Why Diversity in the Workplace Matters: Relationships, Retention and Financial Returns
Does this scenario sound familiar? You switch your TV on or log on to your favourite social media platform and all you see are incessant messages about racism and discrimination. #Blacklivesmatter. Protest coverage. Photos and posts from racial couples or mixed kids who feel upset, sad, unsafe. You wonder: why our differences are still an issue in 2020? Why is diversity still not embraced by everyone?
After all, we all know at least one colleague at work who does not look like us. Someone who does not have the same skin colour or belong to the same ethnicity group. We’ve probably worked closely with them for months or years. Perhaps we’ve even become best friends with them.
So, how do you begin to discuss what is happening in the world today without altering or harming that relationship? Might it be possible to address these sensitive issues of race and discrimination in a way that deepens that relationship into one of greater understanding, vulnerability and a spirit of togetherness? I believe that is possible.
Strengthening culture through dialogue, empathy, and action
But what if it’s not just a diverse peer, but a diverse team? And you are the manager of that team?
How do you demonstrate to a group of people who may not look like you that you care about diversity and inclusion?
Should you just avoid the conversation altogether?
The simple answer is no, you should not. You must have the dialogue in the right spirit of empathy and unity. This is not an isolated problem with geographic boundaries. It is a global concern that underscores the existence of discrimination today in our world. As a people manager, it requires a fresh approach, plenty of compassion, open communication, and willingness to change.
Our planet is home to so much diversity: race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious, generational, and beyond. Today, it’s not only about accepting diversity but embracing, supporting and nurturing it so your organization can surge ahead in a spirit of inclusion.
First and foremost: because WE ARE ALL HUMAN BEINGS, equal in our rights and opportunities.
Secondly, diversity and inclusion efforts are worthwhile. Some potential benefits for inclusive organizations are top talent attraction, higher employee engagement, better decision making and higher returns.
A diverse culture means better business returns
Recent statistics show a correlation between racial and/or ethnic diversity and strong earnings/performance for North American companies:
- A 2017 report from the Centre for International Governance Innovation cited the results of a study conducted by Statistics Canada. In Canada, industries show an average 2.4% increase in revenue and 0.5 % increase in workplace productivity with a 1% increase in ethnocultural diversity.
- According to McKinsey’s Diversity Matters report, US senior executive teams realize a 0.8% increase in earnings with every 10% increase in racial and ethnic diversity.
Studies have also exposed some other compelling statistics:
- According to McKinsey’s Diversity Matters report, UK senior executive teams show a 3.5 % increase in earnings before interest and taxes with every 10 % increase in gender diversity.
- The Center for Talent Innovation says that inclusive publicly traded organizations are 45% more likely to grow their current market share in the last 12 months and 70% are more likely to obtain new markets.
Diversity is clearly not just the right thing to support and promote, it’s good for business.
As a manager, what can you do to help diverse teams thrive and, in the process, move your organization forward?
After all, according to Gallup: “Inclusion policies don't change anything unless the culture changes too.”
Here are few tips to become an “ambassador of inclusiveness” and effectively manage your diverse team today.
1. Lead by example and initiate dialogues about diversity and inclusion
Use recent events in the U.S. as an opportunity to reassure your staff that you value their diversity and do not tolerate discrimination. If you haven’t done so yet, I recommend initiating an open dialogue right away (e.g. as either a group or one-to-one, depending on your culture).
2. Identify trends to guide your inclusion practices through an employee survey
Conduct an anonymous and confidential survey of your employees to capture diversity and inclusion trends (Ideally through an outside firm). The data you capture should be used to inform your decision-making and form a solid foundation for your inclusion practices.
3. Track, monitor and update key HR data and practices
a) Inclusive hiring practices
With a return to work in the “next normal”, it is now the perfect time to role out more inclusive hiring practices. This may include:
- A diverse recruiting team in other to reduce the risk of recruiting biases
- A review of your recruiting process to ensure as much as possible an objective and inclusive approach. For instance: Do you typically prioritize internal pipeline candidates before opening a role externally? Do you use an efficient Applicant Tracking System (ATS) for your hiring process? What typical questions are asked to candidates during the recruiting process? Are they all free of bias?
b) Fair and objective pay
Identify your employees by diversity group and for each role, review pay per diversity group to verify fairness and equality. Is there any diversity group that is getting paid more or less?
- Pay versus employee performance versus employee seniority in the job versus diversity group.
- Pay versus employee performance versus resignation versus diversity group.
Now is the time to take steps to eliminate any wage discrimination based on diversity.
Identify your main diversity groups and confirm the number of promotions per diversity type for the last 1-2 years. This analysis allows you to verify if employees are getting promoted regardless of their diversity group.
Also, be sure to monitor:
- Promotions versus employee performance versus diversity group
- Promotions versus employee job tenure versus diversity group
By doing so, you’ll be able to know if promotions are fair, if inclusion is present and whether top performers are getting promoted, regardless of their diversity.
This will also allow you to reverse any discrimination or discriminative promotion practices present in your organization.
d) Uncover Discrimination through Exit Interviews
Use exit interviews to discover any work culture issues or discriminative practices within your organization. When an employee voluntarily resigns from your organization, closely examine their reasons for departure (e.g. lack of promotion, low pay, discrimination, harassment.) and whether they are top performers from a specific diversity group.
- Start by reviewing the last 6-12 months exit interviews to find out if some trends related to diversity and inclusion have been shared by recent departing employees.
- After this initial analysis, begin to regularly use the information in exits interviews for better decision-making.
4. Foster inclusion through team building activities
In these unprecedented times, some team-building icebreaker activities will serve to bring your team together and create a good team-spirit. This website provides you various options for in-person and remote activities. I personally recommend “the one question” team building activity which is quite powerful in the current context and can be run virtually. A strong question you may consider asking your staff is this: “If you could ask just one question to discover a person’s suitability for being an inclusive peer at work, what would it be?”
Racism and any type of discrimination remain challenges that every organization around the world is grappling with today. It cannot be ignored. Now is the time to take action and build a united, inclusive culture. Not only will this win you the hearts of your employees, it will also help you attract diverse top talents hungry for equality and fair opportunity. What’s more, your organization will profit from higher financial returns. Embracing diversity in your work culture is a win-win-win scenario, whichever way you look at it.