Diversity, equity, and inclusion

4 Easy Ways to Build a More Diverse Workplace

Diverse workplaces are more productive, more successful, and have lower employee churn. This article discusses four ways you can improve diversity at your company. 

Kinjal Dagli

Sr. Content Marketing Manager at Together

Published on 

June 3, 2021

Updated on 

October 8, 2023

Time to Read

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Companies that aren’t intentionally hiring for diversity will quickly slide into a homogenous workforce. In case after case, workplaces that improve diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) see an improvement in employee engagement, productivity, profitability, and employee retention. 

💌 Read our Mailshake Case Study to find out how their company went from 4% women to 25% in just X months by adjusting their hiring practices.

The State of Diversity in the Workplace

Workplace diversity has seen a lot of gains in the last few years, including increases in the number of women CEOs. But there is still a lot of work to be done in all areas of business across all diversity measures, including race, ethnicity, ability, age, gender, and sexual orientation. 

Women are still underrepresented in leadership

Despite gains in recent years, the majority of company leaders are still white, able-bodied men. In addition, women are less likely than men to apply for roles where they don’t meet 100% of the qualifications. 

A LinkedIn study on job search behaviors between men and women revealed that women “pre-screen” themselves out of jobs and are less likely to ask for referrals. The result? They apply for 20% fewer jobs than their male counterparts. 

📚 Related: Why women need mentorship in the workplace 

Mentors tend to choose protégés who look like them

The “mini-me effect” — choosing a mentee that looks like you — influences about 71% of mentoring relationships

With marginalized workers, particularly women of color, locked out of many leadership roles, that also means fewer mentors for them. Most mentees (80%) want a mentor who has a career they’d like to emulate. 

Companies are doing more for DEIB, but it may not be enough 

Two-thirds of business leaders say diversity and inclusion is an important issue for businesses, and DEIB programs continue to be a top priority for HR departments and L&D teams.

Understandably, employees from marginalized communities are the most concerned with DEIB in their workplaces. This is particularly true when it comes to race. According to the Pew Research Center, about 78% of Black workers appreciate the focus on DEIB in the workplace, compared to just 47% of White workers.

The majority of workers think their employers place enough importance on diversity and it influences where they work. In the United States, 75% of workers say DEIB affects what jobs they apply for and whether they accept an offer. This percentage is even higher in some countries: China (89%) and Brazil (88%). 

Benefits of hiring diverse talent

A lack of diversity stunts innovation and leaves companies uncompetitive. McKinsey’s Diversity Wins report supports what many HR teams have known for a while: diversity has a positive impact on nearly every aspect of business and the work environment. 

A diverse workforce offers a wide range of different perspectives. This improves decision-making processes, encourages new ideas, and creates a more inclusive workplace. But it benefits organizations in other ways, too:

Diversity is also the right thing to do. Plus, organizations can become more inclusive with some simple adjustments to their hiring practices. 

1. Diversify where your company sources applicants

Diversity includes a range of factors, such as gender, age, race, ethnicity, age, ability, and more. When you diversify where you post job openings, how you recruit entry-level workers, and your networking events, you increase the variety of job seekers within your applicant pool. 

  • Recruiting — Look at smaller, regional universities, community colleges, and HBCUs when seeking out interns and entry-level employees.
  • Job Boards — Post jobs on niche sites that focus on women, minorities, or other countries.  
  • Networking — Partner with minority-owned businesses. Support veterans groups in your community. Volunteer with local nonprofits. 

How you decide where to look for candidates from different backgrounds depends on the goals for your diversity mix. Many job boards specialize in helping you find more diverse employees:

Kickstart Careers is a job board specially aggregated for emerging, female engineers.

2. Write neutral, inclusive job descriptions

Job descriptions can include gendered language, unnecessary qualifications, and a host of other factors that discourage a diverse applicant pool. 

To make job descriptions more inclusive, follow these four steps: 

  1. Make a wish list of skills. 
  2. Narrow your list to 3-5 must-have requirements. 
  3. Peer-review your job description for bias. 
  4. Share your DEIB efforts with candidates. 

Remove the unnecessary requirements

You’ve probably seen a meme of a job description asking for absurd, mile-long requirements. They aren’t being selective, they’re not being honest about what they actually need. Don’t hamper your hiring efforts by waiting for a perfect candidate (that probably doesn’t exist). 

