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How to Embed Diversity & Inclusion into Company Culture

Diversity & Inclusion

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June is Pride Month, when the world’s LGBTIQA+ communities come together and celebrate the freedom to be themselves. Celebrations of this month and acknowledgement beyond are geared toward anyone who feels like their sexual or gender identity falls outside the mainstream. The purpose is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally. In addition to educational, cultural, and celebratory, Pride Month is rooted in remembering the arduous history of minority groups who have struggled for decades to overcome prejudice.


At Humantelligence, we work hard to foster an inclusive and collaborative environment — one that values the diversity of both thought and experience because we believe that an inclusive, equitable, and respectful culture transcends quiet tolerance. 


Put simply, diversity makes us better. As an organization striving to create an open, team-oriented, positive environment that enables everyone to grow and learn from each other both professionally and personally, we’ll continue to embed and align ourselves around certain practices that support diversity and strengthen culture.

Why Diversity in the Workplace Matters 

Diversity is a word often thrown around in today’s business world. Many companies want to have more diverse teams or leadership, but try to do so without knowing why diversity is important or where to start. When we talk about diversity within an organization, we can mean any and all of the following:


  • Workforce diversity – Group and situational identities (race, gender, ethnicity)
  • Behavioral diversity – Work, thinking, and learning styles (including beliefs and
    values)
  • Structural diversity – Combining different cultures, communities, and hierarchies
  • Business diversity – Markets, processes, creativity, and project management styles

When you build a diverse organization, you’re not only doing the right thing, but you’re also planting seeds for what will become fruitful benefits for all of your teams and the business, including:


  1. Increased Adaptability & Better Problem Solving
  2. Improved Communication & Performance
  3. Attracting and Retaining Talent
  4. Increased Innovation

The proof? Diversity is something that many great candidates look for in a company. In fact, 67 percent of candidates look for a diverse workplace when looking at job offers and evaluating companies. Companies employing an equal number of men and women manage to produce up to 41% higher revenue. According to a McKinsey study, U.S. public companies with diverse executive boards have a 95% higher return on equity than do those with homogeneous boards. Diverse teams see a 60% improvement in decision-making, and a report by Deloitte shows that when employees feel included, innovation increases by 83%.

Dr. Karen Jaw-Madson discusses DEI, social and business innovation, and why not building DEI into your company culture is bad for business.

At the end of the day, employees are better at adapting to changes and differences when they work with people different from themselves. By working with diverse co-workers, we open our minds to new ideas and improve interpersonal relationships at work. People are also able to face challenges more easily and identify creative solutions because employees learn how to accept and embrace ideas from people vastly different from themselves — all of which leads to stronger functional, cross-functional, and customer relationships as well as better business results. The following are some of the practices you can implement to embed diversity into your company’s culture. 

Remove Unconscious Bias

Unconscious biases, or implicit biases, are social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from one’s tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing.

 

For example, if you’re continuing to hire based on a feeling you get from a candidate, you’re likely hiring on the basis of unconscious bias. The best way to prevent yourself from succumbing to these unconscious biases is to become aware of them and take action to prevent them when recruiting, hiring and retaining employees — like leveraging unbiased data to make hiring and personnel decisions. 

 

Tinna C. Neilsen, founder of Move the Elephant for Inclusiveness, said that “The core of inclusion is all about leveraging diversity of thought — a tough thing for a lot of people because sometimes they don’t know enough about group dynamics like group conformity. You can have as much diversity and as many different kinds of people in a team, but if you allow group conformity to dominate, then you’re not going to leverage any of it anyway.” 

 

Regarding workplace diversity and inclusion, Nielsen advises designing interventions that motivate the unconscious mind as opposed to relying on rational thought alone.

Build Leadership Buy-in

Some leaders might already be more bought-in to DEI. For those who are on the fence, you need to make things personal. 

 

Start the conversation by asking your organization’s leaders specific questions like, ‘Why is DEI important to you personally…or maybe also why it’s not? How does it align with the business for you? How do you plan to hold yourself and our employees accountable?’. Having them understand why DEI is important to them and the business will create a good foundation — and reminder as to why we’re doing this. Creating that emotional connection with your leaders and making DEI personal can help you gain their long-term support.

 

You can also actively engage your leadership in initiatives. Encourage them to be executive sponsors of an employee resource group (ERG)/ affinity group, participate in a DEI steering committee, attend regular DEI training sessions with employees, or just share updates and processes periodically at senior leadership or executive meetings. This helps everyone feel in the know and accountable for improving DEI.

