7 Best Practices to Advance Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

There are many different ways to cultivate and promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. Best practices such as open-mindedness, recognizing bias, adopting change, and encouraging honest communication support these efforts:


1. Consider the gap between diversity and inclusion: While an organization might be diverse, it might not be inclusive. Perhaps your organization hires individuals from a range of religious backgrounds. But if an employee who identifies as lesbian feels apprehensive about bringing her partner to a company event, fearing it will result in her exclusion from the team, that is not showing inclusivity. If a breastfeeding mother doesn’t have an accommodating space at work to pump, so she has to spend her breaks in her car, that is not showing inclusivity. An inclusive workplace is where all employees feel safe and comfortable being themselves. It creates a sense of connection, increases employee satisfaction, and it also improves recruitment and retention.

2. Create a culture that embraces unique individuals: Organizations need to foster a culture that embraces the unique qualities of individuals to compete in a global market. A company’s ability to innovate and stand out from the crowd hinges on its ability to embrace unique perspectives. When companies value employees with diverse backgrounds, it shows employees that their unique qualities are assets rather than something to hide.

3. Reflect it in the executive team: Who are the top leaders representing your company, and wow diverse is your executive team? Are all individuals considered for management positions, regardless of their background, gender, or religious beliefs? While you may not have complete control over your c-suite, you can remind them of the critical role DEI plays in the organization’s success. Ensuring executives communicate honestly and transparently with employees can also go a long way toward promoting diversity equity inclusion in the workplace.

4. Recognize or celebrate diverse religious or cultural holidays: Honor the diverse religious and cultural holidays by introducing policies that recognize and respect different practices and celebrations. Keep office holiday parties nondenominational to accommodate a diverse range of beliefs. Offer floating holidays and make office celebrations more welcoming to all employees. When employees feel like they are part of a team and are comfortable in the company culture, they are more committed to their role and more likely to stay with the company.

5. Advocate for pay equity: When talking about diversity in the workplace, it’s crucial to mention pay equity. Leadership must identify pay gaps and adjust accordingly. The best way to monitor pay equity is to leverage analytic tools. These tools help leaders understand which employees are underpaid for their roles and which departments have the most inequalities. That data can then be used to highlight underlying issues and create a roadmap for change.

6. Educate about bias: Bias, whether intentional or not, can lead to unfair policies and practices. It can also create dissension among employees, corrode a healthy workplace culture, and hinder business outcomes. Every organization wants its employees to stand behind the organization’s mission and work as a team. Training employees and leaders alike to identify and avoid bias in their daily interactions can help foster a more inclusive workplace where everyone feels valued.

7. Capture valuable employee feedback: Understanding how your employees feel about diversity, equity, and inclusion provides invaluable data which can help to reshape workplace policies, values, and behavior. It can also help you monitor the success of new policies and implement changes to stay on track. To get the most out of your surveys, be sure to segment data according to various factors, such as gender, ethnicity, geography, and more. With this information in hand, it’s easier to spot specific concerns within groups that are more likely to feel exclusion or experience bias.

Bob Helbig is media partnerships director at Energage, a Philadelphia-based employee survey firm. Energage is The Washington Post’s survey partner for Top Workplaces.

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