Diversity in the workplace is essential to create a thriving business, especially when it comes to employee engagement. Workplace diversity encourages creativity and innovation because every team member, from leadership to frontline employees and mobile workers, brings their own unique backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives to the table.
Actively cultivating a range of employee engagement and internal communication strategies places diversity at the core of everything you do throughout the workplace, and demonstrates sustained commitment to employee connection for all.
What Is Diversity in the Workplace?
What exactly does it mean to have a diverse workplace? Here’s a hint: just because you’ve shown the cultural orientation video from 1995 on “diversity in the workplace” doesn’t mean that your company is actively promoting diversity.
Diversity occurs at the beautiful intersection of different people from different places with different experiences. It includes cultural diversity in the workplace, gender diversity, religious diversity, language diversity, different education levels, different viewpoints, and unique abilities. It’s all of that. It’s people who think differently, act differently, and look different working together to solve complex problems.
Why Is Diversity Important in the Workplace?
Having a diverse workforce goes beyond an HR Seminar or workshop. When done properly, there are actual benefits of diversity in the workplace. For example, more diverse workforces have proven to be more creative, faster problem solvers, more innovative, and better at decision making.
Simply put, diversity isn’t just a topic of discussion among HR professionals. Diversity in the workplace creates a more well-rounded employee experience that gives companies a competitive advantage.
Here are five clever ways to improve employee engagement through diversity-focused initiatives and operational processes for your workforce.
1. Educate Managers on the Benefits of Diversity in the Workplace
The relationship between managers and employees is a critical one. Most people quit their jobs specifically because of a disconnect with their managers.
Don’t assume that managers understand the importance of workplace diversity, or that they know how to hire and manage a diverse group of employees. Empower them with the skills necessary to grow and nurture a diverse team. Scheduling cultural and other sensitivity training is a great first step.
Also, assess reporting structures and employee feedback mechanisms to ensure there is a clear, communication channel between managers and their direct reports.
When workplace diversity is celebrated, and management is empowered with the appropriate resources, the potential of your workforce becomes unlimited.
Pro tip: Promote from within so your team of managers reflects your company’s core values that embrace and celebrate diversity.
2. Create More Inclusive Workplace Policies
As you move to become a more diverse organization, do a deep-dive of your current practices, and conduct a comprehensive evaluation of your workplace. Facilitating workplace diversity may mean creating new policies or amending current ones system-wide, from recruitment to performance evaluations and promotions.
For example, when posting job openings, position descriptions should be tailored to reach broader audiences. Consider posting these position descriptions and sending recruitment specialists to a wider range of job fairs, community hiring offices, and outreach programs.
Other inclusive strategies that support diversity in the workplace include:
- Allowing employees to take off work for religious holidays that may not be officially observed by the company
- Offering on-site daycare
- Review your office set up to ensure an inclusive facility, such as the availability of non-gendered restrooms
- Extending the option for flexible work hours
- Using a mobile workforce app with a translation feature so every employee can communicate in his or her preferred language
Hopefully, your company already is an equal opportunity employer (EEO) approved by the Federal EEOC. If not, you should meet their standards and seek approval immediately.
3. Communicate Clearly and Create Employee-Led Task Forces
Creating workplace diversity policies isn’t enough. Clear communication and follow-through is necessary to ensure initiatives are effective. That means policies should reflect the unique needs of everyone in your organization.
Employees should feel comfortable coming to their managers with any concerns, especially about their treatment in the company due to their gender, ethnicity, sexuality, age, or other factors.
Managers should feel confident in their internal communication with employees by avoiding making any assumptions and using inclusive language. This is a great initial way for managers to set up open and respectful internal communication channels.
Regularly ask for feedback from your workforce and create dedicated diversity task forces with team members from every department for candidate recruitment and training. This ensures transparency as well as ownership and buy-in from the whole team.
Recognizing that not everyone feels comfortable speaking up through traditional internal communication channels, these task forces can assist with ongoing efforts in strengthening workplace culture and employee engagement for everyone.
Pro tip: Give employees agency over diversity initiatives.
