Promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace ranks among the most important jobs human resource managers must handle. HR professionals play a vital role in ensuring an organization hires a workforce with diverse employees while creating a company culture where every member of that workforce is respected and appreciated.
It’s not only the right thing to do but also the smart thing to do. As the nation becomes more diverse, organizations reflecting that diversity thrive. Consumers and other businesses increasingly want to associate only with companies that strive to respect all people, not just a select few.
For HR professionals, learning to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace is the key to a successful career. It’s central to students’ education in a master’s program in human resource management, which includes taking on a lead role in business ethics for their organization.
What Is Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace?
Diversity and inclusion represent two different ideas that work together to make for a better workplace. Diversity focuses on the demographics of the workforce, including gender, race/ethnicity, age, and sexual orientation. Inclusion measures how well an organization establishes a culture that shows respect to every member of the workforce so that all feel welcome and can contribute to their maximum potential.
An organization’s efforts in these areas have a profound impact. Not only does it influence the company culture and employee morale, but it also impacts how business partners, vendors, customers, and potential new employees view an organization.
The Society for Human Resource Management puts it this way: “Think of diversity as being similar to selecting people for a chorus who have different musical backgrounds, vocal ranges, and abilities. The inclusion piece of D&I means making sure that those different voices are heard and valued and that they contribute to the performance.”
Benefits of Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace
The Project Management Institute (PMI) showed that professionals value diversity and inclusion in its Case for Diversity Report. In a survey of project management professionals, 88% said project teams that are inclusive add value. They listed various areas where diversity should be considered, including age, race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, and culture.
The PMI report also cross-referenced high-performing companies effectively using project management with those that practice diversity and inclusion. They found that companies that practiced gender diversity and put culturally diverse leadership into place significantly outperformed those that did not.
Unfortunately, the business world has a long way to go. In measuring talk vs. action in diversity, only 33 percent of professionals surveyed by PMI said they work for a company with diverse senior leadership. For example, 60 percent said they work for a company with no women in a C-suite position.
How to Make a Workplace More Diverse and Inclusive
Promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace is a multi-step process that involves buy-in from people at the C-suite level and those who work on a company’s front lines. Based on ideas from SHRM and other HR experts, the following steps can help an organization create a diverse and inclusive workplace.
Start at the Top
Leaders in organizations must have enthusiastic buy-in for diversity and inclusion. As the PMI study showed, it’s both ethically right and strategically smart from a business perspective. Many companies start with basic training for administrators to learn about how “unconscious bias” can lead them to make decisions based on gender and race without realizing it.
Create a Council
The formation of an inclusion council can guide an organization’s efforts. They help set goals for hiring and retaining a diverse workforce and create communication channels for underrepresented employee groups to voice their concerns.
HR must take the lead in this area, creating events that celebrate the diversity of employees and how cultural differences make a stronger workplace. SHRM also suggests creating a meditation or prayer room at workplaces and focusing HR efforts on more isolated employees who work different shifts or remotely.
Create Communication Channels
A commitment to listening to employees is key to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace. Employee surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one meetings are ways that managers can provide better methods for employees to communicate. This communication also includes creating better meetings. Ideas for improved meetings include the following.
- Distributing materials in advance helps workers for whom English is a second language (as well as introverted employees who need more time to process information before reacting).
- Include remote employees, which means getting the technology needed to have them participate fully. Also, rotate meeting times to benefit workers in different time zones.
- Meeting leaders should not assume they understand more than the people in the meetings (referred to as “mansplaining” when men do it to women)
- Promote active, courteous debate – don’t let one or two people talk over everyone else.
Share Goals and Progress
To advance diversity and inclusion, managers should be transparent about the goals for the company and the progress made toward achieving those goals. The goals should be specific, measurable, and time-bound.
TUW’s MS in HR Management Degree
Learning how to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace is part of the Touro University Worldwide MS in Human Resource Management program curriculum. The 100% online program also offers students the opportunity to pick a concentration in diversity, equity, and inclusion.
The concentration teaches students the theoretical and philosophical foundations for cultural improvements in the workplace, expanding their knowledge of assessing workplace culture and building inclusive business practices. The program equips graduates to become leaders in HR departments, equal opportunity and affirmative action programs, and workplace training and inclusive culture initiatives.
Courses in the program include Creating an Inclusive Work Culture, Diversity in the Workplace, Equitable Workplace Practices and Programs.
Earning an MS in Human Resource Management prepares graduates to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace of any organization. It’s a career that allows professionals to have a significant positive impact on the work lives of their fellow employees and contribute to the strategic goals of an organization.