Expand Your Voice: Bringing Diverse Workers into Your Community

Any savvy business owner knows that attracting a diverse workforce is key to optimizing creativity and productivity. When employees of differing age, race, religion, socio-economic background, education, nationality, sexuality, gender identification, and ability work as a team, you can be sure that results will show that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. 

But how to attract and retain a diverse workforce? This article will explore seven techniques employers can use to diversify their employee pool.

Diversity vs. Inclusion

You may already have a degree of diversity in your workplace, but some employees may not feel comfortable being entirely themselves. For example, a breastfeeding woman may not have a safe or appropriate place to pump while at work. A Muslim may feel uncomfortable observing midday prayers at work. A Latinx employee may feel they can only speak English at work.

These are problems of inclusion in that these individuals’ identities cannot be fully expressed. Instead, they are suppressed to a degree due to the circumstances at work. Not only does this hurt retention, but you as the employer are not getting the full benefit of their experience.

Take a moment to reach out to your employees for feedback about how inclusive they feel their work environment is. Hopefully, you will be able to collect actionable responses that, in the long run, improve employee satisfaction and performance and improve retention rates.

Encourage Diverse Thinking

You hire for diversity, but do you encourage everyone to contribute in ways they are comfortable with, or prefer, or do best? Are there expectations regarding the type of ideas pitched at meetings, who can pitch them, or even the tone of emails?

Within the bounds of professionalism, expressly encourage your diverse workforce to bring their unique experiences to the table. You can do this by first maintaining an “open door” policy so that everyone has access to you or their manager. 

Next, make sure you allow everyone to contribute in the ways that are most effective for them. An employee may not be culturally inclined to speak up at a formal meeting. Someone else may be culturally inclined to make suggestions more informally, for example, at the water cooler. Others may prefer to email their ideas rather than meet in person to discuss them. Get to know your employees so that you can meet them where they are in this regard and get the best work from them. 

Recognize and Honor Diversity

You should consider expressly honoring the diversity in your workforce by celebrating or at least acknowledging the religious and national holidays of the cultures represented therein. Don’t only have the ubiquitous office Christmas party and ignore other holidays celebrated by your employees, both religious and non-religious. Does your office recognize Gay Pride, International Day to End Racism, or International Women’s Day? You might start.

If there is a work party, related to a holiday or not, you can make sure that the types of food and drink everyone can partake in are present. Even that small gesture goes a long way towards making employees feel seen, heard, and relevant.

Does Management Reflect the Diversity of the Employee Pool?

Take a hard look at your management team. Does it consist mainly of middle-aged white men? If so, you are tacitly sending this message: this company does not value anyone who is not white, male, or older – but not too old! 

Consider diversity when evaluating your employees for promotion. If there are no prospects, you might consider identifying promising employees and pairing them with a mentor in management. This will take time; however, if your employees see themselves mirrored on the management team or being trained for leadership, your efforts, as well as your results, will undoubtedly improve retention rates and employee productivity, engagement, and satisfaction. 

Is There Gender Equity in Pay?

Employees who perform the same work should receive the same pay, regardless of gender or other characteristics. You will lose valuable employees if they know or perceive that they are being paid less than their colleagues for this reason.

The answer is simply to be transparent about salary – not necessarily naming names but presenting concrete criteria supporting and justifying the wages you pay. This builds trust in the company and, again, improves retention and productivity.

Offer In-House Training in Implicit Bias

Both the management team and your employees must learn not just to tolerate but to appreciate their differences. Everyone involved may think that they are open to difference and bias-free; however, most people judge others based on their socialization and life experiences. Implicit bias training can help raise awareness of unconscious attitudes and prejudices and give people the tools to recognize them and overcome them.

Remember, the employees who are different from you will have perspectives that would never occur to you. Use these techniques to create and retain a diverse workforce where everyone feels valued, has a place, and has a voice.

We specialise in autism in mainstream schools, inclusion of students with disabilities, education psychology, autism education, community building and training on inclusion.

About the Author

Veronica Baxter is a blogger and legal assistant living and working in the great city of Philadelphia. She frequently works with David Offen Esq., a Philadelphia bankruptcy attorney.

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