How to manage and promote diversity in the workplace

‘Diversity and inclusion’ have become quite the buzzwords, both in and out of the workplace. The need for improved inclusivity and more diverse workforces has always existed but only recently, with shifting social and political dynamics, have we seen it take centre stage in popular discussion.

A recent survey by Glassdoor showed that 72% of job seekers value a diverse workforce as an important factor in selecting an employer. Not only that, the latest work by McKinsey shows that in some cases diversity in the workplace can increase profitability by up to 36%. This shows the need for action and the benefit of doing so too.

With many wanting more to be done when it comes to ensuring under-represented groups have a presence in businesses and also a voice, there are several factors organisations should keep front of mind while planning for the future:

Strive for cultural diversity and gender equality

As organisations aspire to be increasingly global, digital and transparent, the issue of lacking diversity and inclusion is coming to light. 

True diversity isn’t about ticking a box. It’s about recruiting a team that includes individuals with different ethnicities, religions, backgrounds, abilities, ages and subsequently, different perspectives. 

More must be done to cultivate diversity, equity and inclusion among employees. Not just because it’s the right thing to do - but because it’s business-critical too. 

If organisations want to create a happier work environment, then they should pivot their focus to these areas that are showing to have a positive impact on both happiness and performance.

Employees are focusing on the way their employer tackles these issues - and rightly so. HR should address this significant challenge if they want to keep attracting and retaining brilliant, talented people to their business.

fostering a diverse workforce representative of reality

We asked 1,000 employees currently working from home a series of questions around their workplace culture, environments and general levels of wellbeing in the current climate. The questions also included factors that are important to them regarding the future of the workplace. 

The sample included office-based respondents before the pandemic from various verticals including, banking/financial services, insurance, law and technology.

  • Almost one-quarter (22%) said their employer could improve workplace culture by recruiting more people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, 19% said culture could be improved by training the workforce on diversity and inclusion
  • 11% said their employer could improve its culture and be more inclusive by recruiting more people from LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer) backgrounds
  • 16% said their employer could improve its culture by recruiting more people of varying abilities and 18% said by recruiting a better gender balance
  • Nearly one-fifth (19%) said their employer could improve its culture by recruiting people of different religions/faiths
  • Almost one-fifth (19%) said their employer should prioritise the promotion of people from minority and marginalised backgrounds to improve its workplace culture

Click here to download the full report for more insights around culture, diversity and the workplace of the future. 

Another interesting report, the Women in the Workplace study, advises companies to make significant investments in building a more flexible and empathetic workplace.

The goal is to cultivate a culture where everyone will have an equal opportunity to achieve their potential. We can all do our part to support that.

Eliminate bias during the recruitment process where you can

Diversity isn’t just crucial for society but it’s also vital for a successful, sustainable business and the worldwide economy.

However, the creation of a diverse workforce can sometimes be hindered when our unconscious bias impacts recruitment or promotion processes. Unconscious bias exists as a result of preconceptions or prejudices relating to groups of people or individuals.

This has the potential to negatively influence recruitment and hiring efforts, creating barriers for candidates from traditionally underrepresented groups to get employed.

The reason for this lies in our need to process individuals and information quickly. We're presented with vastly higher levels of data than we’re able to process, so we rely on heuristics and existing knowledge to make sense of the world. This is completely normal, but we need to be able to identify where this can be harmful to marginalised groups of people.

We must challenge these unconscious biases in order to promote progression.

“To create an empowering culture for all employees, it’s absolutely essential for organisations to be diverse, inclusive and showcase true representation across all levels of the business. 

 

Not only do recruitment processes need to be inclusive, but promotion opportunities too, and employees from marginalised backgrounds need to be supported through their career, as well as other employees.” - Gemma McCall, CEO, Culture Shift.

Companies should conduct an audit of their current recruitment process to see where bottlenecks and barriers exist when attracting diverse talent.

Some ways to combat this include:

  • Reviewing where jobs are posted and consider posting where diverse candidates can be found
  • Ensure external recruitment is considered for all posts alongside internal promotion, particularly for senior roles
  • Rewording the job post and being mindful of the language used
  • Evaluating website and social media platforms to see if pictures, videos and language show all representation
  • Using blind resumes where information such as names, date of birth, schools and other personal details are removed
  • When striving for diverse culture, show this in everything you do

Market-leading software can facilitate anonymous recruiting, helping to remove implicit bias and assess candidates fairly and equally.

Investing in these platforms, or recruitment agencies that use them, alongside new policies that protect your diversified workforce once they’re in place can help ensure a more inclusive workforce of the future.

For more about what you can do, you can catch up on our ‘Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace’ webinar. This discussion covers how organisations can make sure fostering diversity and inclusion stays at the top of the agenda and why it’s vital while there’s so much else going on in the world vying for our attention.

Taking reasonable steps to prevent workplace harassment

Preventing workplace harassment is no longer a 'nice to have'. It's essential to help promote diversity and a safe working environment for everybody. For too long, organisations have adopted a reactionary approach to harassment in the workplace. But tackling incidents on an individual basis as and when they arise isn’t sustainable.

