Building a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion

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Building a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is essential if you want to create a workplace that is welcoming, respectful and empowering for all of your employees. Creating a culture that celebrates differences doesn’t just make employees feel more like they belong; it also has a profound effect on your company’s profitability. According to Forbes, diversity drives innovation; innovation drives profitability.

That seems like a really sound reason to increase your efforts to ensure your DEI efforts produce positive results on multiple levels!

So how does your company start to build a culture of diversity, equality and inclusion? Let’s look at 10 ways to go about it.

10 ways to build a culture that supports DEI

Many organizations have started to improve their efforts to hire for diversity. But if it stops there, your organization will never see any lasting cultural change. To achieve an environment where everyone can coexist and feel included, there is plenty that your organization can do to encourage a sense of belonging as well. Here are 10 suggestions:

  1. Set the tone from the top. Commitment to a workplace that supports DEI initiatives starts at the top. If your leadership team doesn’t see DEI as a priority, no one else will either. It’s also important to show diversity in the C-suite. According to Zippia, there are over 42,300 CEOs employed in the U.S.:
    • 69% are men, 31% are women
    • In terms of race, 76% are white, 8% are Hispanic, 8% are Asian, 4% are Black and 4% are unknown or Native American/Alaskan

Additionally, in a group of 70,000 business executives:

  • 60% are men, 40% are women
  • In terms of race, 68% are white, 15% are Hispanic, 6% are Asian, 6% are Black and 5% are unknown or Native American/Alaskan

The leadership team needs to exemplify and model the values associated with diversity, equity and inclusion. They should establish policies and practices that support these values, and they should hold themselves and others accountable for creating an inclusive culture. That starts with making the leadership team itself more diverse.

  1. Examine your company’s policies and procedures. Ensure that they include expected behavior in the workplace and respect for coworkers who may be culturally divergent in the way they communicate or dress. According to Ceridian CEO, Susan Tohyama, in  Ceridian’s Pulse of Talent research report, true workplace flexibility should provide every employee with the opportunity to work under the same conditions, whether they’re on-site, in the office or working at home. This flexibility helps to create and promote a more inclusive workplace. It’s also important for you to review all policies and practices to ensure they are free of any bias. Evaluate hiring, promotion and compensation practices to make certain they are fair and apply to everyone in the organization.
  2. Educate and train employees. Diversity training helps employees understand the cultural differences in the workplace and the ways they impact how people work. Training should be specific to your company’s work environment and include how the company will manage any challenges that employees face. An internal team can conduct this training, or you can hire an external consultant who will customize this training for your organization. Offer regular training and educational opportunities to employees at all levels of the organization on topics such as unconscious bias, cultural competency and effective communication. Encourage employees to participate in DEI initiatives and support employee resource groups (ERGs).
  1. Encourage open communication. Trust is the foundation of workplace inclusion. You can build trust by creating a safe and supportive environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, experiences and perspectives. Transparency, open dialogue and respectful disagreement help to foster a culture where employees feel a sense of belonging.
  2. Address bias and discrimination. Deal with any incidents of bias or discrimination quickly and effectively. Ensure that employees feel both safe and supported in reporting these incidents. Then take the appropriate measures to investigate, resolve and prevent any future occurrences.
  3. Foster a sense of belonging. Create opportunities for employees to connect and celebrate their diversity. Invite employees to share their individual stories. Encourage employee engagement by supporting and promoting diversity initiatives. Leverage ERGs to build a culture of belonging and allyship. ERGs offer a safe space for employees and their allies to connect, network and support each other. Make sure senior leaders are on board and participate in the ERGs as well. Promote specific events and celebrations with workforce-wide participation so others can learn from individual groups.
  4. Create non homogeneous teams. Having diverse team members as colleagues encourages the sharing of different ideas, values, opinions and perspectives. Team diversity also boosts creativity and innovation and offers different approaches to problem-solving.
  5. Demonstrate pay equity. More and more employees are talking about their pay. Be proactive in ensuring that you are paying employees fairly and uniformly. Quickly identify instances where you are underpaying employees and make immediate changes to bring them up to where they belong on the pay scale.
  6. Create ongoing opportunities for feedback. Use employee surveys to keep your finger on the pulse of how your employees feel about your company’s handling of DEI initiatives. Ask questions anonymously so employees feel free to be honest and speak their minds. Try to address any smaller issues immediately and make a plan to examine and rectify the larger ones.
  7. Be sure to track progress and measure results. Efforts to improve diversity, equity and inclusion don’t always demonstrate immediate results; you have to be in it for the long haul. Determine the actions that are having an impact and amplify them. Establish benchmarks and timelines to improve in all three areas.

Implementing these strategies will show that you are committed to creating a culture where diversity is honored and celebrated. In the long run, this not only benefits employees but also leads to better business outcomes. Advancing DEI is no longer something you can put on the back burner. It’s a critical component of today’s workplace that has far-reaching positive impacts on employees and your company.

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