As a society, we have come a long way in terms of promoting workforce diversity. However, there is still much work to be done to create truly inclusive environments where all individuals are valued, respected and given equal opportunities to succeed.
Throughout 2021, employers faced a mass exodus of workers during the great resignation. According to McKinsey, “The top three factors employees cited as reasons for quitting were that they did not feel valued by their organisations (54%) or their managers (52%) or because they did not feel a sense of belonging at work (51%).” The group of workers most likely to say they left their jobs because they did not feel like they belonged at their organisations were non-white or multiracial. This sobering statistic is a stark reminder of the challenges that many employees face every day when they come to work.
In recent years, we have seen an increase in the number of brands signaling their support for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). This can take the form of public statements, social media posts and even the creation of DEI initiatives. While these efforts are certainly well-intentioned, they are not always enough to create lasting change. The Harvard Business Review notes, “Increasing diversity does not, by itself, increase effectiveness; what matters is how an organisation harnesses diversity, and whether it’s willing to reshape its power structure.”
In order to truly promote workplace diversity, brands need to do more than just signal their support. They need to take concrete steps to assess their current diversity initiatives and develop strategies to create a more inclusive workplace.
Beginning a Workforce Diversity Audit
One way to do this is to conduct a thorough analysis of the brand’s current state of diversity. This should include an examination of the demographics of the workforce, as well as an assessment of the inclusion and representation of diverse groups within the company. This analysis can help to identify areas where the brand may be lacking in terms of diversity and inclusion and provide a starting point for developing more effective strategies.
One of the most significant benefits of conducting a diversity audit and then building DEI initiatives into future audits is that it provides a benchmark to measure success. Internal audits are a routine task for many businesses, and as environmental, social and governance disclosure requirements grow, DEI audits will likely become more commonplace.
A formalised DEI audit helps management set, meet and track objectives and begin the important but difficult task of truly shaping corporate culture into a better, more inclusive environment for everyone.
Building a Strategic Plan for Diversity
Once the current state of diversity has been assessed, the next step is to develop a plan to promote inclusivity in the workplace. This should include both short-term and long-term goals and should be tailored to the specific needs of the brand and its workforce. Some potential strategies to consider include:
Developing diversity and inclusion training programs for all employees.
These programs should aim to educate employees about the importance of diversity and inclusion. The programs should also provide employees with the tools and skills they need to create a more inclusive work environment. This training should include one of the most important aspects of diversity training: bystander intervention training. Teaching employees about their responsibility to step in when they see something inappropriate is a powerful way to promote allyship.
Implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives at all levels of the organisation.
This can include initiatives focused on recruitment, hiring and promotion, as well as initiatives that create an inclusive corporate culture. For example, brands should seek out diverse job candidates instead of hoping diverse candidates will come to a careers page to apply. Organisations should also establish benchmarks for their candidate pools to encourage diverse hiring practices.
Establishing diversity and inclusion committees or task forces.
These groups can help identify areas where the brand can improve diversity and develop strategies for addressing these issues. However, simply having these groups is not enough. The initiatives proposed by diversity committees should have executive backing. The leaders of these groups must feel empowered to make suggestions and trust that their voices will be heard.
Creating a diverse and inclusive leadership team.
Having a leadership team that represents the diverse backgrounds and experiences of the workforce can foster an inclusive corporate culture. Employees who see leaders who look like them and come from similar backgrounds are more likely to feel included. Research also shows that teams with inclusive leaders are 17% more likely to report that they are high performing, 20% more likely to say they make high-quality decisions and 29% more likely to report behaving collaboratively.
Partnering with diversity and inclusion organisations and experts.
Working with outside organisations and experts provides insights and resources to help the brand develop more effective DEI initiatives.
A Diverse Workforce Benefits Everyone
In addition to the benefits for the workforce, promoting workforce diversity has a positive impact on the brand’s bottom line. Studies show that UK companies with diverse teams are more innovative and creative and better understand and connect with diverse customer bases. This can lead to improved business performance and a stronger competitive advantage.
Promoting diversity in the workplace can also have positive effects on the local community. A diverse workforce helps build stronger connections with the local community. In addition, a diverse workforce provides opportunities for individuals from underrepresented groups to access employment and career advancement. This can have a positive impact on the local economy and the overall quality of life in the community.
Promoting workforce diversity is essential for creating inclusive environments where all individuals are valued and respected. Companies that truly prioritise DEI will be better prepared to attract and retain top talent and drive sustainable long-term growth.
It is important for brands to signal their support for diversity. But it is equally important to take action to assess diversity initiatives and develop strategies to create a more inclusive workplace. By doing so, brands can benefit not only their workforce but also their bottom line and the local community.
ESW is committed to creating diverse and inclusive workplaces where employees thrive and grow. We also enable global expansion for the world’s best-loved brands. Contact us to learn more about working with a partner that shares your brand’s values.