Creating a diverse and inclusive workforce
- White Paper
- Professional development
September 22, 2021 |
9 min read
- White Paper
- Professional development
Tackling diversity and inclusion is both morally necessary and essential for avoiding negative publicity, preventing legal actions and discrimination cases, and improving business performance and turnover.
This paper explains why these issues are so important as well as how to attract a diverse pool of candidates for their open positions and create an inclusive culture.
A diverse workforce includes people from all walks of life. Creating a diverse workforce will improve performance, increase productivity and creativity, and give your organization the competitive advantage when it comes to attracting, recruiting, and retaining talent.
There is an increasing demand for diversity in the workplace. Social events such as the Black Lives Matter movement and the Me-Too phenomenon have had a huge impact on the general public’s mindset. This increase in awareness has already begun changing the way workplaces operate.
However, the creation and development of a diverse and inclusive workforce cannot happen automatically, and simply changing recruitment practices is not enough. Organizations need to proactively review all of their practices, policies, and procedures to ensure that they support equal opportunity and do not contain unconscious bias. It is important to remember that diversity and inclusion is the responsibility of everyone in the organization.
Workplace diversity is not only a moral issue. Organizations that are able to employ people with a range of skills, knowledge, and experiences can help people become more innovative, skilled, creative, and successful. Ultimately, this leads to improved outcomes and results.
2. Diversity versus inclusion
Diversity versus inclusion
At work, diversity is the term used to describe the range of genders, ethnicities, sexualities, and ages, as well as physical and social characteristics within the workforce.
Inclusion refers to the practices, policies, and procedures an organization might implement to ensure everyone in the workforce feels accepted and comfortable. Inclusion is about ensuring everyone is valued, respected, and able to contribute equitably.
Diversity brings different people together, while inclusion means having strategies to ensure that the organization can support different people harmoniously. Diverse teams cannot exist without an inclusive culture.
3. Why diversity and inclusion matter
Why diversity and inclusion matter
Those who strive to give people equal opportunities are fighting against discrimination; organizations should promote diversity and inclusion because it is morally and ethically the right thing to do. Other reasons include the financial benefits of diversity and the fact that organizations have legal obligations they must consider.
By bringing diverse people together, organizations give everyone the opportunity to learn from those with different perspectives and experiences. Not only will this help the team to build and deliver better products and services, but it will also help to increase equity and equality outside the workplace.
Diverse teams and workforces tend to be more productive and make better decisions. Often in diverse teams, individuals will approach certain tasks differently, which can cause conflicts. However, handling task-related conflicts properly can result in better outcomes. Diversity also causes increased scrutiny, which leads to better decision-making.
Furthermore, diverse and inclusive workforces more accurately reflect society, making organizations better aligned to their user bases and better able to predict and adjust to changes in the market. A diverse workforce can understand the needs and requirements of a much broader user base, which can increase business opportunity.
Finally, every organization has a legal duty to protect minority and underrepresented groups from discrimination in the workplace. For example, the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission provides guidance for employees and employers in the Equality Act 2010.
4. Attracting and recruiting diverse candidates
Attracting and recruiting diverse candidates
There is no denying that biases exist in recruitment and progression processes. It is crucial that organizations review and update their ways of working so that they support inclusivity and broaden the candidate pool.
By ensuring recruitment practices are inclusive, organizations can increase their teams’ diversity. The following are some actions that can improve recruitment activities and make them more inclusive.
4.1 MAKE JOB ADVERTS AND DESCRIPTIONS AS INCLUSIVE AS POSSIBLE
Job descriptions should be inclusive. They should clearly define what the job is and what skills and knowledge it requires. Do not ask for unnecessary qualifications or skills just because they are the latest trend.
Job adverts frequently use language stereotypically aligned to men. Instead, job adverts should avoid using gendered language, such as referring to candidates as he/him, and language that could dissuade minority groups from applying.
4.2 WIDEN THE SEARCH
Job adverts always posted in the same forums will receive the same responses. To broaden the applicant base, consider alternative places to advertise vacancies. Social media sites, networking groups, and membership bodies that support underrepresented groups are great places to start. Remember, it is really important that job sites are accessible.
Blind shortlisting (hiding all personal information from an application form) is a great way of removing bias from the shortlisting process. It is also good practice to have a minimum of two people on a shortlisting panel who can actively scrutinize and challenge assumptions. Clarify the criteria against which the candidates are being assessed so that there is no ambiguity. Not only will this support diversity, it should also make your shortlisting process much easier.
