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3 Simple Ways to Champion Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

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Ten Thousand Coffees Team
Ten Thousand Coffees Team -
November 25, 2020

Have you ever heard the old saying that “actions speak louder than words?”. It probably won’t surprise you that the sentiment certainly holds true when it comes to diversity and inclusion in the workplace, where frankly actions are everything.

Despite paying lip service to the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I), many business leaders are still complacent and keep DE&I initiatives confined to the realm of the compliance department. In short, they fail to take any meaningful action to genuinely make the workplace more diverse and welcoming for those of all demographics and ethnicities.

Of course, some people still aren’t convinced that diversity and inclusion efforts are worth it morally or financially — despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. We think that many more business leaders do understand the benefits of an inclusive workplace, however, and just don’t take action because they’re overwhelmed or unsure of where to start.

With an issue as complicated and nuanced as D&I, and with sensitive and at times polarizing topics, actions have to be taken thoughtfully. However, creating a diverse and inclusive workplace doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t require an entire department of experts or a giant budget!

Companies need to start walking the walk when it comes to workplace diversity. To create a work environment without creating bias, and where everyone feels included, here are three ways to bring diversity and inclusion in the workplace - starting today.

Integrate diversity and inclusion in the workplace culture

Perhaps the simplest way to see the real benefits of diversity is to tie in DE&I efforts with other high-priority organization wide policies in thoughtful and meaningful ways.

For example, if senior leaders meet every week to discuss progress on revenue goals or other company-wide policies, it’s probably also a good time to discuss progress toward different cultural goals, diversity in the workplace included.

After all, a diverse workforce is an important part of intentionally cultivating your workplace culture, and of course your company culture plays a huge role in its ability to attract, hire, and retain the best employees without an unconscious bias.

A welcoming culture also plays an important role in a team member’s ability to step-up and meet their goals each day, so it’s smart to keep D&I issues top-of-mind and stop treating them as completely unrelated to other bottom line objectives.

When company leaders actually talk about diversity and inclusion issues on a regular basis and start to show their interest in those practices with their words AND actual actions, they’re working to demonstrate the importance of inclusion initiatives to everybody.

Organization leaders and managers need to be truly committed to diversity in the workplace, and must make their commitment every bit as clear in both casual conversations and in the company’s formal policies and programs.

If your company already makes an effort to measure employee happiness, retention of diverse talent, career advancement, or recruitment success, aligning diversity and inclusion policies with your other targets is a no-brainer. The idea is to make sure that all teams are still happy and comfortable in the workplace, regardless of the diverse assortment of gender identity, sexual orientation or ethnic backgrounds represented.

Improve diversity with different action-focused education

Another way to move beyond intention and into action in your diversity and inclusion efforts is to ditch the stale training videos and use more actionable teaching programs.

Despite the fact that most people believe they can recognize inappropriate practices that are detrimental to diversity and inclusion when we see it, though in fact many can’t, we also know how it may get awkward to call out that inappropriate behavior in the moment it happens.

If you haven’t thought through an appropriate response in advance, or haven’t been equipped with scripts or actions to take when you witness inappropriate behavior or biases, you’ll be more likely to just ignore the whole interaction or try to move past it.

Guidance that focuses mostly on the litigious behaviors to avoid often does little more than make employees feel anxious and guilty. In contrast, focusing on the positives can do far more to reinforce good behavior than emphasizing the negatives.

Simply put, you need to provide your team with all the necessary tools to improve decision making and make swift, effective responses when the values of diversity and inclusion are challenged in the workplace.

Give people a chance to practice responding to bad behavior or sensitive issues in a safe environment, which is exactly where a hands-on class, workshop, or discussion group can be most effective.

As this human resources trainer sums up:

“People learn best when they can experience what they’re being taught. You can’t just hear about it. It has to be modeled and put into context. You have to role play the scenarios and the training has to be interactive for employees to learn the lessons thoroughly. Everyone does better in difficult situations like this if they’ve already practiced what to do in the safety of a training simulation. People need an immersive training experience that puts them in simulated situations that they may face in real life.”

Get the whole team onboard to create a diverse and inclusive workplace

Many companies or organizations are a little behind (OK, maybe a lot behind) in creating an inclusive work culture. Some feel that the tried and tested policies that are gathering dust in the employee handbook are more than enough to bring about change or improve diversity, despite ample evidence to the contrary.

Most employees don’t see themselves as being racist, sexist, ageist, or harassing other people at work, so they assume that they can safely ignore inclusion diversity programs. Alas, we’re all blind to our blind spots, and need external input and feedback to shift our perspectives and identify the missing pieces of the puzzle.

Other employees may assume that inclusion and diversity in the workplace practices are directed only at special or disadvantaged groups. They may ignore or actively avoid programs for promotion of a diverse and inclusive workforce if they don’t consider themselves to be in one of those groups, or if they don’t want to feel as if they are getting special treatment.

Many don’t realize that inclusivity means everyone, and it’s only when everyone is truly onboard, mentally and emotionally, that the direction of things can truly begin to change for the betterment of all.

Leaders and managers should clarify that every single employee has an important role to play in creating a diverse, inclusive, equitable workplace, despite their different backgrounds or viewpoints. Teams should understand that these programs are not just for the troublemakers or those most likely to be discriminated against.

To emphasize that D&I is everyone’s responsibility, it will help to invest in diverse workplace programs that everyone can use in the same way - programs that focus on the employee experience and benefit everyone equally.

Many well-intentioned companies spend diversity budgets on employee resource groups, but SHRM claims that responses are mixed about whether such groups work, or help to further highlight differences between employees. It's important to ensure that such initiatives are handled effectively if you want to see real positive impact.

On the other hand, initiatives that aim to serve all employees equally regardless of their gender identities or backgrounds can naturally make a workplace more inclusive and equitable. Consider programs like these:

  • Initiatives that check in on all employees’ sense of wellbeing and levels of engagement on a regular basis (weekly, monthly, or at the very least quarterly)
  • Initiatives that lay out paths for advancement for each employee and make sure each employee has the resources they require to move forward along that path
  • Initiatives that build and enhance connections among all employees so that they are less likely to feel isolated at work
  • Initiatives that are championed by senior leaders and stakeholders and held accountable for their promises

Many of these initiatives can also be executed easily with software. The data from such software can help ensure that they’re not only administered in a fair and unbiased way, but that the organization makes better decisions as a result of the findings, and the impact is clearly seen throughout the entire company.

The benefits of DEI and talent development software are numerous. Most programs keep automatic records and come with powerful reporting tools that can help leaders identify problems, gather important metrics, and monitor data as it changes over time.

While typical recruiting software can analyze problems with the hiring funnel that can affect diversity and inclusion, employee engagement or talent development software can levy anonymous surveys to periodically gauge the temperature of morale over time to see how different organization-wide initiatives affect morale.

These kinds of SaaS products often have employee portals, too, which not only helps to make employees aware of the employer’s efforts on their behalf, but can facilitate more personalized connections and mentorship throughout the company.

In addition to the above, talent development tools like Ten Thousand Coffees offer employee connection and collaboration features which can suggest diverse matches and facilitate meetings between employees who have similar goals and interests. Software such as this gives all employees an equal chance to build their networks and grow professionally.

In using software such as this, employees will appreciate that there are workplace diversity and inclusion programs in place to drive an inclusive culture, but also that those programs give them a high degree of control over their own path through the company and career trajectory overall.

The bottom line is that D&I programs contribute directly to helping all employees feel included, something that should be top of everyone's priority list.

If you want to learn more about Ten Thousand Coffees, get in touch with our partnerships team for more information or to schedule a free demo.

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