Diversity and Inclusion

9 Ways to support racial diversity in the workplace

Here are 9 practical ways that HR teams and leaders can support racial diversity and equity in their organizations.

Rita N.A Akekelwa

Published on 

March 8, 2023

Updated on 

Time to Read

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Racial diversity is arguably one of the most important aspects of any work environment today. 

When employees align with their company’s mission and goals because they believe they support diverse and equitable values, they’re more engaged. And studies show that companies with higher employee engagement are 21% more profitable.

In the universal fight against racism, the world has made significant progress. However, there is still a lot of work to be done. We hear about the protests against racialized government policies and police brutality, but what about the less obvious instances of racism that happen right under our noses at work?

In this article, we’ll discuss racial discrimination and uncover some of the best ways HR teams can support racial diversity at work.

What is racial diversity in the workplace?

Racial diversity is the acknowledgement and appreciation of racial differences. Recognizing and valuing differences both within and between races. 

The word “race” is contentious. Dictionary.com has a great article that addresses the often interchangeably used terms “race” and “ethnicity.” They say,

“Formally defined, race is an arbitrary classification of modern humans, sometimes, especially formerly, based on any or a combination of various physical characteristics, as skin color, facial form, or eye shape”

It's important to acknowledge that when we talk about racial diversity at work or not just talking about diversity of skin color or physical characteristics, but differences of all kinds.

Diversity at work acknowledges the intersectionality of age groups, national origin, religion, ethnicity, gender, marital status, education, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation. In addition, diversity incorporates various viewpoints, values, and concepts.

Racial diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace aim to provide all workers with a better and more secure working environment. An environment where one may work safely and comfortably without considering their physical appearance or beliefs. These days, businesses prioritize workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion and provide other employee amenities or advantages.

Why Is racial diversity important in the workplace?

Businesses are becoming more aware of attracting and keeping a diverse workforce. Happy employees are essential to a business's ability to adapt, develop, and maintain a competitive advantage in the current business environment.

In today's world, representation and equal opportunity are more crucial than ever. HR and management should prioritize adding value to the organization by focusing on diversity. 

While there has been some progress, the statistics are still unfavorable, especially considering the millions of dollars organizations have recently spent on "Diversity and Inclusion" efforts. 

Your company can start working towards building a diverse and inclusive work culture by looking at how diversity winners drive real progress within their business. 

  • Companies supporting gender and racial diversity were 25% likelier to have above-average profitability. This increased from 21% in 2017 to 15% in 2014.
  • A study performed in the 2021 Gallup survey found that one in four black (24%) and Hispanic employees (24%) in the U.S. report being discriminated against at work. 
  • Every year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) receives an average of $112.7 million for racial discrimination violations. 
  • 60% of black executives in Fortune 500 organizations in charge of significant business lines believed they’ve had to work twice as hard and achieve twice as much as their peers to be seen on par with them.

Despite these statistics, diverse workforces have outperformed non-diverse workforces every time. Here are a few ways in which racial diversity can improve your company: 

  • Financial returns above their respective national industry medians are 35% more for businesses in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity.
  • Racial and ethnic diversity and greater financial performance are correlated linearly in the United States; for every 10% increase in racial and ethnic diversity on the senior leadership team, profits before interest and taxes (EBIT) improve by 0.8%.
  • The inconsistent performance of businesses in the same sector and nation suggests that diversity is a competitive differentiation that shifts market share in favor of more varied companies.

Employers should curate a list of the advantages of hiring a diverse workforce to overcome prejudice and internal resistance in the workplace. A diverse workforce has the following benefits. 

  • Improves worker efficiency and welfare
  • Decreases turnover expenses
  • Results in fewer internal conflicts and complaints
  • Increases access to broad and new markets for consumers
  • Improves revenue and productivity 
  • Increases innovation, adaptation, and flexibility
  • Improves management of the company's reputation
  • Results in risk management that is more effective (e.g. legal risks due to non-compliance)
  • Increases social cohesion by preventing discrimination and exclusion of specific worker categories

Businesses implementing more than the bare minimum of legal compliance are more likely to experience the above advantages. Companies should work to comprehend the social and cultural intricacies of embracing diversity and aspire to lead by example in this area.

How can you advocate for & support racial diversity in the workplace?

The first step to bringing about serious change is understanding bias and raising awareness around the subject. HR managers may not be able to alter the course of history, but they can start by transforming their world with small daily steps. 

Organizations are great settings for creating equity-promoting policies and practices because they are independent, relatively small, and give management a certain degree of control over cultural norms and procedural regulations.

Between supporting staff members in performing their best work onboarding new hires, and overseeing professional development, HR has a lot on its hands. Mentors can assist HR managers in handling the effects of racial diversity by implementing the following strategies: 

1. Establish a mentoring culture

Diversity mentoring programs have been proven to increase black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) representation in leadership and foster a more welcoming workplace environment. With the importance of role models and other support, mentoring impacts racial diversity at work.

