HR Mavericks

Eddy’s HR Mavericks Encyclopedia

Workplace Diversity

Your company, prospective candidates, and current employees are relying on you to understand and support your company’s diversity initiatives. Learn why it's essential to your company's success, and how to plan to increase your workplace diversity.

What Is Workplace Diversity?

Webster's dictionary defines diversity as, "the state of being diverse: variety.” But what does that mean to you and your company? Company diversity is when an organization intentionally employs a workforce of individuals who have different backgrounds and characteristics. Those characteristics include gender, religion, race, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, education, and more. As HR professionals whose role is to do what's best for the company and employees, we need to properly educate company management and work together to create a diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization.

Why Is Workplace Diversity Important?

According to The Harvard Review, The case for establishing a truly diverse workforce, at all organizational levels, grows more compelling each year. . . . The financial impact — as proven by multiple studies — makes this a no-brainer. Company diversity is important for more than the bottom dollar as well:
  • Increases innovation. Having diversity in your company promotes creativity. Employees from different cultures can collaborate and conceptualize ideas in new ways. Employees that come from different backgrounds offer different perspectives. A diverse workplace provides an opportunity for a company to see something from many different angles. It can help a company avoid groupthink and be innovative.
  • Attracts talent. A Deloitte survey revealed, “that 83 percent of millennials feel empowered and engaged in the workplace when they believe their company fosters an authentically inclusive culture.” If your company wants to attract top talent, staying current on what is attractive to the workforce will help foster interest and enthusiasm.
  • Fosters integrity and inclusion. Far too often we can let our companies get lost in increasing profits, expanding into new markets, and growing the business. However, we need to remain focused on what is just, humane and kind. Focusing on diversity in your workforce ensures your company reflects these values and the widely diverse culture it serves. A big benefit of workplace diversity is that it can make all employees feel more welcomed. If a company’s workforce is diverse, employees that come from different backgrounds will feel more accepted and comfortable.

Equality vs. Diversity

It is important to distinguish between equality and diversity. Equality means you are still hiring the best employees for the job. You don’t hire a candidate based on a characteristic of theirs, but rather on their qualifications. You don’t ever want to discriminate or promote discrimination. Diversity means that you recognize and value employees' differences.

Types of Workplace Diversity

Workplace diversity can come in many forms. It is important to understand and embrace the different types of workplace diversity.

Cultural Diversity

This category relates to a person’s ethnicity or social and family norms. This can have a big impact on a company’s culture and is important to recognize, as employee recognition by employees’ bosses would make 53% of employees more willing to stay at their job, according to a survey done at Glassdoor.

Gender Diversity

The most basic form of diversity is gender diversity. This can really vary, depending on the type of industry you work in. Regardless of industry, it is important for a company to embrace gender diversity and ensure that an employee, regardless of gender, will want to work in a specific kind of field. One example of this might be a female working in a predominantly male industry, such as a lawyer or veterinarian.

Racial Diversity

The issue of racial diversity probably gets the most attention and is most visible. Race is a big part of an employee’s identity, so it should be recognized and valued. Race can also be the most divisive in some workplaces, so it is important for a company to put an emphasis on workplace diversity and celebrate it.

Tips for Measuring Workplace Diversity

Measuring workplace diversity requires learning more about it, getting the support of company leadership, and examining whether your processes are truly promoting diversity.

Tip 1: Educate Yourself on What Diversity Means

Often HR professionals are left to figure out company diversity alone, so it’s important to stay connected and keep learning. Based on your learning style, find education tailored to learning what diversity means. Seek knowledge from people who do not look like you and have different beliefs. If your company offers professional development, take courses to improve your understanding of the subject and understand how to increase your company’s diversity.

Tip 2: Align Your Company’s Mission With Your Diversity Goals

Diversity will not look the same in every organization, so a good first step is to consider your company's mission, vision, and values and ensure your plan aligns with your business goals. A few suggestions are:
  • Look at your metrics. Are your employees different ages, races, and genders? Does your workforce employ workers with different levels of education? Do you hire employees with learning disabilities?
  • Consider your recruiting strategy. Does your recruiting strategy reflect the diverse company you want to create? Is there a way to omit names, addresses and schools from your recruiting process? Is your hiring panel diverse? Where are you finding your talent? Do your job descriptions exclude any potential candidates?
  • Pay attention to your hiring process. Is your interview process accessible for someone with a learning disability, speech impediment, or other learning disabilities?
  • Examine your policies. Are your policies inclusive? Keep in mind that inclusive policies are far broader than excluding Columbus Day or adding Juneteenth. An inclusive approach considers that we all have different values and beliefs and has policies in place that honor that.

Tip 3: Gain Executive Leadership Support

Once you have a plan and can demonstrate how diversity can help the organization, it’s critical to gain the support, budget and commitment from your leadership team. The unfortunate reality is that without the support of leadership, you will not be able to make meaningful changes.

How to Promote Workplace Diversity

The best way to promote company diversity is to live, respect and honor diversity yourself. After George Floyd’s murder, many companies felt compelled to act. Even though they issued statements and made donations, most didn’t do the challenging work to create an impactful change. You can do the work by sharing your company’s diversity goals on your public website, directing your charitable donations to organizations based on your employee support, getting out into the community, being involved, and being consistent.

