How To Increase Workplace Diversity: 9 Steps

Updated April 20, 2023

Workplace diversity is a strength for companies because it introduces new ideas and practices to businesses. A diverse workplace can also improve a company's image. In this article, we define workplace diversity, outline steps to increase diversity in the workplace and discuss why diversity in the workplace is important.

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What is workplace diversity?

Workplace diversity is the intentional hiring of people from varying backgrounds. Diversity includes a balance of people of different ages, genders, religious backgrounds, cultures, lifestyles and other varying attributes. Businesses can develop specific practices that promote diversity and inclusion to increase the diversity of their teams.

Why is workplace diversity important?

Workplace diversity is important because it allows people with different backgrounds and experiences to work together to solve problems and make advances in the workplace. Diversity helps broaden the focus of a workplace to introduce innovative ideas and practices to a company. Here are a few of the benefits of a diverse workplace:

  • Creativity: A diverse team of employees can bring new ideas to your company.

  • Culture: Increasing the diversity of a workplace can help improve the overall culture by making your company a more desirable place to work.

  • Company reputation: Hiring and retaining a diverse team of employees can increase the quality of a company's reputation by showing that the company is inclusive and welcoming.

  • Overcoming challenges: A diverse team is better able to solve problems with different perspectives.

Related: 10 Diversity in the Workplace Benefits

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How to increase workplace diversity

Here are the steps to increasing diversity in the workplace:

1. Examine your company's composition and culture

The first step to increasing workplace diversity is looking at your company's current makeup and culture. A good way to approach this examination is to compare your company's racial, ethnic and gender makeup to that of the local community. The community can give you a target for the diverse demographics your company can try to achieve.

Culture is the personality and environment of an organization. Examining company culture is important because it can give you ideas for ways to make your company a more desirable place to work for diverse candidates. Identifying how it feels to work at your company is a good starting point for defining the company culture.

Many businesses that want to increase diversity look for ways to incorporate a sense of inclusion into their company culture. You can start to improve the culture of your company by identifying the ways your company has made accommodations for people with different cultures, lifestyles and traditions. Your company can build upon those efforts by finding new ways to make its employees feel more comfortable.

Related: What Is Company Culture? (With Definition and Examples)

2. Evaluate executives' diversity

Another method to determine your company's current standing with diversity is to look at the diversity of the executives and managers. A powerful way to show that your company values diversity is to demonstrate this diversity at all levels of hiring. Diversity at the highest levels of the company can signify to diverse candidates that your company is serious about its efforts toward inclusion.

Read more: How To Be an Inclusive Leader

3. Set goals to achieve greater diversity

Once you've examined your company's makeup and culture, you can make a plan for improving diversity in the workplace. You can start by finding ways to make the hiring process fair for all candidates and welcoming for diverse candidates.

For example, maybe you noticed that 51% of your local community are people who identify as women, but only 30% of your company's employees are people who identify as women. You can set a goal to increase that percentage to 40% by the end of the year. To reach the example goal, you can incorporate more inclusion into your workplace policies to make your company an attractive choice.

4. Update workplace policies to be more inclusive

You can examine the policies your company has in place, which are part of what sets your workplace culture, to help you reach your diversity goals. It's important to incorporate inclusion into your company's policies because it gives diverse candidates an example of a tangible effort the company is making toward accommodating people with different backgrounds. Inclusive workplace policies typically have the benefit of increasing the satisfaction of not just diverse hires but also the workforce as a whole.

Below is a list of some policies where you can incorporate inclusive practices:

  • Dress code: Rules on hairstyles and tattoos, for example, could exclude otherwise qualified candidates from consideration at a workplace. Relaxing a dress code can help make everyone feel more welcome at a company.

  • Holidays: Companies can foster inclusion by instituting holiday policies that allow employees to observe religious and cultural holidays.

  • Hiring: Implement hiring practices that enable hiring managers to treat every candidate the same during the hiring process. For example, using the same rubric to screen every qualified candidate for a position can help make hiring fairer.

  • Parental leave: Offering maternal and paternal leave is a great way to show employees who are parents that your company values their presence.

  • Work schedule: Some companies can appeal to diverse employees with families or a long commute by offering a flexible work schedule or opportunities to work from home.

Read more: How To Practice Inclusiveness in the Workplace

5. Provide diversity training

Another way to make the culture of your company more inclusive and welcoming of diverse hires is to host diversity training for current employees. This can be a simple group presentation from an HR employee or an online training course that teaches employees to value people with a diverse set of identities, cultures and backgrounds.

Diversity training is a great way to get anonymous feedback from employees about ways the company can improve its practices to be more inclusive. You can develop surveys for your team to take after the training is complete and open an anonymous email inbox to address any future behavior that doesn't align with your company's inclusive policies.

Related: Learning About Diversity and Inclusion: 10 Free Virtual Courses

6. Post to job boards for diverse candidates

Companies can take advantage of job boards for specific segments of diverse candidates. Posting open positions to these sites can increase the likelihood that talented, diverse candidates would take an interest in your company. It's also a way to reach candidates who may not have known about an opportunity to join your business.

This is a distinct way for businesses to show that they're committed to increasing diversity and fostering inclusion. Be sure to mention the inclusive policies that can make your position attractive to diverse employees.

7. Emphasize diversity on company websites and social channels

Another way you can improve your diversity and inclusion practices is to feature diversity on the company website and social media pages. You can feature photos and quotes from your team to show the public you're proud of the diversity you've achieved. This is a way to make inclusion part of a company's brand. It's also another way that diverse candidates can see that your company values differences between employees.

8. Focus on retention

The power of hiring diverse employees comes when companies can retain those employees over time. This can show other diverse candidates that your company has taken steps to be more inclusive through policy and culture.

Part of the challenge of improving workplace diversity is keeping diverse employees. Some companies offer development programs for employees from underrepresented backgrounds. This is a way to show diverse employees that you value their presence at your company. It's also a method of helping diverse employees gain the skills they need for a promotion, which can help diversify management and executives.

A mentoring program is another way to promote retention. Pairing junior employees with more experienced employees can help diverse employees gain new skills while developing relationships with other employees.

Related: 17 Successful Retention Strategies

9. Pledge continued improvement

Companies can continue to identify ways to improve diversity even after successfully hiring and keeping diverse employees. For example, you can revisit your policies once a year to determine whether they continue to align with your diversity goals. You can also survey employees to find new ways to increase overall job satisfaction.

Read more: 20 Benefits of a Diverse Workplace

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