How to Build a Culture That Supports and Encourages Diversity

An inclusive company culture functions on the backbone of diversity. By incorporating these concepts in your organizations day-to-day tasks, you will find improved employee satisfaction and morale, company success, and employee retention, along with other long-term benefits.

Structure Your Company for Success

To ensure your company is set up for success, begin by examining what you should focus on. Diversity is multidimensional, so you have to decide if you plan on focusing on all aspects at once, or one at a time. There are many different aspects of diversity:

  • Age
  • Race & Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Personality
  • Socioeconomic Status
  • Education
  • Experience

It is important for diversity initiatives to be intersectional. The concept of diversity is complex within itself. You should place an emphasis on the importance of building a diverse community within your organization at every level.

It’s the foundation of a solid business strategy. By giving space for diverse voices in your organization, you’ll gain unique perspective in return. Entrepreneur Robert F. Smith states, “And for entrepreneurs out there, look. If you have certain people that come from just one community and one fraternity or sorority, you’re going to have a very limited set of inputs for what will be a product that hopefully satisfies a much broader opportunity of customer base….You want gender, racial, ethnic diversity in all of the thinking processes and the delivery processes. We found that to be probably one of the more effective methods.” By implementing this type of thinking, you will encourage increased productivity, creativity, improved cultural awareness, and a positive reputation to your organization.

Determine who will be in charge of this initiative. By electing a specific person to run your diversity initiative, it will receive the attention it deserves. Keep in mind the size of your organization when deciding who is tapped to lead the charge and when delegating related tasks and responsibilities. For example, smaller businesses may require one individual, as opposed to larger businesses which may require an entire department, like HR.

Use Objective Hiring Practices

To create a truly diverse workforce, you first need to hire one. Avoiding and reducing bias in hiring has been a considerable challenge for many organizations. For local mom-and-pops to Fortune 500 companies alike! The core of this issue is that for decades, the criteria for hiring the “right” person has been based on subjective information. Things like gut feelings and the perfect culture “fit”.

As a hiring manager, you’re human. We’ve all got our own implicit biases that impact how we view the world and the people in it. Candidates who have similar interests and backgrounds to the hiring manager are more likely to feel like  the “right fit” for the job… Even if they aren’t as qualified!

To squash at some hiring bias, consider adding objective candidate measures to your hiring process. There’s an objective way to evaluate at almost every step of  the way that you can implement to make sure you’re finding great candidates with a variety of life experiences.

Job Postings

Use inclusive language in your job titles and job descriptions. Certain words tend to read male or female, and can discourage people outside of that to even apply. You’re shooting yourself in the foot right out the gate! Instead of hiring a “Marketing Guru” or a “Sales Rockstar” (both of which read inherently male), consider using words based more in the reality of the job.

While it’s not as “cool”, using clear job titles (like “Director of Marketing” or “Sales Associate”) is the way to go. First of all, you’re not going to alienate potential candidates from the get-go. And second, using accurate language means your listing will show up in more search results. A win-win!

Application Process

Your application is how you collect all your initial information about your potential new hires. But are you collecting the most impartial information you can? If you’re not using pre-hire assessments, you probably aren’t.

Specifically, aptitude testing allows you to gather objective data that helps predict workplace success. Cognitive aptitude is twice as predictive as a resume, three times more predictive than an interview, and four times more predictive than education. In addition to predicting post-hire success, aptitude assessments also increase the fairness of your hiring process.

The education and experience a candidate has access to is often tied to their background and network. Wealthier white candidates have access to better schools and business connections to get the “right pedigree” to landing a job. Sure, they often look great on paper! But looking and experience and education alone won’t help you build a diverse workforce.

Cognitive aptitude is more innate and allows you to measure all candidates with the same yardstick. It represents a person’s ability to learn quickly, solve problems, and adapt as needed. All characteristics of a great employee, no matter the role or industry. Adding cognitive aptitude testing is a great way to inject objectivity into your hiring process. And with game-based assessments, you can create an excellent and enjoyable candidate experience at the same time. If you’re interested in learning more, check out our E-Book on game-based assessments for hiring.

