In today’s talent market, designing effective workforce programs that encourage diversity and inclusion is essential. Despite the benefits, however, some companies often spend millions of dollars on workplace DE&I programs with little to show for it, while other struggle to convince their boards to invest.
Studies found that most workplace diversity programs fail to create meaningful diversity and inclusion, sometimes resulting in increased bias among employees by generating an “us versus them” mindset. So how can your company make progress on its DE&I initiatives? By aligning programs and benefits with measurable objectives informed by the people you’re trying to help: your employees.
The benefits of promoting DE&I
Diversity and inclusion represent the intersection of different people with many backgrounds and experiences. It includes gend-er diversity in the workplace, cultural diversity, language diversity, religious diversity, different viewpoints, different education levels, and unique and varied abilities. It’s a big umbrella of people who think, look, and act differently, working together to make decisions and solve complex problems.
There are many reasons why encouraging diversity and inclusion is vital in your organization. Having a workforce that best represents society will give you access to a broader range of talent, meaning you’ll have a better chance of finding value-adding candidates for your open positions. Additionally, a diverse workforce has increased productivity while reducing staff turnover over time. And if that wasn’t enough, studies found that diverse teams are actually 87% better at making decisions.
Diverse companies are more likely to be financially successful: Gartner found that inclusive companies are 120% more likely to hit financial goals, while McKinsey discovered that racially and ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to perform better financially. Promoting diversity also improves employee engagement as well. Research found that a whopping 83% of millennials are actively engaged in their work when working at companies that support diversity and inclusion initiatives. Employees working in inclusive organizations also are more likely to have better physical and mental health and take fewer days off for health issues.
What do effective workplace diversity programs look like?
Effective diversity strategies can help construct a more inclusive workplace. Here are a few elements your team may want to include to succeed.
Understanding and addressing bias is a great first step towards change. Unconscious bias can commonly occur in workplaces where people of different backgrounds and perspectives come together. This type of bias is especially important to pay attention to because it’s often unintentional and difficult to identify. So how do you address unseen or unheard bias?
Your company can start by helping employees comprehend its impact and what actions reinforce biases. Leaders can encourage every employee to build awareness by reviewing, questioning, and analyzing their personal biases and assumptions. For example, they can learn more about unconscious bias and assess their own through Harvard’s Implicit Association Test.
Diversity and inclusion training
Leaders should offer effective and inclusive diversity education and training to everyone in your company, not just managers and executives. This approach will reinforce the significance of inclusion to your company culture and empower every employee to identify and react to discriminatory behavior before it causes further issues.
One of the most proactive steps your company can take is hiring a company diversity and inclusion manager responsible for creating policies and monitoring and enforcing standards regarding tolerance, diversity, and inclusion. By embracing these trainings as a company-wide initiative that requires resources and attention, your company can move from talking about diversity and inclusion to actually developing a welcoming and inclusive space.
According to research, mentoring programs that actively match participants across races, ages, and genders can meaningfully improve workplace diversity. On average, a successful mentorship program can increase the representation of Hispanic, black, and Asian-American women and Asian-American and Hispanic men in managerial roles by 9 to 24 percent.
If your company doesn’t already have an active mentorship program, consider starting one. Begin by defining the goals of the program and designing how the program will function when members are onboarded.
New diversity and inclusion initiatives will probably need adjustment and improvements. Establish set times, whether quarterly or annually, where you elicit feedback from employees, review all of your existing programs and policies, and check in on the goals you previously set. You might even need to incorporate new standards and ideas into your current setup. Being proactive and frequently revisiting the topics of diversity and inclusion with your team will show employees and customers that your organization wants to create an inviting environment where everyone can thrive.
Investing in inclusive employee benefits can help your organization attract and retain candidates from diverse backgrounds and historically marginalized communities. These types of benefits and perks can relate to career development, child and elder care, mental health and wellness programs, remote and flexible work arrangements, paid parental leave, family-building, and more.
To figure out what kind of benefits your employees are looking for, survey your employees and potential candidates. For example, include questions around benefits and perks in your employee engagement surveys and exit interviews, and write down why candidates decline your offers. Be sure also to survey your staff on how they’re enjoying the benefits once they’re implemented, in case improvements or changes must be made.
What does a diversity program need to be effective?
How you may get executive buy-in for diversity and inclusion programs may differ, but here are a few ideas. First, try to connect with company leaders personally and remind them of times they experienced the powerful emotions that come with feeling excluded or seeing someone they care about mistreated. Secondly, diversity and inclusion work can often get passed off to a junior HR employee or a volunteer DE&I committee. Remind them that these types of initiatives should be treated as a business priority and have dedicated leaders and structure—it shouldn’t be pawned off on others as work to do on top of their “day job.”
A plan of action
Once buy-in has occurred, it’s time to start cultivating an action plan. Conduct an assessment of your current team and study the demographics. This data will reveal trends that need improvement and uncover areas of concern, which will be invaluable when planning out your diversity and inclusion strategy. Check out this sample plan to start structuring your initiatives.
Clear, defined, and measurable goals
You won’t know if your workplace diversity strategies are successful unless you consistently track and measure your success. When launching the program, set clear goals and monitor their progress to hold all stakeholders responsible for their decisions while encouraging them to keep diversity a top priority. Companies like Accenture, Slack, and Pinterest even publish their diversity reports annually to hold them accountable outside of the organization.
Maven helps build your DE&I programs for families
Diversity and inclusion initiatives attract quality talent and support employees from various backgrounds and experiences. A considerable part of building an inclusive environment is supporting working parents, regardless of their path to parenthood. Underrepresented racial groups are more likely to be working parents. Our diverse network of healthcare providers allows Maven to pair up client employees with providers with similar backgrounds and experiences. Request a demo today to discover how Maven can help your company support every path to parenthood and improve diversity, equity, and inclusion.
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