How to foster a diverse and inclusive culture at work

31st May 2024

Considering diversity and inclusion is essential to the success of any business. Even in locations without much ethnic diversity, it is inevitable your workforce will be made up of other diversities such as gender, disability, LGBTQIA+ representation and neurodiversity. It’s important to remember that diversity does not equal inclusion. You may be working to attract diverse talent to strengthen and broaden your capabilities, but if those employees do not feel included, you will struggle to retain them. This brings not only reputational and financial risk, but also threatens your ability to engage with employees and develop their talent and contribution to your business.

It is vital to remind ourselves that elevating minority groups is not an attack on majority groups, when not done properly, resistance to change in the DE&I space can be incredibly disheartening for those in diverse groups. This can lead to businesses feeling less confident to take the progressive steps needed to build a more diverse and inclusive culture.

The bottom line is that we want to support the individual needs of all our employees. With our increasing awareness and acceptance of diversities which have always been present, my question is, can we find a solution that is equitable for everyone? My feeling is that we need to further develop our ability to act as allies to promote and challenge behaviours that will enable businesses to build a more inclusive culture.

Let’s take a closer look at how you can do this in a sustainable way.

The benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce

Our differences are our strengths—they’re what make us unique, and what enables us to have access to a variety of ideas and perspectives. While it can be difficult to let go of what you think is a good idea and let someone else take the lead, it’s an enriching and thought-provoking experience to hear what others from different walks of life can contribute. Not only can doing this unlock innovation but having a diverse range of people within your company can also mean your internal team mirrors your target customers more closely. And this just puts you in a better position to develop services and products they need and want!

Having this variety of perspectives can provide additional benefits, too. For example, reports have revealed that inclusive teams make better business decisions up to 87% of the time, which will contribute to growth. Similarly, statistics have found that diverse companies earn 2.5x higher cash flow per employee, and inclusive teams are over 35% more productive.

Workforces where people feel represented and accepted are also much more likely to be happy and motivated, which in turn can heighten productivity and lower levels of attrition. And don’t underestimate how happy employees can positively impact your customers, too!

5 ways to foster a diverse and inclusive culture

It’s crucial that firms recognise that there’s no end point for diversity and inclusivity—it’s something we need to embed into our business values and continually work towards improving. And companies who treat it as a tick-box exercise without actively implementing meaningful change and committing to continuous development, will be an obvious spot for the modern workforce.

Diversity and inclusivity topics are complex and are umbrella terms for many important matters that need attention. In fact, most of us will be considered diverse in some way or another, so there are a lot of groups to consider when implementing a diversity and inclusivity policy. This makes it difficult to know where to start, or which next step you should be taking.

Here are five of the most impactful, yet often neglected, ways you can build and nurture a diverse and inclusive culture:

1. Create an evolving diversity and inclusivity policy

While it might sound like a simple step, to nurture a diverse and inclusive workforce, everyone within the company needs to know what you’re working towards. Even if they already hold strong values towards diversity and inclusivity, to succeed in making your workplace a fairer, more equal place to work, that everyone is on the same page.  

And one of the best initial ways you can do this is through a diversity and inclusivity policy document that explicitly states the expectations the company holds and the behaviours they actively encourage. It’s then crucial to communicate this policy internally so your entire workforce is aware of it. Not only will this set the standards to your current workforce and ensure they know what’s expected of them, but putting this document on your company website will also help attract potential candidates who also prioritise DEI.  

As you develop your diversity and inclusivity strategy, it’s crucial that you update your policy to align with the new measures you’ve brought in. Make sure all changes are communicated internally, too—internal communications like newsletters or bulletins are a good way to do this.

2. Empower diverse employees with Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)

When you welcome diverse talent into your business, you unlock access to a greater understanding of the challenges faced by certain groups of people, and how best to support them with these. For example, a study by the Fawcett Society and the Runnymeade Trust revealed that “…75% of women of colour have experienced racism at work”. By creating a space for groups of people to share their experiences and have their voices heard is imperative to making progressive change.  

