Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace
Our labor force is more diverse than ever before, and many organizations are incorporating the principles of respect, diversity, and inclusion in every way possible. As workplaces aim to employ more workers from diverse backgrounds, embracing the talents and abilities of people from a variety of backgrounds, races, faiths, and ethnicities can promote new perspectives and foster innovation. Let’s explore some realistic, practical guidelines for creating an inclusive workplace.
What are Diversity and Inclusion?
Diversity is “the practice of including or involving people from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds and of different genders, sexual orientations, etc.” Diversity in the workplace is an asset that can challenge us to learn, grow and embrace different experiences. To practice inclusion of more diverse populations, companies should “provide equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized.”
Unfortunately, these practices and sentiments are not always shared by everyone, and as a result, some employees may experience workplace discrimination, which is the unfair treatment of one or more members of a specified group as compared with others. When an individual does not feel included in their workplace, they could begin to experience it as a hostile work environment, preventing collaboration and creativity. But employers have the ability to be a part of a movement where inclusivity is fostered, admired, and encouraged.
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What are the Legalities Surrounding Diversity?
Cultural competency refers to how well individuals can work with others who may speak a different native language, celebrate different holidays, participate in a different religion, hold different beliefs, come from different socioeconomic groups, or have different life experiences than they do, including protected characteristics.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the EEOC), discrimination in the workplace is illegal based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, and genetic information (including family medical history). The EEOC's rules on discrimination also include protections from harassment, sexual harassment, and retaliation. Plus some states have additional harassment protections.
How can Employers Embrace Diversity?
Ultimately, the goal of diversity and inclusion is to produce a work environment that is free of bullying or harassment by increasing understanding and promote awareness among people with different backgrounds — in addition to staying in compliance with EEOC legislation. Individuals who embrace diversity typically have an open mind and are inclusive in their actions, but how can a workplace foster an inclusive environment if not everyone is open-minded?
The first step involves communication. Communication influences all the ways we interact with each other from the things we say explicitly or implicitly to how we behave. Our attitudes, biases, prejudices, and beliefs in stereotypes all are forms of communication. Therefore, we should pay attention to the messages we are sending and model communication that fosters inclusivity and encourages diversity.
Specifically, employers can send a message of inclusion by providing diversity training to their workforce, which should address communication skills, cultural sensitivity, unconscious bias, and more. EasyLlama’s Diversity & Inclusion Training offers realistic, practical guidelines for creating an inclusive, respectful workplace and addresses several different types of diversity characteristics.
Benefits of Diversity in Businesses
Our differences in culture, language, thoughts, and ideas can be of great benefit, and diversity and inclusion can generate various points of view and contribute to creativity and innovation. Diversity and inclusion can also improve employee engagement and retention for people from all backgrounds. When organizations provide their employees with diversity training, it can help highlight and promote their different strengths and skills, offering employees a boost in morale.
While these benefits are more specific to employees, diversity and inclusion will benefit your business itself as well. Studies show diverse organizations are better able to respond to customer needs, reported as better places to work, and 19% more profitable. Practicing diversity and inclusion in hiring will bring new talents to the workforce with fresh points of view, and diversity training can help reduce conflict among employees.
A Harvard Business Review study found that faster problem solving occurs when a diverse team is able to accept one another and come up with more unique ideas, and a more cognitively diverse team appears to deliver better outcomes. Diverse ideas that originate from a diverse workforce can also result in an elevated reputation within your industry and with potential new hires.
Challenges of Diversity in the Workplace
Diversity has been proven to benefit both employees and their employers, but we can still acknowledge challenges that may arise when trying to improve diversity and inclusion. Communication barriers can occur not just when it comes to speaking a different language, but also from cultural and background differences.
Differences in beliefs and ethical principles can sometimes cause conflict among co-workers, and other times, people from opposite backgrounds may behave in ways that may seem ordinary or unremarkable for them but can come across as rude, odd, or inappropriate to their coworkers. It's important to address these challenges respectfully, improve each other’s understanding for the future, and make sure everyone's boundaries are taken into consideration.
Allow EasyLlama to help your employees better understand the need for diversity — and best practices on how to be accepting and understanding — with our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion suite of training courses. Sign up for your free course preview today!