We all know organizational diversity makes good business sense. It drives innovation and makes the workplace more creative overall, which can lead to business growth and increased revenue. In fact, companies that have high gender diversity are 15% more likely to outperform their competition, and companies with high ethnic diversity are 35% more likely. Having a diverse workforce also contributes to lower turnover rates and can help attract top talent to your organization—a Glassdoor survey revealed that working for a diverse company was a priority for 2/3 of respondents. Despite these benefits, many organizations fail miserably when it comes to diversity, especially companies operating in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields, which tend to have low numbers of women and minority workers in their ranks.
Diversity doesn’t just mean including people in your workforce who come from different ethnic backgrounds. The scope of diversity should also include gender, age, background, and disability inclusion since having the broadest scope of perspectives provides the greatest benefit for your organization. There’s no shortage of reasons to prioritize diversity, but it can be surprisingly difficult to strategically increase diversity. Here are 7 tips for increasing diversity and setting your business up for lasting growth.
1. Take Stock of Your Current Diversity Status
Before you can make any changes, you need to know exactly where you stand when it comes to diversity. Evaluate your workforce by gender, ethnicity, age range, and disability in order to see what areas might need work. From this evaluation, you can make your strategic hiring plans and diversity policies.
2. Have a Written Diversity Policy & Strategic Plans
Without setting concrete goals and drafting definitive policies, it’s hard to hold everyone accountable in your diversity efforts company-wide. Make your policies diversity-friendly, and set some goals for your project. The Wall Street Journal suggests working toward a workforce that resembles the demographics of the community you operate within. You should also work with your recruiting team to align these goals and make hiring diversity a priority.
3. Prioritize Diversity in Leadership
In order to give different perspectives a chance to flourish, you need to make sure your leadership team reflects your values of diversity. Since management is the bridge between employees on the ground level and the executive level, leadership at all levels should be as diverse as possible. Make sure there are clear, merit-based growth paths for employees in order to promote diversity in leadership.
4. Be Flexible
Committing to organizational diversity means being flexible with your policies. Not everyone can adhere to strict working hours or other challenges, and in this day and age, they shouldn’t have to for most occupations. Consider offering flexible hours for working parents if it works for your business, offering childcare, and making your office accessible to individuals with disabilities. A flexible vacation policy will make life easier for employees. Think about the employees who observe religious holidays or are parents who need to take care of kids’ appointments.
5. Leverage Your Existing Employees
Your existing team can be a valuable resource for finding new and diverse talent. Offer referral incentives to your employees for bringing in new talent that can contribute to your overall organizational diversity goals and business growth.
6. Provide Diversity Training
In order to have a diverse and innovative workplace, it’s important to make diversity more than a priority: it needs to be part of the cultural foundation. Employees at every level of the organization, including leadership, should receive diversity training on an ongoing basis. This will help reinforce your cultural values and improve communication.
Above all, communication is key when implementing any kind of diversity program. Being transparent about the goals and strategies for achieving greater diversity will help everyone get on board with the plan and make the process easier. Your team will be much more open to change if it’s explained every step of the way.
A Win for Everyone
Achieving diversity within your organization can be a difficult goal to achieve, but the benefits represent a win for everyone: you, your company, and your employees. Once you have created a culture of organizational diversity within your business, it becomes much easier to maintain. Over time, your workforce will reflect your values and fuel long-term innovation. Who knows? Maybe your newly diverse workforce will mastermind the next big technological advance, or figure out a way to make your company more sustainable. Whatever changes you notice, chances are they’ll be worth the effort of creating a diverse workforce.
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Andrew Deen has been a consultant for startups in almost every industry from retail to medical devices and everything in between. He is currently writing a book about scaling up business and his experience implementing lean methodology.