A progressive and developed nation ideally should be one where no one gets left behind, regardless of their abilities or identities. For too long we’ve let stereotypes and assumptions about various groups of people in our society define their ability to work and play a role in nation-building.
Thankfully, in this day and age, we’re becoming more aware of that, and talk of diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace has been one of the ways we’re trying to achieve that ideal. However, if it’s just all talk and no action, we’ll never get anywhere.
But how exactly does one go about introducing D&I into the workplace? Should D&I in the workplace even matter?
Having Diversity & Inclusion At Work Matters
To me, D&I in the workplace means hiring individuals regardless of their age, gender, sexuality, race, religion, physical abilities, mental health, backgrounds and experiences so long as they fit the company values and can carry out their roles. It also means that these individuals are then compensated fairly.
While there may be a few cases where an individual really isn’t the right fit for a company, it shouldn’t be the norm to turn away someone due to something out of their control. Practising D&I in the workplace isn’t just ethical, it’s also beneficial in several ways:
1. It Attracts More Talent
When you make it clear that your company is open to hiring diverse individuals, you’ll have access to a larger pool of talent. Out of that large pool, you’ll be able to find more qualified individuals than if you closed off your hiring process to a significant number of the population.
2. It Increases Competitive Advantages
Once your hires are made up of diverse individuals, you’ll also be able to effectively market your products and services to more consumers thanks to insights from your own team. Practising D&I helps you outthink a lot of your competition.
3. Diversity Breeds Productivity, Creativity & Innovation
With hires from different backgrounds, qualifications and experiences, you’ll have more perspectives when it comes to problem-solving. This can help speed up the process or even introduce solutions previously-unthought of.
4. Stronger Financial Performance
Having an inclusive top management can propel a company to better financial results. It leads to more innovation, which is the key to growth for a lot of startups and companies, and more innovation means more revenue.
5. It Improves Company Reputation
Not only is turning down potential hires due to factors out of their control unethical, but it also makes a company look bad. Welcoming diversity into your company boosts employee morale and attracts new talent while also retaining existing talent.
6. The Cost Of Not Embracing D&I
Dr. Derreck Kayongo refers to the price that organisations pay for unethical discrimination against individuals as the Discrimination Cost Index (DCI). He stated that not embracing D&I can lead to lawsuits, brand damage, loss of goodwill in the marketplace and accelerated employee turnover.
Introducing Diversity & Inclusion In The Workplace
So, we understand that D&I is important for lasting company growth from the arguments mentioned above. After all that talk, here’s where the action comes in. Hiring for diversity doesn’t necessarily equate to inclusion in the workplace, so there’s also more that needs to be done after that step.
1. Practice Inclusive Hiring
You could begin by re-evaluating your hiring practices. Do you often turn down applicants that make it known from the get-go that they are differently-abled or are of a certain identity? This is where you can identify which parts of your interviewing processes are limiting your access to talents.
2. Zero Tolerance Policies For Discrimination
Companies should create policies and procedures that are inclusive in nature for existing and future employees. This also assures employees that the company has their best interests at heart, thus leading to higher employee retention.
3. Encourage Collaboration Across Different Departments
In a large company, many departments tend to work rather independently. Each department may also differ in terms of employee backgrounds and experiences, so getting them together once in a while to collaborate can foster creativity and innovation.
4. Invest In Diversity Training
Diversity training isn’t only for companies who have just begun practising inclusive hiring. Every company should make this a priority especially since they’re selling consumers a product or service, and having discriminatory employees won’t get the company very far. Even if your company is already diverse, marginalised people can still hold biases against one another so diversity training is a good idea regardless.
5. Celebrate Employee Differences
Inclusion also implies that each employee feels welcomed in their workplace, so creating specific spaces where they can meditate or pray, for example, lets them know that they’re cared for.
6. Listen To Your Employees
Simply hiring diverse employees isn’t enough if you’re not willing to listen to or acknowledge their potential contributions. These are the people who will be growing your company with you so everyone needs to be on the same page. New and different perspectives should always be welcomed.
Companies can also practise inclusive hiring by tailoring roles specifically to certain groups of people. Take Starbucks Malaysia’s signing store for example. They took the initiative to give deaf individuals a place of employment where they weren’t relegated to behind-the-scenes roles. Instead, they have deaf individuals taking on the role of shift manager, barista and cashier.
Personally, I feel that if a company was genuine about diverse hiring, they would make a real effort to do something about it than sit around and come up with reasons as to why their workforce remains homogeneous.
- You can read more about what we’ve written on workplaces here.
Featured Image Credit: Starbucks