations – Culture Machine, Zomato, Gozoop, Horse Stable News, and FlyMyBiz. Other than corporate organisations, the government employees of the State of Bihar can also use this leave.

8. Sponsor organisations that support underrepresented groups

In addition to having workplace inclusion policies, you can show your commitment by sponsoring organisations that create equity. You can also have your initiatives such as scholarships, mentorship programs, and so on.

9. Address salary disparity

According to a survey by Monster.com, women earn 19% less than men in India. Moreover, women are also less likely to negotiate their salary and therefore tend to switch jobs more frequently. So, a pay equity audit could contribute significantly to your diversity and inclusive initiative.

Besides ensuring that each employee is being paid a fair wage irrespective of gender, you should ascertain that promotions are not restricted to a certain community. To close the skills gap, you can invest in learning and development resources and mentoring programs. 

10. Implement an anti-discrimination policy

Having an anti-discrimination policy can assure employees that discriminating behaviour will be held accountable. 

Once you have come up with a policy, make sure that each employee, existing and new, is aware of this policy. It should also be a part of your career page.

11. Develop empathy in employees about diversity and inclusion

Rather than making a formal diversity and inclusion policy and leaving it at that, take the time to engage employees and inculcate empathy in them about diversity and inclusion. This can be done by initiating conversations about the importance of diversity and inclusion in your workplace, sensitisation training, and even hosting employee engagement sessions such as movie screenings.

According to CIO India, empathy is especially important at the leadership level. Leaders can do this by “remembering a time when they were excluded, shamed, interrupted, and so on, so they can apply those lessons outwardly.”

12. Set up mentoring programs

Formal mentoring programs can help underrepresented groups in networking and career progression.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by all the work that needs to be done, remember that diversity and inclusion will always be an ongoing process. Instead of being paralysed by the sheer number of areas you need to work on, begin with a small step that aligns with your goal for D&I initiatives. Over time, these small changes combined with big ones can foster a strong culture of diversity and inclusiveness at your workplace.

What are the diversity and inclusion metrics?

You can use the following methods to determine the success of your D&I initiatives:

1. Decide on a goal(s) before you have a diversity and inclusion strategy

While diversity and inclusion may simply seem like the right thing to do, defining a goal can help you see if you are making progress. For example, maybe you want to build products for a diverse marketplace.

2. Conduct a diversity and inclusion audit

Knowing the current composition of diversity and inclusion in your workplace can help you figure out where you need to put the most effort. For example, is there a lack of diversity in leadership roles? 

Once you start putting efforts into diversity and inclusion initiatives, you should analyse how this data changes.

3. Measure your attrition rate for different groups

Attrition rate can be a powerful indicator of the state of diversity and inclusion in your workplace. If the attrition rate for a particular group is more, you could channelise your efforts to retain the individuals from this community and measure your progress over time.

4. Conduct anonymous surveys to understand employees’ perceptions

You can conduct regular anonymous surveys to understand whether employees believe that the D&I strategy has been effective. You can also use these surveys to understand what kind of D&I initiatives do employees want to see in their workplace.

This was a short guide on fostering diversity and inclusion in the workplace. If you want to bring more freshers onboard in your organisation, register and post a job on Fresher Jobs on Internshala.

Image credits: <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/vectors/people’>People vector created by freepik – www.freepik.com</a>

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