 

Keeping communication open with the C-suite can improve transparency and accountability by ensuring every area of the business feels buy-in for the success of DEI programs. 

Actively Manage Diversity & Inclusion 

The issues around a diverse workplace can be managed and mitigated if employers take active steps to ensure that their companies are recognized for tolerance and acceptance. Here are some tips for managing diversity in the workplace:

 

Create written policies – Companies should create and include their diversity policy in their employee handbook. The policy should contain information about non-discrimination laws, the code of conduct, and the compensation and benefits policy. When it’s in writing, it’s hard to ignore.

 

Provide sensitivity training – Employees should be provided with sensitivity training to create a better workplace culture. Sensitivity training can help employees value views that are different, understand how words and actions can cause offense, and what needs to be done if they’ve been offended.

 

Create an accountability plan – Use regular surveys to check in on your progress, and have a plan in place for how you’re going to ensure staff uphold these policies.

 

Address micro-aggressionsMicro-aggressions are thinly veiled, everyday instances of racism, homophobia, sexism (and more) that you see in the world.  They are defined as a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as a racial or ethnic minority. Examples might include commenting on how someone speaks or is dressed. Use trainings to help address and prevent mico-aggressions against others.

 

Impose a zero-tolerance policy – After employees have received the handbook and training about diversity issues, the company needs to set the tone about how violations will be handled. All employees, even up to the highest levels, should be aware that inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated and every reported incident will be taken seriously.

Provide Resources

Keep DEI top of mind for your employees and encourage them to learn more about pressing societal and workplace issues by providing access to robust resources and self-serve opportunities to learn. Consider some of the following:


  • Weekly or monthly newsletter digests with articles on trending DEI topics
  • Start a #BeTheChange Slack or chat channel, where employees can share experiences, resources, and opportunities to engage in thoughtful conversations 
  • Put a process in place to help employees form affinity or ERG groups — and
    have each group start and own their own Slack channels
  • Share opportunities to donate to specific diversity-supporting organizations,
    with a potential company match
  • Provide a forum for employees to present their experiences and learnings 
  • Empower employees with emotional intelligence data so they can communicate and collaborate more effectively and inclusively with
    employees different from themselves

By putting resource communication channels just a click away, employees begin talking about DEI more regularly — helping over time to reduce some of the discomfort people have around the topic and creating more organizational accountability.

Replace Antiquated Processes

A lot of times, the processes, practices, and architecture businesses have in place are antiquated, and we don’t even realize it. Nothing is going to change unless those things change, and people don’t change just because you tell them to. They change when you enable that change. This means empowering choice around structure and architecture while putting tools and resources in front of somebody in order to enable them to do something totally different without them even realizing it. 


One of the biggest and quickest levers in moving the diversity needle for your company culture is in processes for who you hire. Each individual you add or remove will play a part in your culture’s evolution. It’s human nature to hire people like ourselves, so it’s imperative to leverage a variety of networks and tools to support hiring based on diversity of backgrounds/ perspectives vs. simply hiring people to whom you gravitate, happen to already know, or who come recommended. This calls for reshaping antiquated hiring processes — by seeking and interviewing for culture fit/add rather than the traditional skill-based interview. 

 

When you assess a candidates’ behaviors, motivators, and work styles, you’ll be able to better select individuals who share and have demonstrated the values you have identified as paramount, believe in your vision, and are excited about the work your team is doing. This psychometric-based approach helps you avoid recruiting cookie-cutter replicas of your current employees and allows you to hire for culture adds and gap fillers — those candidates who will enhance your culture, as well as bring unique and valuable experiences and a diversity of thought to the team.

 

Leading companies are working to build both diverse and inclusive workplaces, enabling them to transform diversity programs from a compliance obligation to a business strategy. By broadening the scope of workplace diversity from race, age, gender, and physical ability to also include diversity of thought, companies can better understand their employees and discover additional ways to solve problems. 


Employees want not only to be heard but truly listened to. In order to achieve that, a company must give voice to each employee, to everyone who chooses to participate. Once you can do this, then you can say your organization fosters a culture that not only supports, but is also built on the foundation of diversity and inclusion. 

If you’re interested in seeing how Humantelligence can help you remove unconscious bias, hire for diversity of thought, and support more inclusive communication, let’s talk!

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