Employees often don't feel confident enough to tell their employer about harassment until it's too late. By then, they've either exited the business or blown the whistle.

Harassment can occur in any setting, not just the workplace, but if it does occur in the workplace, the employer can be liable if they’re unable to show they took all reasonable steps to prevent harassment.

With the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) using its enforcement powers to come down on employers who fail to protect people from harassment, it's more important than ever to take a preventative approach.

Doing this requires a number of key actions taking place, the EHRC have set these out clearly in their guidance. Keep reading to find out more.

7 steps to keep front of mind

The first high-profile case showing employer liability of harassment was in August 2020, when supermarket chain Sainsbury’s had to sign a legally binding agreement with EHRC after being found liable for sexual harassment against a member of staff.

These agreements are called Section 23s, and Sainsbury's have since been joined by Highways England, The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Pontins.

In the case of Highways England, this follows an employment tribunal which resulted in awarding a staff member £74,000 in compensation for sexual harassment and unfair dismissal.

The agreements require these organisations to take all 'reasonable steps' to prevent harassment and include recommendations such as:

  • Appointing Equality, Diversity and Inclusion champions across the organisation
  • Completing risk assessments relating to sexual harassment and putting mitigations in place to manage identified risks
  • Advising employees on how to deal with harassment through internal communications
  • Providing enhanced training on equality law and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion for all employees
  • Providing regular progress reports to the regulator

Although the above recommendations are unique to those organisations, the EHRC has previously released an outline of what they call a '7 step approach' to tackling harassment for all employers.

If you follow these 7 steps now,  it's less likely you'll be called out by the EHRC down the line for failing to protect people from harassment.

EHRC 7 step approach

Failing to take necessary steps to prevent workplace harassment opens your organisation to significant financial and reputational risk. We recently discussed the measures set out in EHRC’s technical guidance in one of our webinars and provided some practical examples of tackling and responding effectively to harassment.

Catch up on the webinar with Culture Shift and law firm Hill Dickinson here.

We know many factors, including fear of not being believed and worrying about repercussions, put people off responding honestly to surveys. If you’re seriously committed to tackling and preventing harassment, we recommend implementing a year-round anonymous listening tool as highlighted in the 7 step approach.

Many employees would favour a platform where individuals can provide anonymous feedback or report any instances of bullying, discrimination and harassment. It’s an avenue organisations should explore to create a safe, supportive working environment for all.

But that's one aspect of it. It's also your job to make relevant changes to encourage a speak-up culture in the first place. A happy workplace culture is integral to employee retention and the overall success of a company. 

Anonymous reporting platforms, like that provided by Culture Shift, allow employees to safely and confidently speak out about harassment at the time and place that's best for them without needing to attach their name to their report.

Develop the next generation of corporate leaders

The Society for Human Resource Management survey in 2010 found HR executives were concerned with finding employees in global markets and creating a truly global company by breaking down cultural barriers. 

Those answering the latest survey are more focused on developing the leaders of the future workforce and remaining competitive in the talent marketplace.

Times are changing and so too are the leaders of tomorrow. Adapting to the economic and social changes taking place will be key and has become even more necessary in light of the pandemic.

The challenge lies in attracting and supporting more diverse leaders who will be able to run businesses in the new business climate. This requires input from the entire business, with HR playing a crucial role in steering the plan. In today’s climate, technology also has a big role to play.

Gemma McCall, CEO of Culture Shift, sat down with the Venturi team to discuss our mission to tackle harassment and bullying.

In the second half of the podcast, they caught up with Chris Northwood, our Head of Development, and Co-Founder and CTO, Carl Sadd, to talk about the technical side of the business and our plans to scale Culture Shift in the months and years to come.

As the saying goes, "Leaders are not born, they are made." So start investing time, effort and resources into developing the leaders in your business.

Maintain a culture that thrives on different perspectives

Culture Shift’s research in 2020 found fostering a diverse workforce representative of reality is a crucial factor for creating a positive culture and a key component for most employees’ happiness at work. 

To learn more about what makes a negative company culture - and what you can do to improve yours, read our blog on 10 warning signs of bad company culture and what you can do to improve them.

Diversity and inclusion isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach as each workplace culture has its own unique blend of people, beliefs and processes. You can never fully anticipate the needs, behaviours and circumstances that will impact your planning and strategy. Still, companies and HR must prioritise having policies in place to be as preventive as possible.

At Culture Shift, we help pioneer positive change in workplace culture through building products that empower diverse organisations to tackle harassment and bullying. Adopting a positive, trusting culture that gives everybody a voice is at the heart of what we do.

We believe this is an incredibly important conversation to have and the insights uncovered in our research bolster that we aren't alone in believing those responsible need to take more action. It’s a shift that won’t happen overnight, but there needs to be clear intent from employers to keep diversity and inclusion at the forefront. 

As a company grows, the culture evolves with it. This isn’t always a positive outcome and can affect overall happiness and employee performance. 

Growing your diverse team

To know how to improve your company culture and diversity, it’s first important to understand where it's at already. 

That's where our workplace culture audit can help.

Take our culture audit here

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