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7 Ways to Overcome Workplace Diversity Challenges

Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reporting principles pursue transparency and responsible consideration for all an entity’s stakeholders, not just its shareholders.

ESG reporting criteria have become increasingly important to businesses and organizations, and one ESG metric which has become more prominent of late is Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, or DEI for short. 

DEI, as McKinsey puts it, are “three closely linked values held by many organizations that are working to be supportive of different groups of individuals, including people of different races, ethnicities, religions, abilities, genders, and sexual orientations”

The ‘S’ (Social) in ESG seems to be on an upward trajectory currently. Thomson Reuters mentioned that social issues such as workers’ well-being and executive pay are increasingly being tied to diversity, equity & inclusion goals, while pay equity and transparency are all getting increasing amounts of exposure as business becomes more human-centered.

With the business world becoming so multicultural and diverse, paying attention to improving your DEI performance is not only a matter of ethics, it makes good business sense as well.

Companies that consistently show their workplaces as being diverse, fair, just, and inclusive tend to attract high-quality and skilled employees, whilst being rewarded with a positive reputation and goodwill within the public sphere.

Diversity can bring its own set of challenges within the workplace, however, and organizations need to actively work to maintain and improve their standing in this regard. Here are 7 ways in which companies can tackle the diversity and inclusion issue.

1. Maintain an inclusive employment policy

Perhaps the most obvious building block towards a healthy diversity culture is possessing an inclusive company employment policy. Establish clear diversity objectives for hiring and consistently monitor your progress toward achieving them. Having diversity within your own recruitment division can also help to keep you on track, and eliminate potential pitfalls and blind spots throughout the new employee hire process.

2. Promote and implement diversity training and education

A fundamental of improving diversity awareness and tolerance is implementing diversity training programs designed to enhance awareness and understanding of various backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences within the company. Taking a proactive approach to this issue can help to instil basic awareness, empathy, and inclusivity as core workplace values.

3. Introduce mentorship

In-line with diversity training, it may also help to incorporate some type of cross-cultural mentorship group or program within the organization. While official training is good, building two-way human connections via mentorships can promote a level of understanding and empathy which cannot be replicated via training alone.

4. Develop conflict resolution and mediation frameworks

Regardless of how diverse and inclusive a workplace may be, needing to constructively deal with conflict can sometimes seem inevitable. In such cases, it may help to have a predetermined conflict resolution framework or policy to refer to, ensuring the same rules and/or steps are followed for everyone. An important thing to keep in mind here is to ensure that HR and line-managers are equipped with the resources and training they need in order to defuse conflict, and navigate these situations with sensitivity and professionalism.

5. Pay attention to using inclusive language in company communications

It may sound obvious, but pay conscious attention to using inclusive language in all formal workplace communications such as company-wide emails, organizational policies, internal memos, and physical workplace notices. There’s no need to go overboard, but keeping the imperative in mind means it’s less likely to be overlooked, and minimizes the potential for confusion, offence, or exclusion.

6. Introduce and prioritize workplace flexibility

Diversity in the workplace results in diverse needs amongst employees. By embracing workplace flexibility, companies signal that they take everyone’s needs seriously and are willing to accommodate these accordingly. Addressing caregiving responsibilities and accommodating different cultural practices via options for working from home and flexible hours has become increasingly popular post-Covid, and remains a big drawcard for employees in evaluating their employment options.

7. Establish supplier diversity programs

An organization’s supply chain provides the opportunity to broaden its diversity and inclusion initiatives beyond its own borders by establishing supplier diversity programs. Companies can build partnerships with businesses and suppliers owned by diverse population groups where possible or feasible, in turn contributing to economic inclusion and growth amongst previously underrepresented sectors of the business community.