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What Is Workplace Diversity and How Can Employers Drive Inclusion?


Video: Create a Diverse Workforce With Inclusive Hiring

In this video, learn how to promote inclusion in your hiring process to create a more diverse workforce.


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

Below, you’ll find the definition of diverse workforce, examples of workplace diversity, and ideas on how to promote diversity and drive 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. The workforce diversity definition can include gender, race, ethnicity, religion, age, sexual orientation, physical abilities and ideologies. Diversity also includes employees’ life experiences, how they solve issues and socioeconomic status.

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 creating teams, which can help attract more diverse employees and clients.

Related: 4 Ways to Ask Cultural Interview Questions

How diversity and inclusion affect workplaces

Diverse and inclusive businesses can help employees feel more connected and welcome in the workplace, but companies benefit from diversity as well. When employees feel appreciated at work, productivity and innovation tend to increase. Businesses may also see their candidate pool expand and company culture improve.

Read more: 5 Advantages of Diversity in the Workplace

Increased employee productivity

Employees who feel included and represented at work may experience higher job satisfaction. When employees feel more satisfied at work, they tend to engage and connect more to their jobs. This often results in improved morale and productivity, which can lead to stronger performance and higher business revenue. For example, studies show that diverse businesses reported a 19% increase in revenue and gained 70% more new markets than competitors.

Better innovation and decision-making

Diverse organizations tend to experience higher degrees of employee innovation. When workplaces are diverse, employee teams represent a variety of unique perspectives drawn from dimensions like gender or culture. Combining these perspectives can result in multidimensional creativity and decision-making abilities across teams, which can help your business excel.

Expanded candidate pool

If you’re always looking for the same type of candidate to fill roles in your business, you can limit your ability to find the right hire for the job. By widening your candidate criteria, you can create a larger talent pool and be more likely to attract diverse candidates. Many candidates consider a business’s diversity during applications and interviews. When applicants see representation among existing staff and your business’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity, they may be more interested in and aligned with the values of your business.

Improved trust and culture

Employer and employee trust is crucial to a healthy work culture. By promoting diversity and inclusivity in the workplace, you can improve trust and rapport with your employees. This can allow your employees to be true to their unique identities and engage with their work to their full potential.

6 ways to promote workforce diversity

Promoting workforce diversity and inclusion can help your business attract talent from different backgrounds. Here are six tips on how to promote workforce diversity within your company:

1. Educate your hiring team

If you want to recruit a diverse group of people, it’s important to let your company’s managers understand your 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 can better understand how to improve your current hiring processes.

2. Implement diversity policies

Every business should have a company policy regarding diversity to help protect its employees and owners. Consider updating your current policies or creating new ones 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.

Read more: Developing a Successful Diversity Program Initiative

3. Promote open communication

If the topic hasn’t come up before, hold a special 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 aren’t exclusionary of any group of employees, e.g. due to age or physical abilities. For example, kayaking or playing paintball may not be an accessible activity for everyone on your team, while activities like egg-drop challenges and trivia games are.

If your company has branches in other cities, plan outings to visit these locations. This may 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 can provide everyone with opportunities to advance within the company, if they desire, regardless of their race, age, gender 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.

Floating holidays, where employees can substitute a public holiday with another day off, may also attract more diverse candidates. Allowing employees to observe holidays according to their culture or religion can help them feel more welcome in the workplace.

Related: How to Reduce Employee Turnover

Frequently asked questions about workplace diversity

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.

What is equity in the workforce?

Diversity and inclusivity in the workplace can lead to equity. While equality suggests relatively equal access to opportunities, equity means that people are proportionally represented across all opportunities within your company. Equality may level the playing field, while equity means including employees to encourage them to join. Equity suggests that diverse employees feel empowered and supported in roles and other opportunities in a company.

How should you handle personality conflicts?

It’s important to remember that a diverse workplace can still have conflicts between employees. When these situations arise, there are some 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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