Diversity in the Workplace: Best Practices for Employers

Diversity is more than quotas. It strengthens the heart of an organization – it creates new perspectives, opens up new markets and strengthens connections with the surrounding community. According to one study, companies that promoted diverse individuals to leadership roles improved their return on equity by nearly 50 percent.

Diversity in the workplace typically focuses on characteristics such as race, gender, age, disability or sexual orientation, but other dimensions are important as well. Organizations achieve better results when they hire, retain, and develop employees with diverse communication styles, work styles, geographic origins, socioeconomic roles, and organizational experiences. Here are some of the best practices from small businesses and multinational corporations:

1. Establish diversity as a core value

The first step to building a diverse workforce is to get involved. Add a language of diversity to all official guidelines. Have conversations with employees about what diversity means and why it is important to the future of the organization.

2. Identify needs

You can’t make improvements if you don’t understand the current state of the business. Use employee surveys, focus groups, incoming complaints and one-on-one meetings to find out where the workplace excels and where improvements are needed.

3. Create an action plan

Once you know which areas of the business need repairs, you can develop a plan to do just that. Brainstorm measurable, actionable goals that feed into the company’s overall strategic plan and mission.

4. Involve managers

Depending on the size of your company, you may not have the time to talk to every employee every day. Consequently, your management team must act as your delegates and advance your goals on a day-to-day basis. Train your managers to hire and retain the best people for every position, regardless of their personal biases. Require a diverse group of candidates for each open position.

5. Involve employees

When building diversity in the workplace, it’s not enough to announce a new initiative and wait for it to complete. This goal is different because it deals with subjective issues for which people have strong opinions and many misconceptions. Create support at all levels through awareness training, cross-cultural teams, open dialogue and continuous feedback. Start employee resource groups so employees know they are not the only (gay, Native American, Republican, fill in the space) person in the company. The added sense of camaraderie can spark new ideas and build stronger relationships across departments. Also, encourage women and minorities to take on leadership and customer-facing roles.

6. Involve the community

One of the best ways to build a more diverse workforce is to invite diverse communities into your company. You don’t have to offer literal tours of your facility, but you can send a company representative to open houses, black history luncheons, Hispanic student clubs, gay pride festivals, and symposiums for women in leadership. Meetup.com is a good site to start or attend Affinity Club events.

When you embrace diversity, you enhance the dignity, credibility, and trust of every person and relationship. Maintaining diversity in the workplace requires ongoing attention, from the owner to the frontline workers, but the benefits are well worth the effort.