What is a diversity program?
In the workplace, diversity programs are initiatives that encourage workers to respect and embrace employees with beliefs other than their own. These team members may have different ethnic backgrounds, genders, religions or political views, but they all have valuable ideas and skills.
Diversity programs are managed differently at every organization and may include the following:
- Diversity training and education
- Skill-based tests for potential hires
- Outreach programs
- Grievance procedures that let workers challenge decisions
- Data collection and audits
Remember, launching a diversity program is not a one-time event. Your company must commit to ongoing training, implementation and monitoring if you want a successful diversity program initiative.
Benefits of diversity and inclusion programs
Diversity programs help remind each employee—as well as stakeholders and customers—that your business understands the importance of workplace inclusion. Over time, you may notice numerous benefits that stem from diversity in the workplace, from improved productivity to enhanced employee morale.
Here are some common advantages associated with implementing diversity and inclusion programs:
1. More interest from skilled applicants
Many applicants avoid pursuing positions at a workplace that lacks diversity because they don’t want to become just another face in the crowd—or, worse yet, be viewed as an oddball who doesn’t belong.
If you want to attract good employees, it’s important to make sure your company is flexible and inclusive. Embracing diversity helps applicants from all walks of life find a spot at your company, from working parents to recent college graduates.
2. Improved creativity
People from similar backgrounds with similar lifestyles often have similar ideas. That’s a downfall if you’re in an industry where innovative ideas are essential, and it’s easy to fall into a rut.
Hiring a diverse team helps ensure that products, services and marketing campaigns represent everyone in your target audience. You may even find that customers outside of your usual demographic develop an interest in your company.
3. Enhanced employee morale
As an employee, it can be depressing and discouraging to work for a company that isn’t diverse. You may feel as if nobody truly understands or appreciates you or fear that your opportunities for advancement are limited. This is a common complaint at companies that typically promote white males, leaving women and minorities to handle lower-level duties such as clerical work or janitorial tasks.
When you encourage diversity in the workplace, your actions help boost employee morale. Workers know their talents are appreciated regardless of their lifestyle, religious views or ethnic background.
4. Increased profits
Employees often perform better in a diverse environment. This makes it easier for your company to meet—or even exceed—financial goals. Companies with well-managed diversity programs may also attract more customers and stakeholders, as many individuals prefer to support businesses that are known for being inclusive.
Steps for creating a successful diversity program
Creating a diversity program that meet’s your company’s needs can get tricky, especially if you’re new to diversity initiatives. Instead of just focusing on existing problems and solutions, make sure your business starts off on the right foot as soon as you advertise for available positions.
1) Change how you recruit candidates
Your recruitment process may not encourage diversity in the workplace. Before you post a help wanted ad or reach out to potential candidates via LinkedIn or similar sites, make sure your company is classified as an an approved equal opportunity employer (EEO) by the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You should display this information in each job description for your company and also mention if accommodations are available for employees with disabilities.
Highlight your company’s flexibility in each job ad. If you let employees telecommute, say so. If paid leave is available for all genders when an employee welcomes a new child, mention this as well. You can even get right to the point and say, “We have a diverse workforce and welcome all applicants, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or religious practices.”
2) Revamp your hiring and referral processes
Companies are often quick to hire referrals from current workers, but this can be a problem. Sure, the referred workers may be friendly and dependable, but as they say in science, “like attracts like.” You may end up building your team with employees whose beliefs and lifestyles are nearly identical to the workers you already have.
It’s also important to make sure each applicant gets a fair chance to apply. Hiring managers should never discard an application because a candidate has a unique name or lives in a low-income area, but unfortunately, this happens at some companies. It’s also helpful to incorporate a mandatory skills-based testing process for potential employees so every applicant gets a fair shot at positions they’re qualified to hold. This helps prevent bias during the hiring process.
3) Identify issues and potential problems
It’s difficult to know where to begin when creating diversity programs unless you identify issues at your company first. When creating a diversity program for your workplace, ask the following questions:
- Are management positions dominated by a specific gender or race?
- Do women and minorities have pay rates that match those of white males in the same positions?
- Does HR gravitate toward a specific gender when hiring for certain departments, such as only recruiting male warehouse workers or female clerical support?
- Do training programs and office decor, such as paintings or customer pamphlets, reflect diversity or mainly depict a specific race or gender?
- What are the promotion rates like for employees who are bilingual or have a known disability?
- Do company benefits, such as health insurance and life insurance policies, cover employees who are not married or employees who are in LGBTQ+ partnerships?
- Does your company receive frequent complaints about sexist jokes, racist comments or similar concerns?
- Do company holidays reflect a single religion, such as Christianity, or can workers take off for holidays that other religions celebrate as well?
- Do seasonal events, such as employee Christmas parties, make some employees feel uncomfortable or out of place?
- If your business has multiple locations, are some branches of your company more diverse than others?
You don’t have to determine all of these answers on your own. Distributing a company-wide survey can help you understand how employees feel about diversity in the workplace.
4) Monitor the performance of diversity initiatives
After implementing diversity programs, it’s important to follow up with their performance regularly and make adjustments as needed. We’ll discuss this in more detail below.
How to measure the success of diversity programs
Don’t just assume your diversity program is going well without tracking its results. Many diversity programs fail, even when they are created and managed by a team with good intentions. Even if your program initially works, you may need to tweak some aspects if you want continued success.
When establishing new policies for diversity and inclusion, consider these potential problems your company may experience:
You’ve probably heard comments like “Why do we have black history month? Where’s white history month?” You may notice similar remarks if you create workplace programs geared toward specific ethnic groups or genders, so watch out for this.
Some workers may even accuse you of wanting minorities to succeed more than other employees. This is something to consider when you create diversity training programs for your company.
Some diversity initiatives look good on paper but aren’t actually that impressive. For example, let’s say your company changes the name of a position but leaves the duties the same. Some companies may give employees names such as “Team Leader” or “Product Specialist” to make it appear like minorities and workers with different lifestyles are getting promoted.
This doesn’t actually encourage growth or employee development, and it can do more harm than good. Employees may become resentful or angry if you promote them in this manner.
Implementing diversity programs can make your company a better place to work, which in turn impacts customers and clients. Encourage workplace diversity and watch as employee morale increases, resulting in happier, more productive workers.