Instead, ask yourself what skills are needed for the job, and then narrow it down from there. Cross out all the nice-to-haves and only include the essential skills and experiences. Try to keep your list at 3-5 truly essential skills. 

Audit job postings for coded or gendered language 

Coded language, in particular, can harm your efforts for hiring diversely, particularly when it comes to different genders. Women tend to have a larger confidence gap than men and are more likely to experience imposter syndrome. 

Even a simple phrase like “must have a strong background in…” feeds into preconceived notions about gender. Instead, use a phrase like “must have a working knowledge in…” 

Include DEIB efforts in your job postings

Once you’ve audited your job description, it’s a good idea to include a section on any efforts your company is making to become more diverse and inclusive.  

But it can’t be a PR blurb. Diversity needs to be baked into your company culture. That means, you have to nurture your DEIB program and make sure it’s effective.

3. Remove personal information from job applications

Certain information can be more prone to bias in the early stages of recruiting. Blind recruitment can help avoid some of those most common areas of discrimination. 

Gail Tolstoi-Miller, CEO of consultnetworx, says even a mailing address can lead to unconscious biases. What if the candidate has a long commute, or lives in a bad neighborhood?

Areas that are typically eliminated during blind recruitment include:

Many companies, in recent years, will incorporate tools that remove characteristics that could lead to an unconscious bias among recruiters. They’ll use blind hiring software like:

Some organizations ask for resumes without identifying information. For example, The University of Minnesota asks candidates to submit two copies of their resume and cover letter, one with personal information removed. This lets them focus on a candidate’s knowledge, skills, and abilities, rather than demographic information.

4. Pair new employees with mentors 

Connecting both new and seasoned employees via mentorship programs drives diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Mentorships give workers valuable face time with leadership, a critical aspect of professional development for marginalized people at your organization.  

Providing mentors to all employees:

  • Invites discussion around diversity issues in the workplace;
  • Provides direct lines of communication between business leaders and employees of diverse backgrounds;
  • Encourages mutual understanding of each other perspectives;
  • Develops employee skills and gives them access to new training;
  • Builds their professional networks;
  • Supports a strong company culture and a diverse workforce, 
  • And much more.

Formal mentoring programs support diversity

Talented employees crave development and want to have people in their network they can go to for guidance, advice, feedback, and counsel. But it can be awkward to ask someone to be your mentor — even more so if you’ve just joined the company and you’re from a marginalized background. 

You can keep your mentorship programs inclusive of all workers by formalizing the way mentors and mentees are matched up. This reduces the effect of “mini-me” biases and ensures every employee has a mentor. 

Employee resource groups promote belonging and inclusivity

Many companies organize employee resource groups (ERGs) to give their team members a built-in network of people who share certain characteristics. In fact, 90% of companies have at least one ERG

ERGs can be made from a wide variety of groupings, including: 

  • Identity – ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, or family
  • Interest – baking, cycling, reading, travel, pets
  • Career – accounting, marketing, sales
  • Employee Wellness – mental health, nutrition, exercise

Our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Mentorship Handbook offers tips on how to be a great mentor in a way that promotes diversity and inclusivity.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Mentoring Handbook

A more diverse and inclusive organization doesn’t happen by accident

The topic of diversity and inclusion can be overwhelming, but solving the lack of diversity in your workplace is actually pretty simple. Make an active effort to hire from multiple marginalized groups, such as:

  • Women (especially parents and caregivers)
  • People of Color
  • People with disabilities 
  • Neurodivergent people (autism, ADHD, etc.)
  • Workers from developing countries
  • First-generation immigrants

Want to make a bigger impact? Look for candidates whose identities intersect multiple groups. They’re the ones most affected by biases in hiring practices.

You can also adjust the workplace to accommodate more types of workers. 

  • For working parents, consider offering remote or hybrid work with flexible scheduling. 
  • To attract workers from different nationalities, you could replace degree requirements with skills assessments. 
  • Neurodivergent folks could benefit from alternative interviewing practices

The point is to bring diversity to all roles and all aspects of the workplace. DEIB is not just an HR initiative, it’s an active, living strategy that informs every aspect of business. 

But you don’t have to solve the entire problem all at once. Just get started in one area and branch out. You’ll quickly make a difference that your teams and employees notice. Looking for a solution that fosters a diverse workplace? You need a mentoring program powered by Together.

Book a demo to find out how we can help you increase your employee morale and create more opportunities for marginalized employees to advance their careers. 

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