While the focus of his speech was very much geared towards STEM and the tech sector in particular, the points he made hold true across all industries. Core to this is the fact that ‘We don’t get inspired surrounding ourselves with people who are the same as us.’ Rather ‘…we are inspired by those who are different, who think differently, who have lived different lives, who have overcome different challenges.’
In essence is what diversity is all about. It’s not just about him v’s her or young v’s old or anything else like that. It’s about people from different backgrounds, experiences, sharing their different perspectives to create a fuller, more thought-out approach to all faculties of our business, from manufacturing processes to customer relations.
Below are some helpful tips for improving diversity in the workplace:
1.Conduct a Diversity Audit
If you’re looking to enhance the diversity of your work force, then you need to understand where it currently sits and where the gaps need to be filled. Breakdown the metrics on your staff – gender, nationality, age, education, career background, etc. What you’re aiming for is a workforce that matches the communities you operate in.
2.Adjust Your Hiring Process
If your audit uncovers any areas that are out of kilter with the balance you wish to achieve, then it’s important to look at your hiring processes and make adjustments where necessary. Where do you source your candidates from, what criteria must they meet, and so forth? Engaging with local community groups and networks can be an excellent way of identifying and attracting new employees, with different backgrounds that you otherwise might have overlooked.
Another effective way to limit innate, natural bias (we all subconsciously have prejudices that effect our decision making process) is to develop and utilise evaluation forms that score candidates based on set criteria.
3.Introduce a Mentorship/ Sponsor Programme
Even the most well intentioned managers can sometimes overlook incredible talent. We’re social beings and we gravitate and spend most of our time with those most like us. Setting up a mentorship or sponsor programme, with clear objectives and timescales can establish greater integration between senior and junior members of staff, while helping spot real business talent that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.
While this might not be feasible for all employers, providing a more flexible working environment can help your business attract and retain quality employees. Practices such as remote working and flexi-time, shift the focus from attendance to performance. So long as the job is done well, does it matter whether it was done at the employee’s desk or on their couch? Facilitating these kinds of practices are particularly important for women in the labour market, who might have decided to start a family. An added benefit is that various studies have shown they also reduce overheads, sick days and attrition.
5. Train and Indoctrinate
A top down approach must be applied if your company is to embrace diversity. Employees look to their team leaders, managers and employers and so we must set the tone from the outset. Improving diversity isn’t just about getting a few more women or foreign nationals on the payroll; it’s a cultural shift that must be afforded the attention it needs.
Training is a key part of this. As with any cultural change, employees must be 100% on board with what you are trying to achieve. They must see the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of what you’re doing and understand the role they play in bringing it to fruition.
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