When preparing for the interview, consider who will be involved. Strive towards a diverse panel of people who have received unconscious bias and recruitment training. Everyone on the panel should be empowered to contribute to, challenge, and scrutinize the decision-making process. A diverse panel will also help to demonstrate the diversity of the organization and could help applicants from minority groups to feel more at ease.
Remember to check whether any candidates require adjustments to the interview process. Examples include allowing someone with dyslexia more time to complete a test or checking the accessibility of the interview location for a wheelchair user. Because interviews are increasingly being held online, interviewers should test their technology before the interview starts and always ask the candidate if they can see and hear the interview panel. Consider scheduling additional time for each interview in case there are technical issues.
5. Creating an inclusive culture
Creating an inclusive culture
Organizations should take proactive measures to embed inclusivity into the workplace and ensure that managers understand their roles and responsibilities in building and creating an inclusive culture.
Any inclusion programme must be driven from the top, so having leaders that are able to demonstrate inclusive behaviours is absolutely critical. Senior managers need to be able to articulate and communicate the benefits of improving inclusivity to the rest of the organization.
Visible, inclusive leadership that is modelled throughout the organization can help embed inclusivity and ensure that any inclusivity programmes are not seen as hollow, box-ticking exercises. Leaders must proactively review the data and analytics around diversity and inclusion and take responsibility for ensuring that they are identifying areas for improvement.
Line managers, as the first port of call for many people, must have the skills and experience to provide appropriate support.
5.2 RAISING AWARENESS
Key events, such as International Women’s Day, or religious celebrations, such as Eid or Diwali, can be used to highlight and celebrate differences at work. They can provide opportunities for team members to drive and contribute to the inclusion agenda.
5.3 FLEXIBLE WORKING
The global pandemic of 2020 and 2021 has changed the world of work forever. A 2020 Gartner HR Survey highlighted that many companies now have over 81% of their employees working from home; many have said they will continue to support homeworking beyond the Covid-19 crisis.
Flexible working is not just about allowing part-time working. It refers to a wide spectrum of working arrangements that include:
- working compressed hours
- working remotely or from home
- having a different start and finish time
- working around caring responsibilities.
The benefits to the employee include better work life balance, improved quality of life, and reduced expenses. The benefits to the employer include improved productivity, reduced office costs, and less absenteeism.
Flexible working arrangements can often be a key factor when people are considering roles. Offering flexible working is a great way of supporting a more inclusive work culture because it can open up roles to a much broader candidate profile.
5.4 DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION TRAINING
Diversity and inclusion training helps employees become more comfortable with concepts such as cultural competency and unconscious bias. Good diversity and inclusion training will enable people to better understand the benefits of having a diverse and inclusive culture, which in turn can help improve and drive collaboration and innovation.
Such training can also encourage team members to think about different perspectives and viewpoints and how their actions can impact others, thereby reducing workplace discrimination and harassment.
A successful diversity and inclusion training programme will enable people to develop inclusive thinking. This will lead to an inclusive culture where everyone, especially those from underrepresented groups, feels comfortable, valued, and able to contribute.
Failure to act and make progress on diversity and inclusion is no longer an option. Tackling diversity and inclusion is morally necessary, as well as being essential for avoiding negative publicity, preventing legal actions and discrimination cases, and improving business performance and turnover.
The technology sector is advancing much faster than the rest of the UK economy, and demand for technical and digital skills is far outstripping supply. Future employees are looking closely at organizations to understand their commitment to diversity and inclusion. Actively developing an inclusive culture will give your organization the competitive advantage when it comes to attracting, recruiting, and retaining talent.
Currently, large minority groups feel alienated from the technology industry. If we want to build and deliver digital services that meet the needs of a diverse population, we need a diverse workforce that can contribute to technology development.
The good news is that incremental changes have a positive impact, but they need to be driven from the top with senior managers leading by example.
7. About the author
About the author
A motivated and adaptable ITSM professional, Sally has worked in public sector IT for over 15 years. She has experience developing high-quality, sector-leading support services, as well as creating respected, motivated, and award-winning teams.
Winner of the Everywoman Team Leader of the Year 2019, Women in IT Business Role Model of the Year 2018, and Inspirational Leader of the Year 2017, Sally is a passionate supporter of the enhancement and empowerment of women in tech and is well known across the ITSM and service desk industries.