Successful companies celebrate diversity year-round, and for a good reason.
Diversity in the workplace encourages re-energized ideas, innovation, and increased productivity. These benefits are more than enough reason to honor our differences at work. Here are a few ways companies, large or small, can celebrate diversity.
1. Expand Employee Knowledge
Education is essential for celebrating employees with more intention. Consider taking a second look at the current diversity training format. Could it be more conversational? More collaborative? If the answer is yes, make changes accordingly based on the content or format of the training.
Small changes like conducting more training sessions with smaller groups give employees the opportunity to get to know each other better. Learning about each other fosters more understanding and most importantly, empathy. More empathetic employees are likely to collaborate better.
Companies might be wondering what topics should be included in their diversity training. The enterprise educator InStride lists the following as key issues to cover in corporate training:
- Unconscious and implicit bias
- The meaning of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB)
- Reducing prejudice
- Cultural awareness and belonging
- Addressing microaggressions
This isn’t an exhaustive list as it doesn’t list all the sub-categories that are up for discussion. But they are a starting point that can spark awareness or curiosity and start a productive conversation among employees. Keep in mind that some of these topics may be hard for employees to discuss. Creating a safe space and encouraging active listening can alleviate the anxiety some employees may feel during training.
On the topic of awareness, be sure to include holidays and observances from various backgrounds in the workplace diversity and inclusion calendar. This will help create a more inclusive and aware company culture. Other elements to incorporate into the company calendar are events or presentations run by employee resource groups (ERGs). Elevate your ERGs’ voices at company-wide meetings and have them lead a discussion on an educational topic. Similar to DEIB training, these conversations can give employees the opportunity to learn more from their coworkers whom they don’t work with on a regular basis.
These discussions can be informal and fun while remaining educational and respectful. Assess employees’ knowledge of DEIB topics in a monthly pop quiz. Companies can even give the winners a gift card to a small business that relates to the topic of the month. However businesses decide to further educate and support their employees, communication is crucial. A mix of formal and informal discussions can make complex and hard topics easier to achieve.
2. Implement Inclusive Initiatives
Is there room to grow a company’s inclusion initiatives or programs? It’s likely that the answer is yes because there’s always something businesses can do to build a more inclusive community. If someone is the head of a larger corporation, they should recognize the significance of their platform and how to use it to help others.
Take the delivery company Gopuff’s co-founders, for example. Yakir Gola and Rafael Ilishayev created a small business accelerator program called Put Me On Gopuff. The program focuses on providing a platform for underrepresented communities of entrepreneurs. They started this program because as first-generation immigrants, they understood the significance of their success and how it could help others with diverse backgrounds. To apply, businesses must be owned, operated, and controlled by individuals who identify as BIPOC, women, LGBTQ+, differently-abled, immigrants, or veterans.
Bringing dedicated people to the leadership team is also an effective way to expand DEIB efforts and impact. For example, Chipotle Mexican Grill welcomed Marissa Andrada as the company’s Chief Diversity, Inclusion and People Officer in 2018. Since then, Chipotle has integrated numerous initiatives into its pipeline to diversify its employee population. Andrada’s focus during her time at Chipotle was to internally promote more minority employees and attract new hires from diverse backgrounds as well. Additionally, she oversaw Chipotle’s partnership with Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the National Urban League in support of advocating against systemic racism. Chipotle’s efforts are a key example of how large corporations can hire the right people, spread their influence, and provide resources across multiple causes to better their DEIB efforts.
Employee resource groups were previously mentioned as a great addition to a more inclusive employee culture. Recently, biotechnology company Invitae launched several ERGs to boost their DEIB efforts. Some of the groups their employees have started are Women in Tech, Latinx, Pride (Rainbow Connection), Peer Soul Support (Mental wellness), Black Genetics, Veterans In Genetics, and Aznpac & Friends (Asian and Pacific Islander). Companies that encourage ERGs are better allies, as these groups are essential for employees to foster a sense of belonging and community.
Take inspiration from programs and partnerships like these when drafting inclusion initiatives. To ensure the team sees themselves in resource groups, try polling the team to learn what communities, identities, or experiences they’d like the company to hold space for. Even if it’s not executed on a large scale, the organization can make a difference in the community. That’s something to celebrate!
3. Review Your Benefits Package
Employee benefits and DEIB initiatives go hand in hand. More inclusive benefits mean a more inclusive company culture. Evaluate what gaps need to be filled in the benefits to better support all employees. Here’s a list of areas to consider when taking a second look at benefits:
- Healthcare and mental healthcare
- Disability benefits (including Veteran benefits)
- LGBTQ+ benefits
- Parental leave or caregiving benefits, like floating holidays or flexible scheduling
- Tuition assistance and financial education
Additionally, gently remind employees of benefits so they are aware of them. If possible, host informational sessions or office hours for those who may have questions about coverage. Their questions and perspective could enlighten the business on the gaps in coverage they may have missed.
If there are areas to improve upon that could make employees’ day-to-day easier or generally better, see what companies can do. If the business operates in a physical workspace, could it be more accessible? Consider installing ramps or elevators to supplement the needs of those with mobility differences. Offer gender-neutral bathrooms, a lactation room, or diabetic snacks in the office. Really take the time to dive into the needs of the employees and make a strategy for how to best support them.
4. Request Employee Feedback
There are many benefits of constructive feedback. For starters, listening to employee feedback is crucial to understanding whether a company’s efforts are meaningful and worthwhile. All of the training, presentations, events, and initiatives an organization invests in require feedback. Maybe the feedback the company receives will indicate what is working well. Employee criticism can also highlight areas for improvement, so be sure to welcome that as well. Inclusion starts with ensuring employees are invited to weigh in on the things that impact them, and inclusion is protected when employees feel heard.
Companies can receive feedback in many ways; have 1:1 discussions or check-ins, distribute anonymous surveys, request insight from ERGs, and take a look at employee reviews online. Remember, the key factor in receiving feedback is listening. Try not to get defensive or stray away from difficult conversations; it will only discourage employees from speaking up. Transparent feedback will help build a better culture of understanding.
There’s no question that increasing diversity is important for every business. Celebrating diversity is equally important and keeps it at the forefront of employees’ minds. It’s what maintains inclusion as a priority in the workplace. So, be sure to celebrate your employees’ contributions and identities at every opportunity, whether on a large or small scale.
If you’d like to find out more ways you can update your diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging initiatives, contact Recruitics!
Posted by Priscilla McMahon
Priscilla McMahon is the Chief People Officer at Recruitics. She believes in providing 'human-centered' HR leadership through collaborative partnerships, strategic vision, and iterative approaches designed to keep people at the heart of everything companies do. Outside of work, Priscilla loves camping and hiking with her family, or settling in with a good book.