Diversity is gradually becoming a focus for employers worldwide as companies buy into the benefits of talent acquisition strategies that draw from multiple backgrounds and perspectives.
Not only is it the right thing, but businesses that get it right realize gains in multiple areas, including productivity, innovation, customer and employee satisfaction, profit, and shareholder value.
It should garner the same attention as investments in other areas of the business, such as technology or continuity planning.
When we talk about diversity, gender, race, ethnicity, and sexuality are often the classifications that come to mind - but that view is too narrow. Diverse workplaces can also employ people from different generations and religions with various relationship statuses and physical abilities. Taking this broader view of your workforce can be useful in determining if talent acquisition efforts and workplace policies are truly inclusive.
The benefits of cultivating diversity through talent acquisition are hard to ignore. A report from the International Labour Organization (ILO) that looked at the impact of gender diversity - for instance - found that enterprises with “equal employment opportunity policies and gender-inclusive cultures'' are 60% more likely to have improved profits and productivity as well as an “enhanced reputation, greater ease in attracting and retaining talent, and greater creativity and innovation.”
If this is true, why aren’t all companies going all-in on building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive work environment? While a 2019 report from Boston Consulting Group (BCG) shows that the vast majority of companies have a diversity program, 25% of workers in diverse groups do not report experiencing its benefits. What might appear to be a program that reflects leadership’s commitment might be misaligned with the actual needs of diverse employee groups. This lack of effectiveness can reduce the overall progress of corporate initiatives.
This shows why the commitment must extend to other stakeholders - including employees and even investors - in order for these efforts to be successful. Insincere gestures and failing to consider diverse perspectives in each stage of planning and executing initiatives will negate any well-intentioned efforts by the organization.
Companies have not accomplished the radical evolution into diverse, equitable, and inclusive corporate workforces without HR departments leading the way toward diverse hiring and inclusive workplace practices (e.g., writing inclusive job postings, sponsoring affinity groups, developing diverse internship programs, and publishing diversity figures).
Their talent acquisition strategies and employee management efforts, combined with a strong commitment from the top, give organizations a better chance of diversity programs staying on track and being successful.
Successful diversity and inclusion (D&I) talent acquisition initiatives create a culture where employees feel empowered to bring their diverse perspectives to the table. It also shows employees, potential candidates, and other relevant stakeholders that the company’s values align with theirs - a huge selling point for younger generations. These are important distinctions to possess in a highly competitive environment in which companies are struggling to attract and retain the talent they need to succeed. Half measures will no longer be enough to reap the rewards of diversity in the workplace.
Diversity and inclusion activities are very similar in their intentions to engage underrepresented groups and benefit from their presence in an organization. Where the two concepts diverge is in the intended result. Businesses seeking to increase diversity set out only to build a workplace with professionals from different backgrounds. Once these employees are hired, the company’s goal is achieved. While this can seem like a noble endeavor, it does not go far enough in achieving a truly equitable environment.
Businesses that aim for inclusion - on the other hand - ensure that employees from underrepresented backgrounds are invited to take part in professional opportunities - due to the perspectives they may bring to the table. However, this goal can also be limited without practices in place to ensure that the workplace is an equitable environment.
Talent acquisition strategies that aim for diversity alone will not inspire employees to stay for long if they do not feel included in the organization. That means HR teams will constantly be in a reactive cycle of replacing employees to maintain the level of diversity. Similarly, inclusion without equitable systems to identify the most qualified individuals for an opportunity can also alienate employees and also contribute to higher turnover rates. This revolving door will not give people the sense that the organization is truly committed or connected to creating the right type of culture for people from diverse groups to feel safe and supported.
To understand how far-reaching the benefits of D&I programs can be, let’s take a closer look at five key groups.
As mentioned above, the pandemic highlighted some glaring inequalities in the corporate world at large. Women dropped out of the workforce in large numbers due to competing responsibilities at home. The Great Resignation dominated the workforce as employees experienced burnout and reacted to restrictive workplace policies. Navigating the next few post-pandemic years will require business leaders to pay more attention to people management than ever before.
Starting with a strong commitment from the top, business leaders should begin by taking steps to recognize and overcome unconscious biases throughout the organization. Maintaining frequent communication with employees about company objectives and listening to the needs of employees from various backgrounds are also vital ways to demonstrate the organization’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity ideals.
If workers are not made to feel accepted or valued, morale and ultimately the company’s reputation can be affected - similar to the way that negative customer reviews impact sales.
Creating an equitable workplace culture - starting from your talent acquisition methods - and investing in career advancement encourages employees to remain at the organization longer and share their positive experiences with family and friends. This also increases the pool of diverse candidates for management positions over time.
This organic approach - rather than relying on quotas or policy mandates - has yielded greater management diversity in the US and Europe than in Asia, a report by Credit Suisse found.
