Workplace diversity is when a company or organization recognizes, understands and values the diverse identities of their employees, and provides equal employment opportunities to qualified candidates regardless of those differences. A workplace that is truly diverse and inclusive will include people of different genders, ethnicities, nationalities, ages, abilities, religions and sexual orientations.
Companies that value diversity and inclusion may also have Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), conferences and events to raise awareness around different underrepresented populations and/or Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) statements at the end of their job applications.
6 best practices for achieving diversity in the workplace
1. Equal access to opportunity.
Diversity and inclusion starts at the application process by attracting diverse top talent from candidates with different characteristics. Many job applications will have candidates confirm they've read their EEO statements which play "a critical role in protecting workers' rights and eradicating workplace discrimination." The statements ask a number of questions regarding an applicant's race and ethnicity, gender and citizenship status with a pledge to consider all qualified candidates regardless of the characteristics they identify with.
2. Leadership’s unwavering commitment to diversity.
In order for diverse candidates to push a company forward, companies must recruit employees based on qualifications and unbiased judgement of their identities. Unfortunately, some companies bandage identity gaps in the workplace with diversity hires — people who are hired solely on the basis of an aspect of their identities, or because of a company's efforts to reach an identity quota.
Therefore, ethical diversity and inclusion implementation require (more) attention from the leadership. And Chief Diversity Officers, Equality Officers and Senior Directors of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are hired to make sure that happens.
3. Diverse representation across the company and partnerships.
When it comes to the workforce, it's as important for companies to partner with diverse groups as it is for them to have diverse employee representation. Building partnerships with this intention not only maximizes a companies diversity and inclusivity efforts, but it also allows them to accurately meet the needs of their consumers on a global scale.
4. Diversity education and training.
Many programs are complemented — and even fueled — by educational training programs that equip employees with skills to engage in meaningful conversations about gender, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, age and abilities. Identity dialogues can come in the form of employee- or third-party-led discussions, conferences, community service efforts, presentations or orientation activities.
These educational sessions are especially important because they allow employees to learn about how everyone's unique characteristics make up their work and life experiences (including their own), and practice speaking about hard-to-tackle topics with intentional facilitation.
5. Fair treatment.
It goes without saying that the gender pay gap, disturbingly high number of sexual harassment cases and general discrimination against women for how they look, act and sound in the workplace are indicators of the unfair standards that are imposed on them and not their male counterparts. Therefore, fair treatment (whether it mean equal or equitable, depending on the need) is necessary for companies to effectively diagnose and address any company practices that unconsciously disadvantage underrepresented groups.
Fair treatment can also mean providing handicap bathrooms for differently-abled employees, workshops that teach employees the diversity of pronouns and how to share or ask for them respectfully and/or discussions around cultural appropriation and what that looks and feels like in the workplace and beyond.
Transparency is an excellent company value, in general, and especially effective with regards to diversity and inclusion programs. You may find companies' diversity and inclusion initiatives in a link at the bottom of their website or main menu. Some companies even identify with it as part of their overall mission.
3 characteristics of ineffective diversity programs
1. Poor implementation.
In order for this advocacy to actually work, diversity programs cannot be treated as extracurricular company clubs. It's up to leaders and HR teams to implement programs that are visible, foundational and crucial for the success of the company and the well-being of its employees.
2. Resistance from employees.
Conversations about race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation and ability can be challenging and uncomfortable to have, no matter where you are. Employees may show resistance to diversity programs because they don't want to be singled out for aspects of their identity, because they're not ready to explore their prejudices or because they simply want their identities at work to stay strictly job-related.
Inclusion initiatives fall flat when a diversity group's cadence of events is inconsistent, a group doesn't have defined administrators and moderators or when members don't feel empowered to join them, among many other reasons.
The implementation of a successful diversity program must begin with a thoughtful launch strategy, and continue with genuine engagement and maintenance.
3 companies with effective diversity and inclusion programs
Business resource groups are a big deal at CDW, a company that's got eight of them. From Black Excellence Unlimited (BeU) and its mission to enable Black coworkers to "achieve excellence and have a positive impact on our customers and community" and Women's Opportunity Network (WON) with its focus on "[fostering] an inclusive culture where women are actively engaged and can realize their fullest career potential," there's no shortage of support for the various underrepresented populations at the company.
Other BRGs at CDW include Business Resource Alliance Valuing Equality (BRAVE), Hispanic Organization for Leadership & Achievement (¡HOLA!), Military & Allies Resource Council (MARC), Pan Asian Council (PAC), Alliance for Business Leading Equality (ABLE) and RISE.
2. The Hartford
The Hartford values the diverse talent and identities of their employees, and have even been recognized by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRCF) for the inclusive and effective implementation of their GLBT Organization Benefiting Everyone (GLOBE) program, receiving "a perfect score of 100 percent" on the Corporate Equality Index in 2017.
The company's also been recognized by Forbes as the No. 1 P&C Insurer and No. 14 for overall diversity, the Bloomberg Financial Services Gender-Equality Index and the Disability Quality Index as one of the best places to work.
Those employed at the company can also opt to join YoPros, an ERG for young professionals, MilCom, a Military Community Network and the Professional Women's Network (PWN).
As a company that believes "the more inclusive, the better," ADP demonstrates their respect for human rights through their partnerships with organizations like The Alumni Society and Black Enterprise "that help [them] attract and develop diverse talent in all areas of [their] business." Women love working here and the company's workforce, which is made up of more than 50% women, is proof. They've even been recognized by Working Mother on the 100 Best Companies list.
In addition to spreading cultural awareness and celebration, their business resource groups help "build relationships with diverse markets in [their] communities" and "enhance [their] products to meet the needs of diverse associates around the world."