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5 Critical Questions to Gauge If Your Company Is Diversity Friendly
Diversity in the workplace was always one of the hottest topics in the HR industry, but in recent years, it has become a major goal for companies. As the world is changing and shrinking, more work is taking place at a global level, the need for a diverse workforce that is culturally competent has become a must.
However, in the workplace, diversity is oversimplified by just encouraging more women to join the workforce. It is time we take cognizance that it’s way more than that.
Diversity within a workplace encompasses race, gender, ethnic groups, age, religion, sexual orientation, citizenship status, mental and physical conditions, as well as other distinct differences between people. Diversity not only includes how individuals identify themselves but also how others perceive them. It must also be noted here that diversity (i.e. having an assortment or variety) is different from inclusion (i.e. embracing the variety) though both go hand in hand.
While diversity is apparent in lower hierarchies it is not so prevalent at the top. In the recent US presidential elections, Kamala Harris has been voted the first woman, as well as first woman of colour to be elected as Vice-President of the country in nearly 250 years of the country’s independence. This goes to show; even the most progressive environments take time to adapt to change.
If we want to build a more diverse work culture there is a need to have strict benchmarks in place, in terms of policies and practices. It is also imperative to be transparent with employees about why diversity skills in the workplace make a difference. If you convey the rationale with conviction, it will help increase individual and team investment in the effort.
And even before you set diversity & inclusion goals for your company, here are some critical questions to check your organisation’s readiness for a diverse work culture:
1. Are you ready for multiple genders in your workplace?
The first most commonly grasped and widely practised association of diversity begins with gender equality in the workplace. The disparity begins at entry-level, where men are 30% more likely than women to be promoted to management roles according to a popular study by McKinsey & Co. It continues throughout careers, as men move up the ladder in larger numbers and make up the lion’s share of outside hires.
Though their numbers are growing slowly, women hold less than one-fourth of senior leadership positions. However, companies are getting creative with solutions; from Twitter hiring coaches for men and women before, during and after parental leave, to American Express’ efforts to connect more promising women managers with executive leaders.
And where does that leave people of the third gender? Business leaders and HR leaders need to consider the implications of a workplace in which the traditional channel to the top seems to be working, in a majority of cases, for one gender (men) only. That is where the chain must be broken.
2. Are you prepared to incur expenses to make your workplace ready for diversity?
Diversity does not stop at gender – although like we said, it seems to be the first association. It includes anything from citizenship status, disabilities or even religion, mental or physical conditions. When you hire a diver workforce, you also need to assign costs to make the workplace diversity-friendly.
For instance, you may aspire to hire differently-abled people within the organisation, but for this aim to be fulfilled, first, there needs to be a policy around hiring differently-abled people, and secondly, managers need to trained to assess these candidates sensitively, adjust their way of work to include them, find ways to manage the new team dynamics, etc. And all of this apart from the fact that the company will need to make sure they have special facilities to make the workplace smooth to use e.g.; companies have to invest in building ramps for wheelchairs or making toilets easy to use, and other suitable equipment as per the industry.
From infrastructure needs to policy changes, to team dynamics, everything needs to be made diversity-friendly. Not just from the employers’ point-of-view, here’s where inclusion comes into the picture, every employee needs to be trained, educated and onboarded to adopt and delivery work in a diverse work environment.
3. Are you ready to embrace pay scale parity?
A pay gap has been an issue for years and, as the World Economic Forum forecasted, it’s likely to remain a global issue for at least a century. However, your greatest growth potential comes from your investment in quality people who are properly trained and compensated. If you do not compensate fairly and properly, you’ll find you can’t attract or keep high-quality employees. Even worse, underpaying prevents you from paying enough to attract and motivate new talented outside hires if you need to fill job positions.
Even though much of the pay parity focus is on the difference in compensation between men and women, pay gaps do occur in other groups. Education, work experience, unconscious bias and overt discrimination can all play a role. One way to address this is to assess the pay scales across roles, demographics and locations to determine whether any disparities require a correction. After this, providing training to managers and supervisors will make them aware they are responsible for performance compensation. They have to make sure they do it fairly, transparently and equally.
4. How ready are you to prioritise the job role over individual candidates?
As an HR professional hiring for a company, the priority is to hire an employee who will not only work well in an individual specific role but also fit into the broader agenda of the team and the company’s vision. The considerations have to be to find someone who knows their job very well, without any discrimination with regards to sexual orientation, caste, creed, colour or physical appearance. The focus has to be to pick the right person. Hiring for a role therefore has to have a 360-degree perspective and considerations. In a way, this requires us to break our stereotypes about certain roles and bring out a drastic change in the recruitment process and policy.
5. Is the current workforce ready to receive diverse opinions?
The idea of a diverse office is not to have top-down feedback alone, but peer-to-peer feedback as well as feedback bottom-up. Diverse voices can bring new and different insights to increase innovation and quell herd mentality. For it to succeed, it is essential to ensure that all employees, especially team leaders, are open to receiving opinions, ideas and feedback from all quarters. Working with a diverse team most certainly means goodbye to an authoritative approach and embracing a participative approach.
When a team works well together, it is because members of the team are operating from the same mindset and are clear about their goals and their norms. To truly embrace diversity, business leaders and HR leaders need to focus on creating an environment where all employees will feel empowered and ready to contribute to success. In my experience, this can prove to be an uphill task and perhaps the most difficult barrier to build a diverse workforce.
I’m aware the 8/10 organisations will not have a clear positive answer for all the above questions. As the legal and consumer mindsets change, it is time to relook and create ways to bring in diversity now as the future of work will thrive in it. An in-depth comprehension of cultural differences is critical to company performance and can even help drive productivity- as everybody will feel welcome, understood and work towards profits. A diverse workforce is more likely to foresee the need for responsive products and services, and employees create teams that are high-functioning and creative. It is essential you set the ball rolling on this as at some point your organisation will come to a standstill and it will become difficult to progress without diversity.
Even as we discuss this, laws to protect different communities like LGBTQ+, people with disabilities, etc. are growing stronger. It is no longer prudent to ignore this! You can make a start by acknowledging that there is a lack of diversity and take concrete action to strengthen it. Implementing diversity skills training as a critical part of learning and development in your organisation to promote inclusion can be a great beginning.
At Yellow Spark, we help our clients approach diversity and inclusion strategically and also conduct training to integrate diversity and inclusion policies in your workplace. To know more write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author Profile: Deepam Yogi is an adventurer at heart, socially conscious in her gut and professionally a strategic consultant. She co-founded Yellow Spark to support organisations to build workplaces that people love being a part of. Deepam describes herself as a shy yet opinionated writer and firmly believes that most answers to complex issues lie in simple communication.