10 critical ways to empower women and minorities in the workplace.

In light of recent social events, creating an inclusive workforce is more important than ever. Aside from the blatantly positive optics, countless studies cite many significant benefits of hiring a more diverse workforce: increased creativity and productivity, better employee satisfaction and retention, and improved resilience and profitability, to name a few.

Organizations large and small are beginning to reexamine their hiring practices with this information in mind. While the shift toward inclusivity is certainly commendable, these efforts are wasted if new hires are sabotaged by residual bigotry once they’re through the door. Therefore, a complete corporate cultural overhaul is necessary to make sure everyone has the same opportunities to succeed.

Changing the culture of an organization can’t happen overnight, but with solid planning and persistence, the following strategies will help you create an environment in which every one of your staff members can flourish:

  1. Compensate your employees fairly. This is an easy place to start. By now, you’ve probably heard all about the gender pay gap across nearly every imaginable profession and industry. Organizations that are genuinely committed to inclusion must fight against this discrimination by providing equal pay for equal work, with zero exceptions.
  2. Encourage them to contribute, and take their concerns seriously. It’s not enough to have a seat at the table; everyone on your staff must also have a voice. They must know their opinions have clout. Tell them speaking up is not only appreciated, but that what they say can have a true impact at the organization. And this doesn’t only apply to their positive feedback. If an employee has a viable concern or complaint, investigate, follow up, and take appropriate action to resolve the issue right away.
  3. Create an environment free from stereotyping, harassment, and discrimination. Building on the last point, you shouldn’t wait for an issue to arise before taking steps to make your workplace safer. Prevention is better than cure, especially when it comes to employee well-being and safety. Strict policies against harmful and discriminatory behavior will help protect your employees and demonstrate that you have their back.
  4. See each employee as a unique individual. Many organizations still segment their workforce into simplistic demographics, but leadership development consultant and LifeSpeak expert Nora Spinks says this practice is outdated and inaccurate. Instead of classifying your employees by gender, ethnicity, age, etc, she recommends seeing diversity as a spectrum. “Begin looking at relationships with others from the perspective of respect, openness, [and] honesty in order to create environments that are rich, inclusive and dynamic. …Think about individuals and what richness they bring to the workplace.”
  5. Let go of your subconscious biases by asking questions. We all know how dangerous assumptions can be, yet we often let them obfuscate our judgements and decisions. The best way to avoid these biases is to actively seek the truth, and the only way to do that is to ask questions. For example, instead of assuming someone would be offended by your wishing them a merry Christmas, just ask them if they celebrate any holidays and, if so, what greetings they like to use. Opening up the dialogue not only allows you to dispel myths, but it also creates opportunities to learn from and bond with your colleagues.
  6. Engage everyone in the process. Spinks points out that building diversity and inclusion isn’t just for HR or leadership to manage. “…Everybody in the organization takes a share in the responsibility to create an environment that’s welcoming, that’s respectful, [and where] people feel safe being themselves.” Encouraging organization-wide participation ensures a welcoming culture that will embrace existing and future employees regardless of department, location, or role.
  7. Give employees opportunities to grow. Nobody wants to feel stuck in their career. Design a system of promoting employees that gives everyone an equal opportunity to achieve their career goals. Wherever possible, incorporate mentorship, coaching, and succession planning that inspires employees to learn new skills from their peers and managers. Also consider covering the cost of continuing education courses to help your employees stay competitive. People appreciate such gestures and are less likely to leave a company that helps them achieve their professional aspirations.
  8. Don’t make anyone feel like a token. It’s important to have your staff understand that everyone was hired because they were the most suitable candidate for the job. Hiring to increase diversity and hiring the best applicant are not mutually exclusive pursuits, so no one should feel like they’re only there to fill a quota. A powerful way of proving this is to have a workforce that is diverse throughout, from entry-level, temporary, and support positions all the way to executive and management roles.
  9. Track and measure your progress. You won’t know if your efforts are working unless you set benchmarks and goals. Start by auditing your current work environment. In which ways is your organization already diverse? Which areas could be more inclusive, and how will you address them? Mapping these details out and collecting feedback from your employees will help your team stay accountable and focused on your objectives.
  10. Understand that this task is never done. If you’re looking around thinking your workforce is the pinnacle of diversity and inclusion, congratulations — but you still have work to do! A healthy, welcoming workplace culture requires constant upkeep. Regularly remind your staff of your values of empathy, respect, and sensitivity by featuring relevant materials in your communications and trainings. Also, make sure HR is continually vigilant about attracting talent from diverse pools and supporting workers with the specific tools and services they need to thrive.

More ways to assist your employees

If you’re looking for additional resources on workplace diversity, we recommend you sign into your LifeSpeak account and check out Nora Spinks’s “Diversity 101” trainings. We also have several great videos, podcasts, and tip sheets on cross-cultural communication and respect in the workplace. If your company doesn’t have LifeSpeak, please book a free demo today.


Also published on Medium.