Diversity and inclusion: more than good employment practices

Being a good employer involves diversity and inclusion in the workplace. It also improves your company’s performance. How do you make your workplace more diverse?

Diversity is about visible and invisible differences between people. Visible differences include skin colour, gender and age. Examples of invisible differences are religion, culture, norms, values and character traits. If your workforce is a mix of all these differences, you have a diverse workforce. Inclusion is about dealing with these differences. It means that everyone is included, regardless of their differences.

Equal treatment and pay
Diversity and inclusion are part of corporate social responsibility. Being a good employer means treating employees equally. You cannot discriminate against them and you must pay them the same. Furthermore, you may not, for example, discourage candidates from responding to a vacancy.

Benefits of a diverse workforce
But these are not the only reasons for promoting diversity and inclusion. There are also many benefits for your business. Companies with a diverse workforce are more innovative, outperform their competitors financially and are more likely to develop products and services that appeal to a broader and thus larger customer base. Such companies are more likely to find creative solutions to problems because of the diverse nature of the workforce. Diversity makes the staff a good reflection of society, so they are better acquainted with the wishes and needs of different customers. Furthermore, diversity and inclusion lead to broader social networks, in which new, diverse staff can be found more quickly. They also enhance your employer’s image.

Diversity leave
The introduction of a women’s quota and combating gender and age discrimination are well-known elements of a diversity policy. Another important aspect is the accessibility of your office for people with a physical disability. Offering space to celebrate holidays other than Christian is also a point of attention. For example, you can give employees ‘diversity leave’. They can then take this leave on a holiday that is important to them.

Prejudice in job adverts
In addition, the recruitment and application process is important for increasing diversity in the workplace. For instance, you can use the networks of your own (diverse) employees to attract more diverse employees. In addition, attention to your vacancy texts is necessary. To attract diverse candidates it is important to create more inclusive job descriptions. There are tools and apps that can help you detect biased texts, even if they are not intentionally written that way.

You can also remove application requirements that are not essential. In this way, you prevent various employees from applying. You can delete things that are not essential altogether or include them in a separate list of qualifications that are preferred but not essential. Also, watch your language about the workplace. For example, instead of ‘walking around the workplace’ you can also use ‘moving around’, to better reach people in wheelchairs.

Applying blindly
You can further encourage diversity with ‘blind applications’, from which you remove all personal and demographic information. This allows hiring managers to assess candidates on their skills alone. Also pay attention to the influence of personal prejudices during the interview. You can counteract this by further standardising the interview process. All candidates are then asked the same questions in the same order. Their answers are compared on the same scale, which is predetermined according to the needs of the job.

Inclusion is necessary
Diversity alone is not enough – inclusion is necessary to ensure that your employees are able to deal with their differences. It means that every opinion counts, regardless of someone’s (hierarchical) status and position. In addition, inclusive leaders promote the sharing of different perspectives and are themselves as open as possible. Furthermore, employees express their opinions in a professional manner, without fear for their position. Inclusive cooperation takes place on the basis of a common goal with respect for each other’s differences. The organisation and employees embrace cultural and gender differences instead of minimising them. Employees also treat each other with openness and interest.

No one-size-fits-all
Inclusion does not mean that everything is allowed and everyone gets his or her way. It does not mean that everyone has to become friends. Nor does it mean avoiding conflict or denying cultural or gender differences. In the end, it is about someone’s contribution and whether he or she is the right person for a job.

Awareness as a start
Inclusion starts with awareness. It starts by looking at the extent to which it exists in your organisation. You can also organise a workshop in which your employees examine their own prejudices. This can also be done in special training sessions, where employees gain more insight into the qualities of colleagues with a different background. In addition, train your managers in inclusive leadership and your HR staff in dealing with diversity. Furthermore, take a good look at the reasons why employees leave and include them in your policies and actions.

Support and inspiration
For inclusion, sufficient support is essential. If employees do not see the importance of a diverse workplace, inclusion will not happen. Therefore, communicate the importance of diversity and inclusion during lunch lectures, staff meetings and via your intranet. Involve your employees in the development of the diversity and inclusion policy. Also emphasise the importance of diversity and inclusion to your board and management. It is essential that they support it and spread the word. Furthermore, provide role models. Female executives or executives from non-Western backgrounds can be inspiring.

Integral part of business strategy
As an organisation, explicitly state that you consider diversity and inclusion in the workplace important and explain why. Come up with a vision, clear goals and actions. Make diversity and inclusion a permanent part of your business strategy.