4 steps to improve workforce diversity

How to take your workforce diversity initiative to the next level

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By Nicole Schreiber-Shearer, Future of Work Specialist at Gloat

At this point, there’s no question that workforce diversity matters. In fact, nearly 50% of CEOs name building a diverse and equitable workforce as one of their top challenges. Diverse workforces reap a variety of game-changing benefits, including greater innovation and better revenue performance. But more importantly, employees and executives alike understand that fostering a diverse workforce is simply the right thing to do.

But although diversity now tops most leaders’ priority lists, organizations don’t necessarily have it all figured out. Many find themselves stuck in an exploration stage: they’re issuing statements, surveys, and scorecards, but there’s still a lot of uncertainty about what it takes to drive lasting change.

Fortunately, there are a few best practices that organizations can take to devise diversity initiatives that will make a tangible impact.

What is workforce diversity?

Workforce diversity is about bringing people from all walks of life into your organization. Many of us think about race and ethnicity when diversity is discussed, but the term is actually much broader. It encompasses gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, age, ability, upbringing, religion, education, neurodiversity, and life experience. Employers who are committed to creating diverse workplaces must make a concentrated effort to hire people from different backgrounds and amplify underrepresented voices across the organization.

To maximize an initiative’s impact, you must think of diversity as going hand-in-hand with inclusion. Without an equal emphasis on inclusion, employees often feel out of place and unsupported. Some may even perceive your diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts as tokenism, suggesting that your organization is only hiring people from underrepresented groups to prevent criticism. Without intentional inclusion, diversity rarely lasts.

Why is workforce diversity important?

Today, employees are calling for change. They’re willing to jump ship to join organizations that are more equitable, as evidenced by a recent Deloitte survey that found that nearly 4 in 10 workers would leave their jobs for an employer that is more diverse and inclusive.

Workforce diversity is linked with several game-changing benefits:

  • Enhanced performance
    If you want your people to perform to the best of their abilities, they need to feel like they belong at your organization. A study by industry analyst Josh Bersin found that highly inclusive organizations generate 2.3 times more cash flow per employee and are 120% more capable of meeting financial targets.
  • Superior engagement and retention
    Businesses that are more diverse are likely to benefit from better rates of workforce engagement, as Deloitte research shows. Employee engagement is a top priority for most organizations, particularly as the war for talent intensifies. If your people feel included and represented throughout your organization, they will be far less likely to seek out opportunities with other companies.
  • Increased creativity and innovation
    The most innovative ideas don’t usually come from one person. Instead, they’re generated when groups of people with unique perspectives come together to discuss a path forward. Thus, it’s no surprise that diverse workforces have an edge when it comes to creativity. According to Korn Ferry, diverse organizations are 70% more likely to capture new markets and 19% more likely to see higher innovation revenue.
  • Improved brand reputation
    Diversity efforts have a major impact on how your brand is perceived, by employees and consumers. If you set your business apart as a brand that is fully committed to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace, candidates will be drawn to your organization and employees will be empowered to achieve their full potential.

4 Steps you can take to promote workforce diversity

If you’re looking to make strides toward leveling the playing field, here are a few steps you can take to foster workforce diversity:

#1. First, make sure your workforce is as inclusive as possible
Don’t overlook the importance of inclusivity. Without an equal emphasis on inclusivity, your diversity efforts will fall flat. If your workforce isn’t inclusive, the diverse talent that you bring into your organization won’t be set up for success, and they may not stick around. Leaders must ensure that diversity and inclusion efforts go hand in hand to make a lasting impact.

#2. Then, turn to hiring diversity
Hiring is one of the first and most important ways to address workforce diversity. Traditionally, recruiting processes often failed to give candidates from underrepresented groups the same level of visibility that their colleagues benefitted from. Fortunately, a new generation of talent acquisition technologies led by SmartRecruiters is transforming external hiring processes by removing the barriers and biases that once held some qualified applicants back.

#3. Mitigate human bias
Once high-potential candidates come on board, leaders must ensure that talent management processes set everyone up for success. For a long time, it was virtually impossible to remove bias from career development decisions because humans are inherently biased. Even your most diplomatic managers have some underlying assumptions that may subconsciously sway their decisions.

Yet, recent technological innovations have enabled us to pretty much take bias from the equation. Talent marketplaces powered by ethically-constructed AI level the playing field, democratizing career development and increasing the visibility of opportunities and talent—in turn mitigating bias.

#4. Tap into internal mobility for generational diversity
When it comes to fostering a diverse culture, internal mobility is non-negotiable. Every employee deserves an equal opportunity to take on new challenges, join cross-functional projects, and build the skills they need to turn their career. ambitions into realities.

Access to career development opportunities is particularly important for Gen Z employees, who are looking for workplace experiences that will help them learn new capabilities and expand their horizons. It’s also a must for Baby Boomers, as it helps employees from this generation as they transition into semi-retirement roles that take full advantage of their depth of expertise.

Now that diversity sits at the top of every organization’s priority list, leaders must go the extra mile to drive tangible change.

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