Interview

When conducting an interview, you want to make sure that you’re giving every candidate the same opportunity to prove themselves. To do this, make sure you’re using a structured interview method. This means asking each candidate the same questions so you can give everyone a fair chance. A more rigid structure doesn’t mean that interviews have to become less conversational. You should still encourage candidates to ask their own questions and plenty of time to answer yours.

Offer

Before extending an offer to your favorite candidates, do your research on appropriate compensation. Confirm that your salary offer aligns with industry standards for your region and industry. It’s also critical to make sure that the salary you’re offering is equitable across demographics. Would you offer this same salary regardless of age, race, gender expression, sexuality, or faith? If so, you’re in the clear.

Another point – if you’re hiring a new candidate at a higher salary than some of your more senior employees in a similar role, consider boosting your current employees’ pay too. You want to keep your best workers feeling validated. Salary is one of the clearest signals to your workforce that you are committed to honoring the value they bring to your business.

According to a PayChex survey, 70% of of employees said that a low salary was the top reason they have left or would leave a job. Let’s consider the costs of hiring a new recruit to take the place of a more senior worker. Between the money spent sourcing and evaluating candidates (averaging $4,000 per hire), onboarding costs (about $1000 per new employee), plus the loss in productivity (16% of salary for an entry level position), the average cost to replace a single worker is $15,000. Ouch! You’re much better off in the long term creating pay equity policies. Your employees will feel appreciated, become more engaged, and you’ll drastically reduce turnover.

Build a Strong Internal Network

Finding ways for employees to connect with each other helps individuals feel comfortable and included. By building a strong internal network, employees will feel more unified and in turn set the organization up for success. Award-winning speaker Diane Helbig knows “networking is an investment in your business. It takes time. And when done correctly can yield great results for years to come.” Keep in mind that there are plenty of other benefits to networking, such as shared knowledge, connections, and an increase in confidence.

When building up your company’s internal network, consider creating a mentorship program too. Mentorship programs encourage diversity by allowing the exchange of ideas and perspective to flow from employers at any level up to leadership. Managers will be able to identify great talent in your workforce that can lead to internal promotions and allows people to explore different career paths within your organization.

Implement Anti-Discrimination Policies

To foster a company culture that supports diversity, it is crucial that you provide and enforce clear anti-discrimination policies. These policies work to make your organization safe and comfortable for all of your employees. Start during your onboarding process and explain what is (and isn’t) appropriate and acceptable in the workplace. This will show employees what is expected of them from the beginning, removing the potential to claim ignorance. It also solidifies for your new hires that can trust their supervisors if they ever experience harassment from someone in your organization.

By creating a path towards a more diverse organization, you will actively reduce bias in your hiring process. This in turn can work to boost your company reputation both internally and to potential candidates. More individuals will want to work for you because they know that they will feel safe and supported within your work environment.

Provide an Equal, Fair, and Accommodating Environment

Do you provide your employees with enough flexibility? For example, offering parental leave for those raising a family. Or creating work from home options for differently abled employees. Additionally, certain individuals may have unique needs, such as space for meditation and prayer, language training, or time off, that you should take into consideration.

Encouraging differences and welcoming unique perspectives leads to effective collaboration and varied ways of thinking.  Your employees will find it easier to make decisions and solve problems, becoming more productive overall. Additionally, a work environment that is equal, fair, and accommodating fosters inclusivity and equity. These are two equality important concepts that are interconnected with committing to diversifying your workplace. .

Don’t View Diversity as the Latest Trend

Fostering a workplace that recognizes and emphasizes the value of diversity forms the foundation for long-term success. Diversity initiatives are not meant to just check a box for the latest marketing strategy. Be earnest in your commitment to supporting diversity. Businesses with diverse C-suites see this pay off in dividends.  Companies with women in top management roles produce 20 percent more patents than teams with male leaders. According to a study by SSRN, increased representation across gender and ethnic groups improves corporate decision making.

Ultimately, by investing in your people and providing a diverse work environment, you will see countless benefits. This includes better retention rates, increased productivity, and improved decision making. It also creates an organization that encourages creativity and works together to solve problems, which drives innovation in the long run.