Articles about diversity and inclusion are continuously more common. The content in these articles is usually heavy on tactics to help employers reach favorable diversity numbers, but very light on advice for cultivating an inclusive work culture. There are numerous reasons for this, but the most obvious culprit is that diversity statistics are easily quantified, making it easy to report on, while measuring how included employees feel, and how willing they are to contribute their unique viewpoint without reservation, is difficult. But that doesn’t mean employers can’t actively and effectively foster inclusion.
Here are four of the most successful tangible tactics that employers can use to develop a company culture in which employees feel comfortable to contribute:
1. Mentoring programs
A 2007 study examined the statistics of diversity and inclusion efforts of more than 800 businesses over 31 years and found mentoring programs were most effective for increasing the number of women and minorities in management positions. Such programs not only provide opportunities for diverse employees to gain career advice from high ranking managers, but they also drive inclusion in the most natural way possible — they allow two people of different backgrounds to build bonds and exchange ideas in a comfortable, casual setting.
2. Employee inclusion surveys
Conducting an inclusion survey is perhaps the only way to accurately measure employee sentiment about the culture in their workplace. These surveys are anonymous, which provides employees the opportunity to honestly tell their employers how they feel about the atmosphere in the company. With the survey results, employers know in which areas they need to improve, making it easy to take direct and effective action.
3. Meeting participation
Too often, company meetings are plagued by an atmosphere that is stiff or excessively formal. While such moods are at times necessary, they can undermine valuable communication, and hinder the exchange of ideas which are necessary for forging a healthy work environment. There are numerous ways to shake up your meetings to encourage engagement among all employees. To name a few, you can rotate which employee leads meetings, no matter their rank, you can also host casual meetings which allow employees time to discuss matters outside of work tasks which are important to them, and you can also utilize cross-department meetings to mix up the norms of how the workplace typically operates, allowing employees that rarely interact the opportunity to share details of their position from their unique background.
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Diverse employees are still largely underrepresented in upper management. Results from a 2017 study which encompassed 12 million employees found minorities and women occupy 64% of entry-level positions, yet they only occupy 32% of executive-level positions. This means that white men only make up a third of the entry-level group, yet they still command more than two-thirds of the executive positions. Employees notice these discrepancies in diversity in upper-level positions, which influences how they perceive the company’s attempts to foster diversity and inclusion. It’s not only imperative that HR hires diverse talent at every level, but that they are transparent about their efforts to do so. There are various ways to deliver this information to all employees, one of them is to publish company diversity statistics, and along with them, state the company’s plans to improve them.
Recruitment is only step one
The first step toward developing authentic diversity and inclusion in your workplace is acknowledging that reaching diversity recruitment numbers is just one piece of the program. If diverse employees are not made to feel comfortable contributing their perspectives, their value to any company could be diminished. Luckily, if you implement these practical methods, you’ll be well on your way to cultivating an atmosphere in your workplace that is supportive of your diverse employees.