Diversity and Inclusion

How to promote diversity, equity, inclusion, & belonging in the workplace

Here are 13 actionable ways to promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in the workplace.

Saheed Hassan

Published on 

May 12, 2022

Updated on 

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How to promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in the workplace (DEIB) has been a point of discussion for decades. With the globalization of the workforce and the rise of social media, organizations are increasingly exposed to a diverse range of perspectives—including major movements like the Women's March on Washington and The Silence Breakers, who helped expose historical sexual abuse within the entertainment industry. These changes have led leading companies to now taking steps to increase DEIB values within their workforces.

However, despite these efforts, there are few results to show, according to the Mckinsey Work in place 2021 report. The report shows how women of colour accounted for only 4% of C-suite leaders. As of 2020, there are 35 women CEOs among Fortune 500 companies, which is an all-time high record. If you compare this with the fact that 46.9% of the US workforce is women, one can understand how women have been underrepresented.

African-American women's labour force participation rates are higher than white females, but they're more likely to work in low-paying occupations. Also, Blacks and Hispanics' unemployment rate continues to move upward compared to their White counterparts. Promoting diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging is essential. 

This article will explore the most practical solutions to promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in the workplace. It will also discuss what it looks like to promote DEIB.

What does an organization look like that promotes diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging?

A truly DEIB organization values all its members, regardless of their background or identity. Such an organization has a wide range of employees, with each person bringing their unique perspective to the table. There is a strong sense of community, with everyone working together towards a common goal. And everyone feels respected, valued, and has a sense of belonging. 

This isn't just good for the employees; it's also good for business. After all, a company that taps into the talents and perspectives of a wider range of people is likely to be more innovative and successful than one that relies on a homogeneous workforce. 

Promoting diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging begins with a plan

As more organizations strive to promote DEIB, it is clear that these efforts must be grounded in a comprehensive plan. Without a plan, companies are likely to fall back on familiar patterns and ways of doing things, even exclusionary patterns.

Assessing your current state

To create a good DEIB plan, first, assess your organization's current state. Assessment includes the workforce composition of underrepresented groups and the organization's policies and practices. 

Setting goals and deadlines

Align your DEIB goals with your company's mission and values. Set reasonable deadlines. Once you have these goals, start implementing specific initiatives that will help you achieve them. However, it's important to have a plan for these initiatives, too, so they are effective and everyone knows their responsibilities.

All this to say, don't shoot from the hip; rather, plan out how you will promote DEIB.

13 initiatives to promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in your workplace

Here we highlight the most practical initiatives for organizations looking forward to strengthening DEIB and making their business a thriving place to work.

1. Diversity mentorship programs

To create a more diverse and inclusive workplace, establish mentorship programs for employees from underrepresented groups. These programs allow new employees to connect with other individuals who have gone through similar experiences providing guidance and support. Creating a diversity mentoring program provides several benefits to underrepresented and minorities in the following ways:

  • Increased sense of belonging for employees from underrepresented groups. 
  • A greater understanding of the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
  • Improved communication and collaboration between employees, fostering a sense of community.
  • Allowing experienced employees to share their knowledge and insights with newer staff members.

Organizations looking to create a diverse mentoring program can choose from among these various mentoring programs:

Sponsorship—refers to a system in which senior employees provide guidance and support to their junior colleagues, helping them advance in their careers by providing networking opportunities or recommending them for potential job openings within the company.

Reverse Mentoring—is when a junior employee mentors a senior employee (see multi-generational workforce below)

Employees Resource Group—the goal is to provide support and resources to marginalized employees and to help foster a more inclusive workplace culture.

2. Start, support, and encourage participation in Employee Resource Groups (ERG)

90% of Fortune 500 companies have one or more ERGs. However, having these groups is not enough. Organizations need to start, support, and encourage participation. First, without strong leadership support, it can be difficult for these groups to achieve their goals and impact the organization. 

Many ERGs are not well-integrated into the organization and lack visibility. As a result, participation can be low, and members can become disengaged. Importantly, ERGs may struggle to define their roles within the organization without a clear mandate, or purpose, losing traction among employees. To do this successfully, here are the ins and outs of employee resources.

3. Diversity training

Provide your employees with diversity training to educate them about the different types of diversity, recognizing and appreciating it, and working together more effectively. Diversity training helps employees understand the importance of inclusion and belonging in the workplace.

Diversity training address issues of harassment and discrimination in the workplace. By ensuring that all employees are aware of these issues and how to prevent them, organizations can create a safe and inclusive environment for everyone. If your organization hasn't built one yet—here is a good resource on how to build a diverse workplace.

4. Educating employees on unconscious bias

This helps increase employee knowledge around diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. There are several methods that companies use to address the issue of unconscious bias in the workplace. One such method is to provide employees with training to recognize their own biases and challenge themselves to be more mindful of their actions and words. Do this through educational seminars, resource materials, and conversations with colleagues about unconscious bias.

