What Is Workforce Diversity and How Should You Define It?

As businesses look for ways to enhance their company culture and overall productivity rate, one area of improvement may be diversity in your workplace. Diverse and inclusive work environments help employees feel welcomed and valued, which boosts employee morale.

Below, learn the definition of diverse workforce and how to promote and embrace diversity and inclusion in your workplace.

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What is workforce diversity?

Workforce diversity refers to the individual characteristics employees have that make them unique. These characteristics can include gender, race, ethnicity, religion, age, sexual orientation, physical abilities and ideologies. Workforce diversity also includes a person’s life experiences, how they solve issues and your company’s overall culture.

Here are some examples of workforce diversity:


  • Cognitive diversity: Employees have different styles of thought in recognizing problems and finding solutions.
  • Lifestyle diversity: People lead various lifestyles outside of work that influence their professional life.
  • Brand and reputation diversity: Some companies are more inclusive in their hiring practices and assembling diverse teams, which often attracts more diverse employees and clients.

Related: 4 Ways to Ask Cultural Interview Questions


6 ways to promote workforce diversity

Understanding how your business promotes workforce diversity and inclusion helps attract talent from different backgrounds. Use these tips to promote workforce diversity within your company:


1. Educate your hiring team

When you’re recruiting a diverse group of people, it’s important to let your company’s managers understand your diversity hiring goals. Start by assessing how diverse your current workforce is. One way to do this is through employee surveys.

After measuring diversity at your company, set up cultural and sensitivity training, then perform a company-wide evaluation to identify areas that need improvement. Once you receive this feedback, you’ll better understand how to improve your current hiring processes.


2. Implement diversity policies 

Every business should generally have a company policy regarding diversity to protect its employees and owners. Consider updating current policies or creating new policies that pertain to recruitment, promotions, performance evaluations and hiring.

Make sure your company is an approved equal opportunity employer (EEO). Contact the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) if you’re unsure of your status or need help getting approval, then consider including your diversity policy in your job descriptions.


3. Promote open communication 

If the topic hasn’t come up before, hold a special company meeting about workforce diversity to explain your company’s stance on policies and communication. Let your employees know how to report issues related to diversity and use inclusive language to help them feel comfortable at work. Think about implementing an anonymous and confidential suggestion box for people who may be more honest if they don’t have to speak with someone in person.


4. Create opportunities for people to connect

Send a poll to your employees to learn more about their preferences and how they like to spend their free time. Based on their answers, think about ways to improve their relationships through inclusive team building activities. Make sure to schedule activities that are not exclusionary of any group of employees (e.g., age, physical abilities). For example, kayaking or playing paintball may not be an accessible activity for everyone on your team, but activities like egg-drop challenges and trivia games usually are.

If your company has branches in other cities, plan outings to visit these locations. This will provide valuable insight into other team structures and diverse work environments, including how others solve issues and generate new ideas.


5. Invest in your employees

Many companies sponsor mentorship programs or continuing education for employees who want to develop their work skills. This provides everyone with the opportunity to advance within the company, if they desire, regardless of their race, age, sex, or other factors. Provide information about other employee resources for diverse groups to show that you value their unique characteristics and the contributions they make to your company.

Related: Career Paths: 6 Ways to Develop Employee Careers


6. Promote benefits that attract diverse candidates

Companies that offer more benefits and greater work flexibility often appeal to a wider range of applicants. For instance, many working parents or traveling students prefer to work remotely or have flexible schedules. If your company offers this option, you’ll likely receive applications from a more diverse group of people because you’ve accommodated their needs.

Another benefit that can help attract diverse candidates is floating holidays, where employees can substitute a public holiday with another day of their choosing, such as a cultural or religious holiday.


Related: How to Reduce Employee Turnover


Workforce diversity FAQs


Why is it important to have diversity in the workplace? 

Workplace diversity welcomes different perspectives, creates innovation and increases the opportunity for unique talent to develop. When your employees come from various backgrounds, they bring special knowledge gleaned from everyday experiences that have shaped their careers. This allows for new ideas and creative solutions that help businesses grow. Diverse workplaces promote enlightenment and open-mindedness.

Related: 5 Benefits of Diversity in the Workplace


How can I support diversity and inclusion in the workplace?

There are a few things employers can do to support underrepresented groups in the workplace. Begin by recognizing any unconscious biases and addressing related concerns. Then, offer diversity and inclusion training to help your employees better understand cultural differences. You may choose to show your genuine interest in diverse employees by recognizing holidays of all cultures. Consider creating a poll to get a better feel on which ones to observe. Finally, try mixing up your teams to allow for unique work experiences.


How should I handle personality conflicts?

It’s important to remember that a diverse workplace can still have conflicts between employees. When these situations arise, there are a few things to recognize. First, different perspectives help strengthen teams. They provide insight into alternative strategies, solutions and ideas. Second, recognize that people’s feelings are valid. Do your best to see all sides of a conflict and follow company policies to reach a resolution.

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