Earning a reputation as an inclusive employer can also attract top talent. HR leaders can leverage technology solutions to track D&I-related metrics - from the talent acquisition process to onboarding - measure the results and make necessary adjustments to increase diversity hiring.
Implementing D&I initiatives is the first step for companies to develop an inclusive environment and a culture of empathy for employees from all backgrounds. This is essential to have workers who are engaged at work and enthusiastic about their role in the organization. The past couple of years have tested everyone, and the pandemic has radically changed not only the way people work but their attitude towards their jobs.
Even though many organizations took steps to address employees’ needs and engage them at a difficult time, Gallup noted that the percentage of disengaged workers or people who reported “miserable work experiences” began to rise slightly in 2021. It was around this time that the Great Resignation began to pick up steam - and all classes of the organization were affected by this trend.
The organization, Great Place to Work, found that employees are 5.4 times more likely to prefer to stay a long time at their company when they feel they are working in an equitable, inclusive environment. Believing that their work is meaningful has also become incredibly important to younger employees - and with employees leaving their jobs in large numbers - it is important not to underestimate this trend.
Compensation, flexibility, and the expansion of remote working as a permanent part of the business landscape are also hot-button issues that are contributing to why employees are leaving their jobs. Without policies in place to address employees’ needs, record levels of voluntary departures are likely to continue.
Millennial employees - who are now the largest population in the US workforce - are especially receptive to corporations that prioritize and value inclusive practices. Compared to only 32% of Gen Z, Deloitte found that 52% of Millennial employees who are satisfied with their company’s progress in creating a diverse and inclusive environment will stay with the company for more than five years.
Older workers who are choosing to stay in the workforce longer also need to be considered to ensure that their knowledge is valued and they are not left out when new technologies are implemented.
HR teams can utilize technology to pinpoint potential policy improvements, identify teams with high turnover, and anticipate future resource needs. These steps are vital for helping organizations stem the flow of departures and increase employee engagement levels.
The alternative is constantly hiring to fill vacancies rather than as part of a talent acquisition strategy that aligns with business goals, which can be costly for organizations in the long run.
First impressions are everything for prospective employees. This is why it is important to promote the organization’s inclusive culture, participate in diverse groups, and showcase diverse employees.
From the job ad to the first interactions with hiring managers, being clear and sincere about the organization’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is essential. Professionals from younger generations are increasingly seeking out companies that have values in line with theirs - that includes commitments to celebrating and fostering diversity.
During the talent acquisition process, candidates will be able to detect insincerity. If that doesn’t convince them to drop out of the interview process, they will likely not remain employed at the organization for a long tenure.
HR departments that use recruitment technology to analyze their hiring practices can adjust their activities to attract a more diverse - and possibly underutilized - pool of candidates. In addition to diversity, metrics such as offer acceptance rates, source of hire, and employee attrition can provide indications of what’s working and what isn’t in the hiring process and after an employee is hired. Modern applicant tracking systems (ATS) with AI tools can also help to eliminate the impact of unconscious biases in the sourcing process to ensure that the most qualified candidates are considered.
The positive effects of creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace culture are not limited to inside the organization. With more diverse employees, companies can anticipate and respond to the needs of different communities faster than competitors. As Bloomberg notes, “More diverse teams are better at anticipating changes in consumer needs and buying patterns, which can lead to more rapid product and service innovation.”
This - along with being viewed as a diverse organization - deepens customer loyalty among these communities. This is especially important today, with more customers expressing expectations that brands they buy from will be aligned with their values. An IPSOs report reinforces this idea as about 70% of people surveyed in 25 countries indicated that they “buy from brands they believe reflect their own principles.”
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At first, it may seem that D&I initiatives only benefit employees and customers. However, as diverse teams increase productivity and achieve better business outcomes, profit and shareholder value will also receive a boost. On the other hand, a lack of diversity in management can lead to regretful situations where cultural insensitivity or ill-advised ad campaigns negatively affect a business’ value.
While the pandemic has highlighted some inequalities, companies should see this as an opportunity to make meaningful changes. The stability and innovation that diverse teams are responsible for have a powerful influence on investor confidence and stock prices. Similarly, activist investors have the ability to influence corporate strategy so that diversity, equity, and inclusion practices are adopted more wholeheartedly.
Take the time now to affect positive change in your organization with D&I initiatives. Despite the net positive impact of D&I commitments in organizations between 2014 and 2019, overall progress has been slow. To maintain progress or build on previous advancements, companies need to set clear goals for diversity and inclusion and establish metrics for talent acquisition and management to keep the organization accountable.
Companies have an opportunity to make a long-term commitment that can attract and retain qualified employees, generate innovative ideas, and increase revenue. This can be the difference between simply filling a quota and creating an environment where all people truly feel welcomed.
You can further enhance the impact of diversity and inclusion as well as extend the visibility of your campaign through the use of Manatal, an Applicant Tracking System specifically designed to push recruitment to its maximum efficiency.
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