Equality & Diversity In The Workplace: Definition, Tips, and Strategies

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For many organizations, equality and diversity in the workplace is a key subject. Not only in terms of corporate culture, but in terms of reporting, analytics, and overall performance. Throughout this article, we want to break down the concept and what it all means. 

This blog post addresses these issues, dives into various models, like the Simpson’s Diversity Index, and some very helpful tips and strategies surrounding the promotion of equality and diversity in the workplace.

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What Is Equality & Diversity In The Workplace?

The British HR firm, Croner, defines diversity in a work context as, “having employees from a variety of backgrounds” such as different countries, physical appearance, gender, and sexual orientation. 

But the technical use of ‘diversity’ actually comes from science: Simpson’s Diversity Index. According to the Barcelona Field Studies Centre a diversity index is, a quantitative “measure of diversity which takes into account the number of species present, as well as the relative abundance of each species.”

Let’s not get distracted by the fact that this index uses a scientific formula to measure bugs, weeds, and critters. It’s the principle behind it that matters. In the outdoors, a more diverse environment is generally a healthier one (think: The Circle of Life). It turns out, the same is true for workplaces!

Why Does Embracing Equality and Diversity in the Workplace Matter?

Embracing a policy of active equality, diversity, and engagement is not simply good for people who are minorities or diverse themselves. The very nature of employing people who see the world in a different way is also good for business.

The Business Benefits of Equality & Diversity

Equality and diversity bring various benefits to the business as a whole. We’ve listed five of them below, and include the research which backs it all up. 

Increased Productivity and Innovation

When the Boston Consulting Group looked at 1,700 companies, across eight countries, they discovered that diversity improves revenue! They found that organizations with higher than average diversity on their management teams reported 19% higher revenue.

Better Problem-Solving and Decision-Making

Harvard Business Review found that cognitively diverse teams (those who think about problems in different ways) are faster problem-solvers than teams of people who think alike. 

Higher Profits 

Research by McKinsey & Co in 2018 on 1,000 companies in 12 countries found that more gender-diverse companies were 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability. They also found that more ethnically and culturally diverse companies had 33% better performance!

Higher Employee Engagement

Research from Deloitte Australia found that when employees think their organization is highly committed to and supportive of diversity, and they feel highly included, then they are 80% more likely to agree that they work in a high performing organization.

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Benefits of Equality and Diversity In The Workplace for HR

Clearly, businesses benefit from having teams with a great amount of both equality and diversity. But, as we cover in our HR Lexicon article on diversity management and how it can help grow your business, a more diverse place can also benefit HR.

How is that? By providing:

  • Greater employee satisfaction, because teams feel understood and valued.
  • An interesting and inspiring working environment.
  • A positive company image that attracts top talent and high-potential associates.
  • A richer, more creative, more interesting corporate culture.
  • Enhanced company loyalty.

When a company is able to provide these elements above, something almost magical happens: People realize they matter! And, the knock-on benefits flow from this great realization.

As an HR leader, you’ll first find it easier to hire people. You’ll also get a different range of perspectives that help improve product design, customer interactions, and even business strategy. Creativity improves because there’s a melting pot of fresh, new ideas! 

People are then even less likely to leave the business (or leave as quickly) because they feel welcomed, no matter how different they are (remember: diversity of thought is important too!).

How Do You Promote Equality & Diversity In The Workplace?

Despite the clear benefits of creating a more diverse, more equal, and more inclusive work environment, many companies still lag behind.

The stats in this whitepaper published by the recruitment firm, Robert Walters, and supported by The Employers’ Network for Equality & Inclusion (ENEI: the UK’s leading employer network covering all aspects of equality and inclusion in the workplace) are shocking:

“85% of employers say that increasing diversity in their workplace is a priority, and 73% of employers believe diversity is important to encourage creative and innovative thinking within their company.

But almost half (46%) of employers do not have programs in place to attract diverse candidates!”

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What Can You Do About it?

It helps to start by being conscious of bias, and encouraging diversity of thought, openness to new ideas and new cultures, and then get serious about hiring more diverse people with different abilities and disabilities, qualifications, ages, religious beliefs, ancestral backgrounds, genders, sexual preferences, and, of course, skin colors.

The CIPD suggests the steps below to improve equality and diversity in the workplace because, as they say, “true inclusion is created by embedding inclusive practices and values into the organization’s way of doing things.”

8 Action Steps to Improve Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion

Examine your organizational culture, climate, and values.

  • Watch out for indirect discrimination (It’s not just ‘harmless banter.’ It hurts!)
  • Look at your policies and practices (and change them if they need changing!)
  • Get advice if needed.
  • Be proactive (change the rules if they’re discriminatory).
  • Build commitment at a senior level.
  • Help managers understand what it means, look at the data, and take conscious action to remove biases.
  • Involve all employees.

These steps are just the beginning. For a more thorough checklist on how to manage for equality and diversity, you can check out this document from the Chartered Management Institute. It includes helpful tips like these:

  • Identify diversity champions and ask them for ways you can improve diversity at work.
  • Create a vision for diversity which you then communicate clearly to all employees.
  • Consider diversity training but, more importantly, create a practical action plan to follow up on your diversity champions’ suggestions.
  • Get employees involved. You can develop mentoring schemes or encourage employee networks in a way that gives them a voice.

Measuring Equality and Diversity Is the First Step to Improving It

The bigger your organization gets, the harder it is to measure all aspects of it. However you choose to address the issue of equality, diversity, and inclusion in your company: Make sure you document it! 

It’s not always easy to be in HR when there just isn’t enough day to keep track of the many bits and pieces of information the law requires you to record – and it’s easy to see equality and diversity as just another one of those boxes you have to tick.

But if you use an HR information system (HRIS) like Personio to help you manage the drudgery of paperwork and employee reporting you can produce strategic HR initiatives to help promote a more diverse, interesting culture at work – and benefit from it.

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