4. Offer Meaningful Opportunities for Employee Engagement
If your company has multiple locations, consider allowing employees to visit other locations in another city, state, or country. Poll your workforce with an employee survey to find out where they like to spend free time or volunteer, and arrange both work-based activities and external employee engagement outings.
Additionally, they are able to see how other locations deal with similar problems and situations in a completely different way. This may encourage your employees to learn to think outside the box—and bring that thinking back to their own teams.
Some companies, like Salesforce, have their employees volunteer together in their communities to give back as well as to forge deeper connections with one another. This kind of exposure is a great way to let employees experience and participate in other environments and creates opportunities for your workforce to understand each other better.
5. Create Mentorship Programs
Hiring a diverse workforce is important, but mentorship programs are a key component of workplace diversity programs to ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to advance.
Employees with high potential should be offered mentors regardless of their age, race, sex, or other factors. If a company-sponsored mentorship program isn’t feasible for your company, there are other ways of providing similar opportunities, including:
- Support professional development opportunities by contributing to employees’ continuing education. The more they know the happier they are and the more productive they are as employees.
- Connect employees to outside resource groups, like those dedicated to young professionals and women’s leadership.
- Make sure your leadership team reflects diversity as well by hiring and promoting diverse candidates into those roles.
While these are all great ways to promote workplace diversity, it’s always important to set a good example from the top down. When the C-suite is directly involved in workplace diversity programs or initiatives to improve inclusion, employees take notice.
CEOs in particular can help their company attract the best—and most diverse—talent by being involved in diversity promotion. Prioritizing diversity in the workplace through intentional, focused, employee engagement programs supports recruiting efforts. It improves overall satisfaction, performance, retention, communicates your company’s core values, and bolsters your brand identity and reputation.
6. [BONUS] Offer Workplace Flexibility
OK, I know we promised you five ways to promote workplace diversity, but we’re throwing this one in as a bonus.
Workplace flexibility means giving employees more agency over when and where they work. Offering this to your team can help make your workplace more inviting and accommodating to working parents, commuters, or folks who may need to work remotely part-time.
How to Use a Digital Workplace to Support an Employee Resource Group (ERG)
According to TopMBA, ERGs are found in 90% of Fortune 500 companies. Many Great Place to Work-Certified companies, including Zillow, and AT&T, have ERGs. Many ERGs start out as a grassroots movement within the organization and eventually snowball into more official, company-sponsored initiatives. If you’re considering starting, expanding, or improving your company’s ERG, here’s how a digital workplace like Beekeeper can help.
Beekeeper may build a technology platform, but at our core, we’re about connecting people, building communities, and creating a more dynamic, inclusive workplace for everyone. As initiatives like diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) gain more traction, here are just some of the ways that Beekeeper can be leveraged to support your company’s ERG.
Create Dedicated Streams
A dedicated ERG stream in Beekeeper allows organizations to easily share resources, educational opportunities, upcoming events, and inclusive stories with the broader company. Creating a dedicated space to celebrate inclusivity shows your employees that the company is making DEI a top priority.
Send Confirmation Campaigns
Beekeeper’s confirmation campaign feature helps ensure every employee has not only read critical information, but has also confirmed they’ve been read. Confirmation campaigns can be a great way to let employees know about resources, policies, and updates related to your organization’s ERG.
Use Labels for Specific Topics
ERGs can encompass a broad range of DEI-related topics and initiatives. It’s a good idea for ERG organizers to create custom labels for different topics so employees can easily filter and search for posts that are most relevant to the causes they care about.
Here are some example labels you can use to support DEI within Beekeeper:
Create Pulse Surveys
Pulse surveys are a great way to quickly gather information on what topics or initiatives your employees are interested in pursuing for your company’s ERG. Pulse surveys offer a real-time glimpse into topics and ideas your team cares about. For best results, keep your pulse survey short, (no more than 10 questions). Conduct them on a regular basis so you stay up to date on how best to support your workforce.
“I think the single greatest shift would be to treat employees as whole people. As employers, we can do this by ensuring ALL employees feel they belong, through programs such as Employee Resource Groups.”– Dan Spaulding, Chief People Officer, Zillow Group
Actively and intentionally investing in diversity in the workplace will create a happier, more engaged workforce that will benefit a company on every level.