Some companies do diversity well. One company that often comes to mind when people think of diversity is Google. In fact, Google publishes an annual diversity report. The report is evidence of their commitment to welcoming diversity. But it doesn’t end there. Heck, even their website is anything but static. For example, consider the colorful font used in the everyday logo. Then, think of the myriad of topics highlighting cultural events. As you can see, everything Google does points to their diverse nature.
Diversity, however, is much more than an annual report and a dynamic homepage. Furthermore, there are right and wrong ways to create a diverse workplace. So, let’s get this discussion underway. That way we can spend our time being more like Google, and less time Googling how to become more diverse.
Diversity Then and Now
Now, diversity is a hot topic lately. However, that wasn’t always the case. For example, many of us have worked in environments referred to as “the good ole boys club.” Simply put, it was a space reserved for white men only. In other words, we knew not to expect to see women or other races in the higher echelons of the company. Sadly, we accepted it more than we fought against it. Why? Well, because we valued our jobs, and we didn’t want to risk rocking the boat. If we spoke out against “the club,” then our jobs could be in jeopardy. Furthermore, some of us had dreams of climbing higher on the career ladder. Remaining in good standing with the good ole boys would be a critical component in making that a reality.
In contrast, maintaining “the good ole boys club” nowadays can get a company in big trouble. Therefore, even if you think it, it’s best not to portray it. So, what is that supposed to mean? Well, it means that there are some mindsets that are difficult to change. However, despite knowing that it is hard it is to teach an old dog new tricks, that dog needs to put in some effort. That is, if he wants to survive. Ultimately, the goal is to develop a mindset that welcomes diversity. Nevertheless, we have to start somewhere.
What Qualifies a Diverse Workplace
Before improving diversity in your workplace, you first need to identify diversity. So, if you look around your office, and you see a bunch of people who all look the same, then you might need a diversity check. No, I’m not saying that if your employees wear uniforms that you aren’t diverse. Diversity has nothing to do with uniforms. However, it could have something to do with the dress codes, but we will come back to that in a bit.
Now, back to what you see in your workplace. You should notice people of a variety of ages, ethnicities, body types, and genders. Some attributes, however, are more difficult to see when you are only looking at faces. These attributes include backgrounds, religions, sexual orientations, education, and abilities. To clarify, you will see those attributes on job applications and resumes. So, if your company embodies these descriptions, then congratulations! You can pat yourself on the back, because you probably fairly diverse!
How to Improve Diversity in the Workplace
To some, achieving diversity may seem like a natural accomplishment. However, not all companies feel confident about diversity. Therefore, if you are feeling less than diverse, then this is the important piece for you.
For starters, in order to improve diversity in the workplace, accept that you will need to do some work. With this in mind, you are probably thinking that you should just start firing people who look alike. Otherwise, it will take forever for your workplace to become diverse. Right? Despite your good intentions, that would be the wrong way to handle the situation. Rather, you should start by taking a look at your hiring practices.
So, how do you improve diversity through the hiring process? The answer is simple: Hire based on merit, and not on biases. Namely, while you have had good experiences working with men named John, don’t let that keep you from hiring a qualified woman named Juanita. In other words, don’t fear change.
Moreover, a good rule of thumb is to avoid taking on too much at once. Specifically, aim to improve only one metric at a time. For instance, if you notice a lack of minorities in your workplace, set a goal. Plan to hire an additional 10% qualified minorities over the course of the next year. By all means, embed those goals into your annual objectives. If you put it in writing, you will find yourself acting more purposefully.
Self-Expression and Diversity
Finally, let’s get back to that question of the dress code that I mentioned earlier. I mean, you are a little intrigued by this, aren’t you? I thought so.
Now, self-expression can be rocky ground to navigate, especially where concerning diversity. For example, think about businesses that have a no-hat policy as part of the dress code. Meanwhile, that same company could have an orthodox Jewish person as an employee. In that case, it would be culturally appropriate for the employee to wear a kippah on a regular basis. So, what is the right thing for the company to do in that situation? To clarify, don’t ditch the objective of maintaining a company dress code. It is important to establish appropriate work attire. However, try implement the dress code while being considerate of cultural diversity.
At the end of the day, when it comes to self-expression, the company will need to put it in writing. In other words, decide on what is acceptable for that workplace, and detail it in the company handbook. Then, as issues arise, deal with them on a case-by-case basis. Be intentional about considering diversity when making your decision. Correspondingly, be fair in your decisions.
Go Google, or Go Home
When in doubt about whether you are doing diversity right, don’t be afraid to rip a page out of Google’s playbook. Namely, write an annual diversity report! Google doesn’t own the rights to being diverse, so make it part of your brand, too.
To emphasize, be intentional about hiring candidates from various backgrounds. Furthermore, don’t be afraid to seek out people who are diverse in many ways. You should see a myriad of ethnicities, genders, and ages. You should also be confident in your workplace diversity. Employees should have varying abilities, education, and religions, among other attributes.
Finally, don’t be afraid to brand your company as welcoming diversity. Make it a goal to improve diversity. Once you do that, you will likely notice that your candidate pool is more interesting. After all, interesting workers want to work in interesting environments. Don’t believe me? Google it.