The research that diversity powers innovation and financial performance continues to stack up, including recent findings published in the journal Financial Management. The research found that companies fulfilling all nine positive diversity requirements performed better, with more new product announcements in any given year, and greater resilience during the 2008 financial crisis.
LinkedIn’s Global Recruiting Trends 2018 report found that diversity is a key trend that is, no surprise here, changing and impacting the way organizations hire their people. According to the report’s findings, 78% of companies prioritize diversity to improve culture, and 62% of companies prioritize it to boost financial performance.
The report adds that companies making meaningful efforts towards diversity and inclusion, as well as providing a sense of belonging, have invested in their current employees through supporting employee resource groups (ERGs) and having a strong backing from their leadership teams.
It’s important to remember that hiring for diverse backgrounds, or promoting diversity initiatives is just a first step. Diversity and inclusion go hand-in-hand, and for diversity practices to be successful, you must facilitate an inclusive work culture. At Ceridian, we define diversity as a measure of difference in identity; things like gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, ability, or religion. Inclusion is a respect for and appreciation of these differences – the deliberate act of welcoming and valuing diversity.
In recognition of Diversity Month, we asked our own Employee Resource Group leaders for some tips and action items for managers and HR leaders to help build a diverse and inclusive culture at work.
Building awareness is a first step towards real change. Educate employees by helping them to understand how individuals are impacted by unconscious bias, and what actions continue to reinforce unconscious bias. One way to build awareness and address unconscious bias is to encourage every employee to review, question and analyze their own personal potential biases and assumptions. To learn more about unconscious biases and to assess your own, you can visit Project Implicit to complete an Implicit Association Test.
While awareness is a first step, employees need tools and training that provide guidance on actions for moving forward. Joelle Emerson in Harvard Business Review suggests that a concern with diversity or unconscious bias training and teaching is that people can become defensive. “Training can be designed to reduce defensiveness by explaining that we don’t have unconscious biases because we’re bad people – we have them because we are people,” she explains. The article adds that internal bias training is an effective way to inspire change and higher understanding amongst employees, citing Google’s internal training findings as one example.
Diversity training helps employees understand how cultural differences can impact how people work, and interact at work. It can cover anything from concepts of time and communication styles to self-identity and dealing with conflict. Diversity training which is offered as optional tends to be more effective than that which is made mandatory.
One way to build awareness of diversity and foster greater inclusivity is to be aware of and acknowledge a variety of upcoming religious and cultural holidays. When closing out a team call or meeting, if the audience isn’t too large, ask how people plan to celebrate the holiday. Use your company’s intranet to help employees be aware of and keep track of multicultural religious or holiday celebrations. Be respectful of these days when scheduling meetings, and understand that employees may have different needs and require flexibility.
In a recent Wall Street Journal article, LinkedIn’s Rosanna Durruthy discussed leveraging employee resource groups (ERGs) as an opportunity to grow and develop talent, and help managers learn from these groups in a safe space. Building on this, in addition to leveraging ERGs, make it easy for all employees to participate, whether it be creating a differing pay code for easy time tracking, or asking the employee to share initiatives or projects the ERG is focused on. Provide a toolkit or guidelines that employees can follow to encourage them to set up a new ERG.
Further, get senior leaders on board. An executive and/or leadership sponsor can not only help to increase visibility, innovation and awareness, but can also help align ERG activities with business goals. Additionally, commitments from senior leaders signal a wider, organizational commitment to improving diversity and inclusion practices.
A diverse cross-section of talent allows enhanced perspective, which will spur creativity on teams. If your team is homogeneous, invite a guest with a different gender, cultural background, or age, to weigh in on the initiative.
Much has been written about how diversity in teams positively impacts creativity and innovation. There’s value in experiences with multiple perspectives, which inspires novel thinking, connecting thoughts in new ways, and different approaches to problem-solving.(Here’s a TED talk from John Cary, shared by our VP People Academy Lisa Bull, in which Cary discusses that diversity is essential in designing for the public good.)