Many companies understand the benefits of diversity, including enhanced reputation, greater innovation, and higher profits. Businesses like BairesDev, which welcome people who look, think, and believe differently from each other are poised to reap those benefits. However, the transition isn’t always easy and is ongoing throughout the life of the business. That’s why some companies don’t start the process and others start it but give up before becoming truly diverse.
With all these variations, it can be hard to recognize when a company has reached this worthy goal. Is a diverse company one that reaches a certain percentage of women and people of color (POC) as employees? One that holds diversity training? One that sells products from diverse entrepreneurs? The answer isn’t always straightforward. But here we explore some of the common characteristics of companies that are truly diverse.
Some companies make bold claims about diversity. If you look at the big picture, they do hire and retain employees that represent a spectrum of race and gender. But zero in on the leadership roles, and that diversity begins to evaporate. When leaders of an organization are homogeneous, they aren’t likely to be capable of meeting the needs of a diverse workforce.
Additionally, removing diversity from the decision-making aspects of the company defeats the purpose of diversity — to drive the company in new, productive directions that may not have been considered in the past. Truly diverse companies are so all the way up the ladder, including C-level and board positions.
Simply hiring a diverse staff doesn’t equal true diversity. Business leaders must also create an environment in which all staff members can thrive. That might mean changing policies, communication methods, and assumptions. For example, bringing more women into the workforce may create the need for a better parental leave policy.
Company leaders won’t know what should change without listening closely to employee concerns. Such exchanges can happen in groups, in one-on-one sessions, or through the electronic equivalent of an anonymous suggestion box. Truly diverse companies recognize that change is ongoing work that requires all employees to feel comfortable offering input.
The following video explains how Google is working to give diverse employees a voice and “bring their full selves to work.”
The wage gap is still a problem that needs to be solved. The Economic Policy Institute is just one organization that has published numerous studies and blog posts describing the lack of change in the Black-white, Hispanic-white, and female-male wage gaps. Companies looking to become diverse must also take the next step toward inclusion, incorporating their pay practices.
Businesses that hire diverse employees without taking this extra step are alienating the very workers that can help lead them to greater success. Truly diverse companies pay employees fairly and work to remedy pay gaps between genders and races.
The lack of diversity in recruiting and hiring has been challenged by women, people of color, and others not considered to be part of the dominant culture. When companies make an effort to change this dynamic, others may complain about hiring only because applicants are diverse. Anonymous recruiting can resolve both of these issues.
According to business.com, this practice entails “[removing] any information that may provoke bias (e.g., photos, names, gender) and compare applicants purely on their experience and credentials.” Truly diverse companies make an effort to hire based on ability to do the job, rather than superficial attributes.
Training and Development
A diverse workforce must be trained, not only on how to do their jobs but also on cultural sensitivity and inclusion. For the former, each staff member should have a career plan in place that sets goals and interim milestones. Companies should provide training and development programs to help them reach those goals.
For the latter, workers should participate in additional workshops and training to build cultural sensitivity. Such programs should be ongoing, with refreshers and new material several times per year. Truly diverse companies value each employee as a contributor to its current and future success, training them accordingly and preparing them for leadership. These businesses also teach staff members how to embrace differences and work together productively.
According to Harvard Business Review, companies should deploy some of the same tactics to diversity and inclusion that they use for maximizing profits and effectiveness. Specifically, they should “set goals, collect data, and examine change over time and in comparison to other organizations.”
For example, a business that has 25% of its leadership positions filled by women currently might set a goal to have 50% of its leadership positions filled by women in the next 5 years. It might set up leadership training, mentorship, and project lead programs. To determine progress, it would calculate the percentage of women in leadership positions every 6 months to see if they need to make any changes to the program.
To understand whether the organization has reached its objectives, it must measure outcomes. Truly diverse companies set diversity and inclusion goals and develop meaningful ways to measure progress, improving their processes as needed over time.
Beyond Gender and Race
Many writings about diversity in the workforce focus on race and gender. Yet, there are many more types of diversity to consider, including a mix of personalities, ages, and belief systems. While widening the possibilities of who is considered for employment to these and other groups makes hiring more complex, businesses that expand the circle also expand possibilities for success.
For example, older workers bring a strong work ethic, reliability, and a historical perspective that can be beneficial in anchoring the more change-oriented approach of younger employees. Different belief systems can challenge underlying assumptions that may be causing a company to remain in a rut. Introverts may not speak up as frequently but, when they do, they often have valuable perspectives to share.
A move toward diversity isn’t always simple or smooth, but companies shouldn’t allow that fact to stop them from trying. It can be easy to fall back into making statements that sound good. However, as stated by CNBC, “It’s one thing to make promises…but quite another to enact meaningful change.”