At IdeaScale, we’ve learned that diversity combined with equity and inclusion leads to more innovative thinking: businesses that are run by culturally diverse teams are more likely to develop new products, 45% more likely to grow market share, and more likely to have a 2X innovation revenue.

Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) isn’t a one-step process, nor one that can be rushed. Whether you are a manager at a small startup or just starting your first gig at a large multinational corporation, cross-cultural awareness is an essential workplace skill.

What is Diversity in the Workplace and Why is it Important?

You may be thinking to yourself that you have already sat through numerous orientation videos talking about diversity. The journey only starts there. You first have to educate yourself and then implement new strategies to create an enriching environment.

Best explained by Global Diversity Practice, diversity is: “empowering people by respecting and appreciating what makes them different, in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, education, and national origin.”

Workplace diversity training can be incohesive and disingenuous. Having your employees sit through an online training session only goes so far. Diversity molded into the workplace reaps better results.

A Glassdoor survey showed that more than ⅔ of active job seekers are searching for more than a salary during their job hunt. Candidates are evaluating diversity as a determining factor for their job search and potential compensation.

Each company is unique. However, here are four great strategies you can implement to promote workplace diversity and make your business more inclusive (or ideas that you can bring to your manager).

Make Diversity and Inclusion a Core Value of the Company’s Mission Statement

As a company, it is more crucial than ever to make diversity a key part of your success methodology. Facilitating this means that everything from job postings to external events points back to inclusive strategies.

Here are some ideas that you can implement:

  • If you have an office space—create a setting that has inclusive facilities like gender-neutral restrooms
  • Allowing employees to get PTO for religious or cultural holidays (ex: Juneteenth)

A great example of a company taking a stance on changing the status quo on diversity is Accenture. The professional accounting company has held its top position as a diversity pioneer. Their success points back to the three points they include in their training: Diversity Awareness, Diversity Management, and Professional Development. 

In these unprecedented times, employees seek inclusive behaviors that directly impact employee engagement.

As you come up with new policies—be explicit about your actions towards a better workplace. The journey of your employees begins with a job posting, why not share your efforts on job postings as well? Setting your stance on diversity from the beginning will bring in like-minded employees passionate about the workplace you are creating.

Diversity does not stop after implementing it into the core values. Expect hiccups on the way and (sometimes steep) learning curves. Be quick to fail and quick to learn.

If your company is not an equal opportunity employer (EEO),  read more on EEO, and get approved immediately.

Be Intentional about Showing Managers the Benefits of Diversity

Expectations are at an all-time high in managerial roles. Where the manager goes, the team follows right behind. As the key link between employees and senior management, the implementation of diversity in large and small teams is essential. Here are some key statistics to share with managers that show why diversity is crucial:

  • About ¾ of millennials want to work for a diverse company
  • 90% of managers think that employees leave due to a better money offer. However, less than 15% of employees leave for that reason. Ask yourself where you can fill in those gaps (Hint: implement more diversity initiatives)
  • A Harvard Business Review article points out that “A team with a member who shares a client’s ethnicity is 152% likelier than another team to understand that client”.

Effective managers must know how to hire and guide a diverse set of individuals. Companies that hold the “best place to work at” title are ones that extend their commitment to creating a workplace that is inclusive in all forms.

Let Employees Take the Lead

After implementing diversity standards, you want to create a positive diversity feedback loop.

Most companies have already implemented mentorship programs. Sponsorship is a relatively new topic and is now being implemented in top-performing companies. This program shows that sponsorship is the key to diversifying top leaders.

Best defined by HR Zone, a sponsor is a person of high influence in the same industry as their assigned protégé. The sponsor acts as a career guide who can influence their career journey, push them for promotion, and assign them to high profile internal job projects.

Deloitte has been a great example of the sponsorship program. Sponsors at Deloitte “focus, plan for commitments, and communicate as a means of increasing returns from their sponsorship investments”. Like Deloitte, be aware that sponsorship also requires company focus, planning as well as transparency to drive impact and innovation.

The role of the sponsor is to nurture protégés in order to seed a diverse leadership mindset. As we said earlier, having diversity as a pillar at the company will help boost and bring recognition to your program. This differs from the traditional mentorship program its builds back into the culture and trains others to be sponsors and continue in a similar legacy.

If sponsorship is something that is later down the line for you and your company, consider implementing new and improved forms of internal communication for employees. Managers and employees alike should feel comfortable approaching each other with concerns revolving around diversity. Ask for feedback regularly and encourage transparency company-wide.

Offer Creative Avenues and Encourage Feedback and Ideas for Employee Engagement

Consider using an online suggestion box to better gauge how employees are feeling about diversity in their role, in the immediate office, and the corporation. The data will present the companies strong suits as well as areas of weakness for how well it is doing cross-culturally – and campaigns can be public or anonymous.  Each location can gather its concerns and share it out with the remaining offices and challenges them to think outside the box. This builds better understanding throughout the organization and deepens employees’ appreciation for the company and one another. In fact, why not allow employees to take the lead with any diversity-related challenges that you’re trying to address at your organization.

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About the Author

Daniela Araya - Innovation Management Daniela Araya is the Marketing and Brand Intern at IdeaScale – leading idea management software for the enterprise and government. IdeaScale is innovation management software that links organizations to people with ideas. Those ideas can change the world – not just your business. Find ideas to aid in digital transformation, to face the age of automation, to fight climate change, inequality and beyond. IdeaScale has been recognized as a leader in customization, security, and public sector innovation and has a client roster that includes numerous industry leaders, such as the Cleveland Cavaliers, Doctors Without Borders, Freddie Mac, Marriott Vacations Worldwide, NASA, the United Way, the US Air Force, and many others.

Featured image via Unsplash.