Innovate October 2017 On The Cover

8 Steps to Building a Culture of Diversity


Written By: Nadia Alcide, Founder, Simply Sociable
Every group of people is not alike. This is the beauty of diversity. Creating a workplace for everyone will produce the organization’s best work.

Diversity brings great benefits to businesses and organizations. With diversity, an organization is able to reap the rewards of constant innovation and improved decision-making. Like anything else in the business world or life, you have to work at it. This stuff doesn’t come automatically, nor does recruiting for diversity within an organization. In order to see the needle move in this regard, a plan needs to be established and managed. Managers and owners should make sure the process properly outlines how their organizations will allow their employees to feel included and respected, thus improving them in order to perform at their best.

In this article, we will outline some steps businesses can take to create stronger cultures of diversity and inclusion. This will include some areas to think about and include the next time your organization is ready to bring in someone new.

 

Establish a Structure.

First, if you’d like to see more diversity over time, change will need to occur. Changing the way things are done in regard to recruitment is the best place to start. Allow someone on the team to own this responsibility. Organizations come in all different sizes, so how the structure is set up will be unique to each. Overall, it’s important to have something and someone in place to lead. The major point here is to dedicate time and resources for enacting change so that this can be a reality beyond a fly-by-night thought.

 

Build a Better Network.

Overcoming differences is hard and sometimes downright uncomfortable for most. But once overcome, businesses can truly reap the benefits of diverse group thinking. If your business or organization wants to make its initiatives successful, not only will you need to hire but you will also want to create a transparent career path to positions in the higher levels of the organization. Encouraging something like mentorships is a helpful under-utilized tool to encourage a climb of the career ladder, thus ensuring that diversity makes its way up to the leadership team.

 

Have Clear Policies.

There is nothing like an unclear message. This is a no-brainer, but believe it or not, some organizations lack this. First, make sure employees understand their right of freedom from workplace discrimination, which is also a legal requirement. Second, if a commitment to diversity is the aim of the organization, additional steps are required. It starts with the newest employee. Set clear guidelines about what is acceptable behavior and what is not in order to establish expectations and highlight where employees can seek areas of support. Additionally, if guidelines aren’t followed, it’s important to address it right away. If managed properly, negative instances are rare. But as they occur, take them seriously to ensure everyone is in a safe and supportive work environment.

 

Get Buy-In.

For better program outcomes and results, everyone within an organization should be involved within their scopes. The leadership team should do its best to communicate the benefits that diversity will bring to the organization and also counteract any misconceptions that the diversity initiative is focused on helping only certain groups. The use of research and competitive advantage align with the organization’s values. Good communication around the mission, values, and goals of an organization in general are important, but creating an open forum for talking and listening drives increased buy-in while also allowing leadership to learn a thing or two about how people within the organization feel. In addition to proper communication, training around the topic of diversity is helpful. There are some great online resources online such as Project Implicit’s (https://implicit.harvard.edu/) free online tests of implicit attitudes. Establishing training around the results of a test like this can help counteract implicit biases.

 

Be Fair.

If your organization is able to provide benefits, are they fair to everyone? For example, do you give employees or workers enough flexibility, parental leave and childcare support to enable them to balance their work properly while raising a family? If not, take time to reassess all employee benefits.

 

Accommodate.

Every group of people is not alike. This is the beauty of diversity. Certain groups may have special requirements and may need to be provided with whatever it takes to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. Some accommodations may include space to allow for meditation and prayer, language training or important time off. Creating a workplace for everyone will produce the organization’s best work.

 

Welcome Difference.

Diversity is not just having people in the organization from different groups. It’s more than that. It’s about listening and engaging in different perspectives by establishing value. The goal is to encourage a new way of thinking. It won’t be easy for some and there will be disagreements, but a little rethinking and understanding creates true inclusion.

 

Measure.

Success through any project requires a level of measurement to understand what’s working and where to scrap. Monitor diversity progress by using internal surveys and distributing them at regular intervals. Established patterns will show up to help the organization improve and learn. Other ways to measure success or room for improvement is through internally set objectives and milestones. Whichever options you choose, just make sure there is consistency to ensure improvements in workplace diversity.

 

Remember, it’s comfortable to take the easy road but the road less traveled leads to great rewards. To be successful at anything, you’ll need to commit over a long period of time to see fruitful results. It won’t always be smooth sailing. As long as you know that, the sky’s the limit.

 

NADIA ALCIDE is the chief problem solver at Simply Sociable LLC, a virtual business management firm. Over the years, Nadia and Simply Sociable have helped small businesses and entrepreneurs scale by managing their back-end systems, thus allowing them to focus on growth-related activities. Her team takes pride in making admin simple.

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