Some people feel that workplace diversity is a marketing endeavor; it makes companies look better on paper. But diverse workplaces have been shown to be more productive and more profitable, year over year. 

The Benefits of Diversity

Recent years have seen a huge range of studies related to the benefits of diverse workplaces, where teams have members with different genders, cultural backgrounds, ages, sexual orientations, and religious beliefs. Here is a quick recap of the benefits of diversity as we know them:

  • Diversity improves products and services. When new products are developed by non-diverse teams, they may unconsciously overlook the needs and challenges of other kinds of people. The world is full of examples of products, services, and processes designed by men, for example, that don’t serve the needs of women. Inclusive teams ensure that products and services are evaluated by a diverse group, so that they work for everyone. 
  • Diversity spurs innovation. A plurality of voices, perspectives, and objectives can result in teams and companies that are more creative, and more innovative. Diverse teams with a wide range of experiences and backgrounds inspire creativity and innovation at a higher rate than non-diverse teams.
  • Diversity improves morale and reduces turnover. Employee turnover is a huge problem for most companies. Replacing an experienced employee with a new hire is both financially expensive, and causes loss of productivity that affects whole teams and departments. Inclusive leadership plays an important role in employee retention, and reduces turnover. 
  • Diversity improves profits. For many companies, this is the bottom line: diversity is profitable. Study after study has proven that companies that rank higher on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index have significantly higher innovation, performance, and profits. 

The Drawbacks of Diversity?

Some companies have found that their diversity policies have caused a backlash in employee morale and intent to turnover. Diversity hires can also experience “tokenism” that makes it difficult for them to be effective. This backlash is often cited as a case against diversity policies and programs, but it’s a misguided idea. The problem with the way some diversity policies are implemented is that employees perceive them as being unfair. And, generally speaking, a lack of diversity is also perceived as unfair: members of marginalized groups are well aware that the deck is stacked against them. 

The secret to developing diversity without a backlash is to create workplace policies and hiring procedures that are understood to be fair and merit-based, so that no group is given an unfair advantage. In fact, it is not diversity itself, but a belief in fairness, that drives employee morale and turnover intent. Companies must develop processes that hire and promote team members based on merit, while still striving for diversity. 

How to Recruit and Build Diverse Teams Impartially

For companies seeking to build more diverse teams and inclusive leadership, therefore, it’s not simply a matter of imposing a quota. Improving diversity requires taking a hard look at current policies and procedures, workplace culture, and team dynamics. These factors can be difficult to change, and need buy-in and implementation at all levels. Here are just some of the tools to use:

  • Exit interviews. Exit interviews can be a fantastic way to receive feedback from employees, because they have nothing to lose by sharing their experiences. However, exiting employees also have nothing to gain by trying to help a business improve their culture. Rather than asking directly about diversity, it can often be helpful to ask about fairness and merit, and feelings of isolation or exclusion. 
  • Review your job listings. Many job listings reflect the unconscious biases of a company, in a way that may be invisible to the person who writes them, but is perceptible to the person who reads them. Job listings and descriptions are often full of wording that discourages diverse applicants. Have your job listings written by a diverse team, or learn more about how to write unbiased job descriptions. 
  • Recruit from diverse sources. Studies show that if you base most of your hiring and promotion decisions on personal referrals and networks, your team becomes less and less diverse. Also, if you always post your job listings in the same way to the same people, your teams become less diverse. Instead, make an effort to share your openings with a wider, and more diverse, group of applicants. It can also mean specifically reaching out to diverse and minority groups and sharing your opportunities. For example, you can look up professional groups like women in technology, black people in STEM, etc. and sharing your job listings with their membership. 
  • Cultivate mentorship and outreach programs. Mentorship and outreach programs help you not just make diverse hires, but grow those new hires into future leaders. For example, studies show that just 10% of companies have mentorship programs for women, but those companies have up to 24% greater representation of women in management. 
  • Improve complaint and conflict resolution processes. When your conflict resolution processes don’t work for everyone, they don’t work. Instead of having disciplinary hearings, and determining whether an incident deserves punishment, develop conflict resolution programs that help team members work together and understand each other.
  • Audit your employee data for inequality. Finally, don’t rely on your employees to tell you whether or not you have a diverse workplace, or how to improve it. Look at your own data. Are minority employees paid less, promoted less often, and leaving more quickly? Are there particular teams, departments, or groups with a noticeable lack of diversity? Your own data can tell you everything you need to know about how diverse and inclusive your company and leadership are. 

To grow more diverse teams, you need to rethink your recruitment process. Contact grapefrute to start growing a broader, more creative, and more innovative candidate pool. Our global talent network and innovative approach support diversity initiatives and strengthen your teams. 

Workplace Diversity: it’s not simply a matter of imposing a quota.