Encourage your employees to take the Implicit Bias training to educate them on unconscious bias. Harvard has an online Implicit Association test that's accessible to anyone interested. The test will reveal any implicit attitudes your employee didn't know they have—this is done by measuring your employees' attitudes and beliefs that they are (unwantonly) unable or unwilling to report.

5. Introduce leaders with diverse talents for sponsorship opportunities

Increase the chances of success for underrepresented groups and send a strong message that your company is committed to these values. Sponsoring leaders from diverse backgrounds allow businesses to tap into the unique perspectives and experiences that these individuals bring to the table. By providing them with sponsorship opportunities, companies can access a broad range of talent and knowledge, which helps drive creativity, innovation, and collaboration within the workplace. 

6. Survey employees anonymously about how well your company supports DEIB

Identify areas where your company can improve its support for DEIB. Use this information to create or revise your DEIB strategy. Additionally, communicate your DEIB strategy to all employees and ensure everyone understands their role in promoting DEIB in the workplace. Create KPIs to track progress on your DEIB goals and check that your company is progressing towards its DEIB objectives.

7. Celebrate all holidays

Man has been described as Homo Festus— diversity celebrates all people – their uniqueness, perspectives, and life experiences. And what better way to show your employees that you value their diversity than by celebrating all holidays? This sends the message that you respect all cultures and traditions and that everyone's contributions are important. It also shows that you're willing to make accommodations to ensure everyone feels included.

Many workplaces choose to celebrate all holidays with their employees to show that they value inclusivity. List of important holiday celebrations you should know about to create a more inclusive workplace:

  • Black History Month
  • Women's History Month
  • LGBTQ+ History Month
  • Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
  • Indigenous Peoples Day
  • Halloween
  • Día de Los Muertos
  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa
  • New Year's Eve/Day
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • Presidents' Day
  • Cinco de Mayo
  • Memorial Day
  • Juneteenth
  • Fourth of July
  • Labor Day

8. Host open conversations about inequality in the workplace and welcome feedback

Workplace inequality is a complex and sensitive issue that can be difficult to address. People often feel uncomfortable discussing these issues, but it's essential for creating lasting change. When hosting these conversations, it is essential to welcome all feedback, even if it is critical. 

Be proactive in seeking out employee feedback, especially from underrepresented groups. By starting these conversations and genuinely listening to what employees have to say, you can begin to take concrete steps toward creating an equal workplace.

9. Support a multi-generational workforce

The workplace is becoming increasingly multi-generational. And organizations need to adapt to changing demographics. To support a multi-generational workforce is to provide training, learning, and development opportunities. Employees of all ages can benefit from upskilling and broadening their knowledge. Webinars, e-learning courses, and on-site workshops help employees stay up-to-date on the latest trends in their field.

10. Review hiring practices and update them

The reality of our labour force is skewed—there are more men than women in STEM and a bias against women in STEM, according to Forbes contributor Janice Gassam Asare. The US Bureau of Labor data shows that African Americans and Hispanics are more likely to work in production, transportation, and material moving industries than their White or Asian counterparts.

Your hiring practices must reflect this diversity as your workforce becomes increasingly diverse. First, identify areas where your current practices may be exclusionary or discriminatory. For example, are you only recruiting from a small number of schools or organizations? Are you using language in job postings that could discourage certain groups of people from applying? Once you've identified any potential areas of concern, take steps to address them. 

Evaluate how positions are being filled and identify any potential biases. This tool helps detect subtle bias in job ads. Companies need to intentionally hire for diversity to avoid this slide into a homogenous workforce. We have a great case study on how Mailshake increased their number of females applicants from 8% to 25%

11. Provide flexible working arrangements

Flexible working arrangements should not be an option for an organization but a necessity—considering that roughly 25% of the US population have a disability that affects their major life activities.

A recent study by EY 2021 Work Reimagined Employee Survey found that nearly 54% of employees say they would leave their current job if it didn't offer flexible working arrangements. Some employees, like those with disabilities or working parents, may do better with flextime, giving them more freedom to decide when and where they work.

Show employees that you value their well-being and understand their personal responsibilities outside of work. Providing flexible working arrangements is a win-win for both employers and employees. Work flexibility is essential; 59% of knowledgeable employees prefer it over salary and other benefits. 

12. Promoting an environment of respect and open-mindedness 

Think zero-tolerance policy for any form of discrimination or harassment while encouraging employees to speak up if they feel like they are being mistreated. Ensure all employees feel like they can be their authentic selves at work.

13. Share Goals and Progress

Achieving diversity, inclusion, equality, and belonging in any organization is a complex and multi-faceted goal. One crucial component of success is communication - sharing goals and progress with all organization members. When everyone is aware of the goals, they are easily held accountable, increasing involvement. 

Additionally, tracking goal progress helps ensure that everyone is on the same page and that the goals are realistic. By sharing this information with the entire organization, you create transparency and accountability for the goal of achieving diversity, inclusion, equality, and belonging.

Final thoughts

Promoting diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in the workplace is not an easy quick-fix; rather, it's the right thing to do. It takes time, effort, and a lot of planning. However, it's worth it. Organizations that promote these values see improved productivity, creativity, and innovation. They also experience less employee turnover and litigation. 

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