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9 Ways to Promote a More Diverse and Inclusive Work Environment

A diverse and inclusive workforce is comprised of people of different backgrounds who are valued for their contributions. This can provide employers with a competitive advantage by bringing new ideas, fresh perspectives, and an engaged workforce. For these reasons, it’s important to think about how you hire, treat, develop, promote, and provide benefits to employees and whether those practices foster inclusion or exclusion. Here are some ideas for improving diversity and inclusion at your company:

#1: Start at the top.

Make sure each manager, senior manager, and executive is responsible for inclusion and hold them accountable during performance evaluations. Discuss the issue during leadership meetings and share feedback from employees. To demonstrate the importance of diversity and inclusion within your company, consider including it in your employer branding.

#2: Expand recruiting.

Use a variety of sources to find potential job candidates. Understand which groups are underrepresented (e.g., people of color, employees with disabilities, etc.) in your workforce and seek out community organizations and schools to help you recruit a more diverse applicant pool. Additionally, ensure that job advertisements and job descriptions use language that encourages all groups to apply. For example, if the position has specific physical demands, focus on the task that needs to be done, rather than how it’s done (such as, the position requires “moving” 50 pounds, instead of “lifting” 50 pounds). Employees with disabilities may be able to perform the essential functions of the job with an accommodation, such as using a cart, dolly, or mobility aid.

#3: Review selection practices.

Include a diverse group of individuals in the screening and selection process to help prevent biases from affecting hiring decisions. Identify clear job-related criteria by which you will assess applicants and apply the criteria consistently. Keep in mind that some practices may seem neutral but may discriminate unintentionally. For example, if an employer uses a candidate’s pay history to decide how much to offer them, it could perpetuate pay discrimination from a previous employer. Note: Some jurisdictions prohibit or restrict employers from asking about pay history. Additionally, if an employer has a blanket policy that excludes anyone with a criminal conviction from employment, it may have a disproportionate effect on members of a protected class. Be sure your policies and practices comply with all applicable nondiscrimination laws.

#4: Provide reasonable accommodations.

Under certain laws, employers must provide reasonable accommodations to qualified applicants and employees with a disability, or sincerely held religious beliefs and practices, unless doing so would cause undue hardship. Some laws require accommodations in additional circumstances, such as when an employee has a pregnancy-related condition. A reasonable accommodation is a change in the work environment or in the way work is customarily done that enables an individual to perform the essential functions of the job and enjoy equal employment opportunities. For example, some common reasonable accommodations for religious beliefs and practices may include exceptions to dress codes, additional breaks for prayer, and leave for religious observances. Providing reasonable accommodations is not only required, but it can also help ensure that you are attracting and maintaining a diverse and inclusive workforce.

#5: Ensure fair pay practices.

Ensure that employees are paid fairly when compared with other employees in your company and verify that your pay practices don’t discriminate on the basis of any protected characteristic, such as sex or race. Work with your legal counsel to audit your pay practices regularly to make sure any disparities in pay are justified and lawful.

#6: Address complaints.

Take all discrimination complaints seriously and launch a prompt, fair, and thorough investigation. If an investigation reveals that a violation of your policies occurred, take immediate and appropriate corrective action to remedy the situation and prevent it from recurring. Address problems before they become severe or pervasive and administer your disciplinary action policy on a consistent basis regardless of who is involved. Make clear that you will not take any adverse action against employees who make a complaint or participate in an investigation.

#7: Give all employees development opportunities.

Discussing an employee’s career interests and personal strengths can help make them feel valued. Even if there aren’t a lot of opportunities to move upward, you can still help employees develop skills and knowledge that will serve them and your business in the future. Assigning new responsibilities to help stretch an employee’s skills or capabilities can be an effective way to develop their talents and increase engagement. Meet with each employee and discuss their short-term and long-term career goals. Create a development plan accordingly and follow-up regularly to check on their progress.

#8: Encourage employees to share ideas and feedback.

Solicit employee feedback about the work environment through regular employee surveys, one-on-one meetings, and exit interviews. During staff meetings, ensure that each employee who speaks is heard. When employees do share ideas and feedback, thank them and let them know you will take their suggestions seriously. Remember to recognize employees for their contributions and give them credit for ideas that are implemented.

#9: Train employees and managers.

Use training to show that discrimination and harassment are not only against the law but also against your company’s values. Stress how important it is for you to maintain a fair workplace for all. Train employees on how to report incidents of discrimination and harassment. Some employers have gone a step further and adopted bystander intervention training to show employees not only how to spot inappropriate behavior but also how to step in and take action when needed.

Final thoughts:

Review your policies, practices, employee surveys, exit interviews, turnover information, and other data to assess diversity and inclusion at your company.

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