How companies can foster more diverse and inclusive cultures

Employees, managers, HR, and the executive teams have unique (and critical) roles in expanding diversity initiatives and ensuring their success.

By Natasha Shifrin | March 23, 2021 |

The benefits of diversity and inclusion in the workplace have been proven time and again. Research shows that not only do diverse teams perform better, but that companies that invest in diversity efforts see a positive uptick in profitability, and value creation. Having a multitude of voices and perspectives leads to more effective, nuanced debate, and hopefully means that no one gets left behind. 

Companies certainly understand the benefits of diversity, yet many struggle with their diversity efforts. Hiring a more diverse talent pool is only one side of the equation. To reap the benefits of diversity, companies must create truly inclusive organizational cultures.

 It’s up to business leaders and HR leaders to play critical roles in making diversity, equity, and inclusion a reality and priority for all employees. Here are some suggestions on how to start.

1. Build a diversity and inclusion committee.

A diversity and inclusion committee is exactly what it sounds like. This group of employees works together on diversity projects such as creating a code of conduct, cultural programming, employee education, and management training. When building a committee, open it to any employees who want to join. More people means more voices and a more significant impact. 

2. Be transparent, authentic, and accountable.

Diversity starts at the top. Diversity in executive teams has the most significant impact on performance, as it creates a “trickle-down” effect. If your company does not have diverse decision-makers and leaders, now’s the time to address this issue. 

3. Take tangible, visible, and trackable feedback.

As the saying goes, people are a company’s greatest asset. Listen to your employees. Ask for feedback. Let them know that you’re open to improving and willing to put in the work to create a fantastic workplace. Go beyond compliance training, and show employees that you want to make a difference and that they’re active partners in that change. Have open discussions, and set the precedent that voices will be heard without judgment. 

As a company, recognize that the process of building cultural intelligence (CQ) is a pathway for many working people. Acknowledge that it’s okay to step forward and say you’re working on improving, and don’t refrain from saying something similar to “I want to get this right. Please bear with me.”

4. Tackle the low-hanging fruit immediately.

Set up an environment with zero tolerance for racism and misogyny. Let employees know that these types of issues will be reported, and legal action will follow if necessary. Address any problems that may come up and don’t hide from an opportunity to lead, even if it may be difficult.

First off, HR leaders and managers need to know that making or allowing any type of joke that diminishes a marginalized group is unacceptable. Making an honest mistake is one thing, but targeted micro-aggressions, open bias, or lack of empathy are not okay. Let your team know that you are working to create a “culturally safe” team, aka one where every person is valued and respected for who they are. 

 Understand that not everyone on your team may be up-to-speed on measures to prevent inequality, discrimination, and harassment. Please take action to get them up-to-speed to create a comfortable and safe working environment for all employees.

 Hiring diverse talent isn’t enough. Diverse cultures can only succeed when everyone is involved. Employees, managers, HR, and the executive teams have unique (and critical) roles in expanding diversity initiatives and ensuring their success. The only way we can create truly inclusive company cultures where everyone has the chance to succeed is if we do it together. 


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