Step 1: Create a Diversity Statement

Writing a diversity statement should be an inclusive process involving employees and leadership from all levels. Why would your employees take ownership of something they did not agree to? The American Psychological Association states that “feeling valued at work was linked to better physical and mental health.” Including the voices of your diverse workforce on your company diversity statement will increase the overall sense of value in your organization. Goals are a vital part of the planning process. Create KPIs and SMART goals for your diversity plan and report them to your board of directors, leadership team, and the general public. Transparency is key. Here are a few suggestions to consider before drafting your diversity goals as a measurement of where your company is now and how you will need to improve:
  • Breakdown of applicants applied vs. hired according to gender, race and education
  • Ethnic breakdown of leadership team
  • Pay transparency
  • Exit interview data
  • Current diversity initiatives

Step 2: Encourage Open Conversations

One key step to promoting workplace diversity is to have open and honest conversations about it. Create an environment where people feel safe to speak openly about their differences. This can lead to many important conversations. These open conversations can start with management being open about diversity in the workplace.

Step 3: Teach About Diversity

A step further than having open conversations about diversity is to implement diversity courses. This shows employees that the company is serious about diversity. It is a formal setting where employees can learn more about workplace diversity, some of the struggles their co-workers have that they might not realize, and their own unconscious biases and behaviors that may lead to discrimination or a tense culture.

Step 4: Value All Diversity

It is important that individuals of all backgrounds feel recognized and appreciated. Depending on your company’s diversity, this might be more difficult for some than others. For example, if your company is in a predominantly religious area, it is still important to recognize the diversity those religions offer. Whatever may be the case, you want to ensure that all diversity is valued at your organization.

Examples of Workplace Diversity

Having discussed the importance of workplace diversity, let's look at some specific examples.

Diverse Executive Team

One example of workplace diversity is when the executive team consists of individuals of different races, sexes, religions, or sexual orientations. For example, this could be a white Caucasian female, an African-American male, a gay male, and a Catholic female. Having an executive team that is diverse can be very powerful for the rest of the company, as they can see management leading the way on diversity.

Creating a Diversity Committee

Many companies have committees that focus on workplace diversity. Some companies even hire employees focused solely on company diversity. This is a great example of the importance and emphasis currently being placed on workplace diversity. It also shows employees through your actions as a company that you truly do care about workplace diversity. You could create a committee in a number of ways. You could pick people from different backgrounds, you could hire someone that has studied or specializes in workplace diversity, or even pick at random and have the employees trained on workplace diversity.

Hiring in a New Market

Remote work gives us the opportunity to diversify the workplace by hiring employees across the country or even in different countries. This creates opportunities for employees with very different backgrounds to work with each other, creating a more diverse workforce.
Tanner Pierce, PHR

Tanner Pierce, PHR

Tanner has over 4 years of HR professional experience in various fields of HR. He has experience in hiring, recruiting, employment law, unemployment, onboarding, outboarding, and training to name a few. Most of his experience comes from working in the Professional Employer and Staffing Industries. He has a passion for putting people in the best position to succeed and really tries to understand the different backgrounds people come from.
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Kim Bozeman, SHRM-SCP, PHR, RPO

Kim Bozeman, SHRM-SCP, PHR, RPO

With over 20 years in operations, Kimberly Bozeman, SHRM-SCP, PHR, looks at HR a little differently than your average consultant. She can talk ROIs, KPIs, and P&Ls, and understands that business needs to make a profit to stay in business. Today she takes the best practices from Fortune 500 companies and translates them for small businesses. You’d never send a football team out on the field without a solid offensive and defensive plan. When it comes to running a business, you need a solid operations and human resources plan too. As a serious football fan (don’t call me during the game!), Kim can coach you on how to build the best team to support your business goals. People are the key to maximizing your profit and your productivity. As the founder of KNB Sensible Solutions, Kim works with small businesses to develop the structures and processes you need so you can grow and scale while staying compliant with all of California’s rules, regulations, and guidelines. Kim holds a BA in Political Science from CSU, Stanislaus and certification in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the workplace from the University of Southern Florida Business school. Kim is actively involved in her community and is an advocate for social justice. She’s the Deputy Director of the Voter Access Project, advocates for small businesses with the National Small Business Association (NSBA) Leadership Council, and on the Cal-IPGCA Cohort 2022 helping develop public-private partnerships.
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Frequently asked questions
Other Related Terms
Accountability in the Workplace
Company Core Values
Company Mission
Company Personality
Company Purpose
Company Vision
Corporate Social Responsibility
Culture Add
Culture Audit
Culture Committee
Culture Fit
Culture Interview
Culture Strategy
Employee Loyalty
Mission, Vision and Values
Occupational Folklore
Open Door Policy
Organizational Commitment
People-First Culture
Sustainability in the Workplace
Team Building Activities
Team Culture
Toxic Work Environment
Transparency in the Workplace
Workplace Culture
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