Do you still consider “diversity” or “inclusion” to be buzzwords? In that case, it’s time to recognize the importance of embracing these values for your business and the consequences of failing to do so. It runs far beyond getting in trouble with the law. Fully 82% of consumers surveyed in a recent Harris Poll indicated that they prefer to buy from companies that mirror what matters to them – and they’re willing to pay more for the privilege.
Furthermore, research suggests that the most diverse teams produce more in terms of profit. They also create a less hostile, more accepting work environment, which is critical in today’s world of labor shortages and supply chain issues. The best staff members want to clock in where they feel appreciated and welcomed, and teams that fail to adapt could see star talent depart for kinder shores.
What can you do if you haven’t yet addressed ways to ensure people from all walks of life, including various ethnic backgrounds, sexual and gender orientations, and ability levels, find your team welcoming and inviting? Here are eight steps to improving diversity and inclusion in your company.
1. Include It in Your Growth Plan
Please schedule a time to complete this important task if you haven’t yet created a corporate growth plan. What is it? This document sets out your goals and targets, listing the specific strategies you plan to use to achieve them. Best of all, it starts by considering the current state of your business, evaluating your strengths and weaknesses and your opportunities for improvement.
For example, some firms prefer to take time and care with each new hire instead of outsourcing particular tasks to remote call centers or partnering with independent contractors who may not keep the team’s mission foremost in their minds. They could be worrying about how to pay their bills or juggle this client with multiple others, resulting in falling short of fully embracing the corporate mission.
Of course, this approach might not work for every business. Some creative enterprises, for example, might do better with independent freelancers who work alternative schedules and need customized environments to do their best. That’s why the growth plan is so vital – you evaluate your business’s unique needs and decide how to best meet your diversity and inclusion goals in conjunction with them.
2. Regularly Solicit Input and Feedback From Staff
Social media abounds with tales of people complaining about their workplaces. With all the bellyaching, it can seem like no one is ever satisfied. However, a shift in perspective could help business owners recognize the obvious: Staff members concerned about their paychecks aren’t likely to raise concerns in the office unless they feel secure enough in their position that giving feedback won’t lead to a pink slip. Many organizations lack such a supportive atmosphere.
How can you coax reluctant employees to give honest and genuine feedback on how you could improve diversity and inclusion in your company? One method is to send out regular and anonymous surveys using an online site such as SurveyMonkey to protect identities. Include open-ended questions with plenty of room to write meaningful comments along with true-or-false and multiple-choice queries.
3. Offer Flextime and Telecommuting Arrangements
Each human being is only one person. You might have felt this crunch as a business owner if you ever had to attend two of your children’s events on the same day out-of-town clients come in for a face-to-face meeting. You can only do so much and be in one place at a time.
Flextime and telecommuting arrangements allow staff members the same flexibility you have to take off for a few hours in the afternoon to attend a recital, returning to work in the evening after the children have gone to bed. However, these programs are inclusive to more than the parents on your roster.
Such arrangements are often invaluable to workers with disabilities. Many need to attend multiple specialist appointments and most doctors don’t offer evening or Saturday hours. Many specialists may only have one or two days of availability per week, and a flexible schedule enables staff members to attend appointments while making up work later or doing it in advance. Telecommuting benefits those who can’t drive but otherwise have no problem handling their workload.
4. Be Transparent About Salaries and Progression
Here’s the pesky thing about U.S. employment law: At-will employment laws often conflict with protective measures on the books. For example, according to the National Labor Relations Act, it’s legal for workers to discuss their wages with each other. However, states with at-will employment laws allow either employer or employee to terminate their relationship at any time for any reason – meaning many still fear that speaking up will cost them their job.
However, you can circumvent controversy by creating a clear salary progression path. There are several methods to do so:
- Years of service: This method is the simplest. For each subsequent year of employment, workers receive a specified percentage raise.
- Years of experience: This method evaluates how many total years of experience each staff member brings to their role.
- Educational attainment: Some companies pay higher compensation packages to those who complete advanced degrees.
- Merit-based: Workers who perform tasks at certain speeds, amass a required number of clients, or hit other milestones earn a raise.
Many businesses use a mixed approach. For example, many school districts base their salary schedule on a combination of total years of experience and educational attainment levels. Whatever you choose, broadcast your schedule in your employee handbook, discuss it during orientation and ongoing training, and refer to it when performing annual evaluations.
5. Provide a Meaningful Benefits Package
The U.S. lags behind the rest of the world regarding health care coverage and other employee benefits that folks in Europe and much of Asia take for granted. For example, many countries mandate a specified number of paid and parental leave days. Overseas employers have fewer expenses regarding benefits packages because health coverage is paid for through tax revenue instead of corporations.
However, you must follow the rules of the country where you conduct commerce. That means you don’t have to extend a single day of vacation time, sick leave, maternity leave, or paternity leave. While the Affordable Care Act mandates that companies with 50 or more employees offer health coverage to at least 95% of their full-time staff or face a penalty, it gives them considerable leeway in picking plans.
However, please note that adequate benefits packages are among the best ways to retain top talent. A parent of a child with a health condition will jump ship, even with a competitive salary, if they can get better coverage elsewhere.
Furthermore, a lack of adequate downtime in the form of paid leave destroys productivity and encourages behaviors like “quiet quitting.” Multiple studies confirm that people work better when given a break – but they must realistically be able to afford to take one.
6. Create a Supportive Mentorship Program
Mentorship programs can go far in promoting diversity and inclusion. They introduce new staff members to the rest of the team when they may otherwise flounder when trying to fit into your organization. Many people feel more secure talking to a colleague than an HR representative.
Your mentorship program can be as structured or loose as you like:
- Highly structured: In this arrangement, you assign each new staff member to an experienced colleague upon completing their intake paperwork.
- Medium structured: Such arrangements provide new staff members with a list of qualified colleagues to serve as mentors, letting them choose within a specified time, such as the end of their first two weeks.
- Loosely structured: This arrangement requires the least participation from the employer. New staff members may choose any mentor they like at any time.
7. Conduct Routine Diversity and Inclusion Training
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, companies must conduct diversity training that addresses sex bias. Many go beyond this by including all aspects of diversity and inclusion in their training. Why not follow suit?
Such training can help smooth interoffice relationships and prevent a few toxic individuals from creating a hostile work environment. All staff should know the penalties for discriminatory behavior – it deserves a prominent spot in your employee handbook.
8. Hold Team Leaders Accountable
All the diversity training in the world isn’t worth much if your team leaders don’t embrace it. They should enforce the rules equally across the board, immediately taking action to stop discriminatory behavior.
Include the responsibilities of team leaders when it comes to diversity and inclusion in your employee handbook. Implement an anonymous reporting system that any employee can use to share instances of discrimination so you can hold leaders accountable for enforcing the rules.