Consider setting up ERGs for the different groups within your firm, to give everybody a platform where they feel accepted, and not judged to be honest. For example, at Davies, we have six ERGs: LGBTQ+, My Culture and Heritage, Working Families & Caregivers, Supporting our Wellbeing Group, and new for 2024, Eco Davies and Women’s Network. These provide a community where our colleagues can get together and drive policies for change.  

Having ERGs is also a great place to promote allyship, and having senior sponsors for these groups can demonstrate and challenge behaviours to further develop an inclusive culture. 

3. Provide equal opportunities for all

Diverse employees are at risk of being overlooked for opportunities they deserve. For example, research shows that the proportion of women in senior management roles grew to 32% globally in 2022, which at the time was record-breaking. Although these figures show some change in the right direction, the disparity between opportunities for men and women is still disappointingly low, indicating inequality still exists for women in the modern workforce. Similarly, statistics have revealed that just 0.7% of over 5,400 board seats in the Fortune 500 are occupied by LGBTQ+ directors. 

With the above examples confirming such little representation for many diverse groups, it’s critical that we’re all doing more to provide opportunities that encourage our diverse peers to put themselves forward, but that we’re also providing them with the required skills and support to get there. Once diverse individuals are in these positions, it’s then important to pay them in line with their peers in similar positions. Having a DEI policy and strategy in place that creates a supportive culture for diverse colleagues is key here, as this will help retain these employees.   

4. Rethink your hiring strategy

The hiring strategy you use can be the make or break between securing great, diverse talent or deterring them.  

Many companies are getting more creative with their approaches to hiring but are neglecting to refresh their recruitment resources and collateral to help them appeal to diverse talent. Some simple, yet effective changes you can make to rectify this include: 

  • Removing any gendered language from your job ads: Words like “competitive”, “dominant”, and “leader” can be seen as male-coded and therefore can divert females from applying.
  • Only listing the essential skills: When you start listing desirable skills, you risk deterring several diverse groups from applying. For example, asking for university degrees can put off those from lower socio-economic backgrounds who may not have had the opportunity to attend.
  • Prioritise showing allyship: If you’re lacking in diversity, it’s crucial that you’re honest about it while highlighting why you want to change this to better reflect the communities you operate in and provide equal opportunities for all.
  • Asking the questions that matter: Making applicants feel comfortable and welcome is paramount to everything when it comes to hiring—you also need to convince them your company is for them. For example, asking what pronouns they use, and if they prefer to use a name other than their legal name can help to instantly settle diverse talent.

5. Build an inclusive benefits package

The benefits package you offer your employees is an important factor in showing recognition and appreciation to all your workers. And while it can be all too easy to imitate the benefits you’ve seen go down a treat with other businesses, it’s crucial you’re offering your colleagues things that will improve their lives—and this includes factoring in those needed by diverse groups.  

For example, recognising the holidays your ethnically diverse colleagues celebrate and allowing flexibility or leave during these will likely be much more appreciated than free office snacks. Similarly, if you have working parents within your workforce, offering them flexible working arrangements to ensure they can make nursery or school pick-ups and drop-offs will be invaluable to them.  

You can’t offer everything to everybody, but there will certainly be some perks that work for a majority of your workforce, including your diverse employees. For example, flexible working arrangements—which studies have found is currently the most sought-after perk (51%) can give all your employees a better work-life balance and flexibility. With costs rising across the globe too, employee discounts programmes are another inclusive benefit that makes life a little more affordable for people from all backgrounds.  

Encouraging diversity and inclusivity at work isn’t just about doing the ‘done’ thing—it’s about doing the right thing. Embedding these core values into the centre of your business will ensure they remain at the forefront of everything you do and help keep your colleagues on the same page.  

I hope you found these tips helpful and feel inspired to enhance your diversity and inclusivity efforts even further! To find out more about what we’re doing to be a responsible employer, visit the ESG @ Davies page on our website. 

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