Creating a company-wide mentoring program can support the growth of an inclusive culture in which people are open to one another's viewpoints and learning. Mentors support the organization as a whole by assisting in the development of high-potential leaders. 

They also provide concrete support for growth and continuous learning culture, fostering diverse and inclusive environments where collaboration flourishes.

2. Create awareness of unconscious bias

Although unconscious prejudice is a natural aspect of the human condition, it can hinder workplace diversity, inclusion, and equity and harm employee engagement. Sometimes, it can result in harassment and discrimination if not actively handled.

Opening up and promoting conversations on race, representation, diversity, and inclusion should be a key priority for all businesses. Provide information and links, host allyship programs, establish safe spaces for these discussions, instruct individuals on how to spot and denounce racism in the workplace, and don't avoid the subject.

3. Fair opportunities and equal pay

A level playing field and equal opportunity for all employees are requirements for managers. Businesses can use analytics to determine which employees are paid too little for jobs with comparable responsibilities. 

For instance, executives can examine patterns throughout multiple departments to get to the heart of underlying issues. Managers can use people analytics to identify discrepancies within their workforce. This knowledge can spot patterns or trends indicating that certain employee groups are underpaid in particular parts of the company.

4. Create a diversity training program

Employees who participate in diversity education learn how cultural differences affect how coworkers communicate and interact. It can deal with anything, including self-identity, handling conflict, and conceptions of time and communication styles. The effectiveness of diversity training is higher when it is discretionary rather than required.

Also, businesses should concentrate on providing training pertinent to their particular company and workforce, which aligns with their larger diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts and recognized difficulties. Mentors can create specialized training programs for the organization as well as those that are function-specific by working with a consultant and employing internal resources.

5. Acknowledge cultural holidays

Being aware of and recognizing a range of future religious and cultural holidays is one method to promote more tolerance, encourage diversity, and increase awareness. If there isn't a sizable crowd, ask individuals how they will spend the holiday as you wrap up a team call or meeting. 

Use your business's intranet to inform staff members about and assist them in keeping track of diverse religions or holiday celebrations. When organizing meetings, remember that people have various needs and may need flexibility.

6. Leverage employee resource groups

Employee resource groups (ERGs) are used to build and develop talent and give managers a safe learning space. ERGs aid in creating a culture of belonging and connection. 

Based on this, businesses can encourage participation from all staff members in addition to using ERGs, whether by establishing a different pay code for ERG meetings for simple time tracking or by pressing staff members to share objectives or projects the ERG is focusing on. 

Gaining support from senior executives is also crucial. In addition to promoting innovation, visibility, and awareness, an executive and leadership sponsor can assist in coordinating ERG events with corporate objectives. Senior leaders' pledges represent a broader company commitment to enhancing diversity, equity, and inclusion practices.

7. Mix up teams

Understanding and drawing inspiration from various viewpoints, experiences, values, and cultures is crucial to diversity. Being stuck in the workplace is comparable to concentrating on a specific region, department, or team.

Teams will be more creative if they can access a vast talent pool, allowing for improved viewpoints. Invite someone from a different gender, ethnic background, or age to offer their input on a project or initiative. Job shadowing is a common way to do this.

The benefits of diverse teams on creativity and invention have been extensively discussed, and the case for an inclusive culture is only getting stronger. Experiences with various viewpoints are valuable because they stimulate original thought, new connections between ideas, and novel problem-solving methods.

8. Leave room for employee feedback

Managers should encourage employees to provide feedback. This way, they can make wiser decisions and lessen or eradicate any prejudices or patterns of discrimination within the organization.

Employees can utilize mentor engagement and check-in technologies to enable talks and openly express their feelings towards HR professionals and managers.

9. Track progress

Initiatives for diversity, equity, and inclusion take time to succeed. In fact, structural adjustments to workforce strategies and procedures can take a long time, primarily as organizations deal with new issues related to hiring and managing their personnel. 

A cultural transition takes time, so businesses must set goals and monitor their development to determine whether their efforts are having an impact. This will help keep leaders accountable for achieving their long-term objectives by demonstrating which techniques are effective and which ones are not.

Bottom line

Companies must use best practices to create a workplace encouraging and celebrating racial diversity. This ensures a successful DEI plan that accepts all racial groups and backgrounds.

This issue can't be resolved in a single HR department, and minority individuals shouldn't have to stand up for themselves. Instead, it might require outsourced mentors to step in and lead the workforce in the right direction. 

Organizations must evaluate how well their DEI programs are working and identify areas requiring even more attention. Businesses must understand the need for diversity, equity, and inclusion as more than desirable traits.

With the right mentors and positive leadership, employee engagement will increase as they arrive at work every day, whether in person or virtually, feeling connected, safe, and heard.

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