Laura Wood on why having a diverse workplace is more than race, gender or age if you want to create a working culture of inclusion, respect and opportunity for all.
Promoting and supporting diversity in the workplace is an important aspect of good people management – it’s about valuing everyone in the organisation as an individual.
However, to reap the benefits of a diverse workforce, it’s vital to have an inclusive environment where everyone feels able to participate and achieve their potential.
Having a diverse workplace is no longer about race, gender or age. It’s much broader than that. Given the increased accessibility of work, diversity in the workplace means a whole lot more. To have a diverse workforce, you need several different individuals from many categories such as, but not limited to, race, age, sexual orientation, skills and physical abilities.
There are so many things you can do to build an inclusive workforce:
- Recognise that a diverse workforce needs an inclusive environment to flourish
- Ensure that initiatives and policies have the support of the board and senior management
- Keep up to date with the law and review policies through checks, audits and consultation. Design guidelines and provide training for line managers to help them respond appropriately to diversity needs
- Train all employees to understand and engage with inclusion in how they do their jobs and work with colleagues. Equality and Diversity is a mandatory training requirement
- Highlight respect and dignity for all in the organisation’s values and ensure these are shown in the way the organisation and its employees operate on a daily basis
- Ensure appropriate channels to ensure the voice of employees are heard and that different groups of people feel able to access them. Use different and accessible methods such as newsletters, in-house magazines, noticeboards and intranets to keep people up to date with diversity policies and practices
- Actively seek people’s ideas and act on feedback
- Learning and development build inclusion and diversity concepts and practices into staff training courses, management training and team building programmes to increase awareness of the need to handle different views, perceptions and ideas in positive ways
- Consider awareness-raising programmes, such as ‘lunch and learn’ sessions, about various aspects of diversity to help people appreciate difference. Include diversity issues in induction programmes, including raising awareness of employee network groups, so that all new employees know about the organisation’s values and policies
To create a working culture of inclusion, respect and opportunity for all, it is essential that everyone in the organisation, from senior management to the most junior staff, is engaged with, and involved in, the process of creating this culture and feels that their opinions and experiences are valued. Measures to promote inclusive working need to be thought of positively among employees, and not as something that is ‘done’ to them.