Your employees are your greatest resource. Your biggest asset. Your power. Your drive. Your agility and foundation! You’ve created a great team–you’re sure of it. But when was the last time you checked to make sure you’ve got the diversity of talent your company needs?
Are you sure you have everything you need in your proverbial toolbox? Having one full of just hammers is going to be useless unless you’ve got nails. And screws, and levels, and safety glasses, and saws, and…you get it. When you hire a bunch of people with the same skills, the same backgrounds, and the same experiences, you’re selling yourself short and weakening your potential. The more diversity of thought, experiences, strengths you have on your team, the more successful your business will be.
Ensure you’re putting an emphasis on protecting and nurturing diversity within your workplace by consistently and objectively assessing where your company is falling short and where it’s excelling. The following are some key areas of operations to consider.
Every business has a voice. It comes across in every communication aspect of your company, from external marketing to internal communications. The atmosphere of your business to your employee handbooks, internal surveys, data collection, and emails are all opportunities for communication. Consider how you use language that can apply to the broadest range of people. Some example to consider:
- Disabled vs. person with disabilities
- Deaf vs. hearing impaired
- Spouse vs. wife/husband
- Salesman vs. salesperson
Learning to identify language differences can feel subtle and takes practice. In the past, you may have unknowingly assumed gender, forced someone to choose an incorrect personal identification, or otherwise left out or incorrectly referenced a marginalized group of people. Don’t dwell on the past, look ahead, and persistently ask yourselves and your team how you can improve.
Identify areas where you can improve your company’s accessibility to people experiencing different forms of disability.
- How accessible is your workplace to people using wheelchairs?
- Is your office equipment (printers, copy machines) accessible from a seated position?
- Do you offer accessible employee desk space?
- Does your office space have ramps and elevators?
- Does your company offer alternatives to phone calls for people with hearing impairments?
- Do the signs in your office have brail and raised lettering?
To make working at your company more accessible, consider offering remote working positions. You may be surprised that remote employees tend to be more productive and engaged than those working from an office. Whatever you do to improve accessibility to your office, know that solutions are evolving and developing, so what might have been unattainable five years ago may be possible for your company now.
Chances are, your company has a website and social media presence. Take a look at what demographic your online presence represents. Do all your photos depict the same type of person? Are the only photos representing people with disabilities directly related to content about disabilities? That’s problematic in itself.
The key is to choose photos and language that speak to the broadest range of people and not just to who you might think your customer is. Use your messaging to help build connection and understanding, reaching a greater variety of people and giving a voice and representation to traditionally marginalized groups.
The more people your brand speaks to, the more comprehensive the range of prospective job candidates and customers you’ll attract. Seeing is believing. The more diversity you use in representations of customers, employees, and leadership, the easier it will be for people to see themselves in those roles.
Creating an unbiased hiring process can be a difficult task. Everyone’s got biases, and it’s a challenge to remove it from any process where humans have to choose other humans. So how do you go about minimizing bias from your hiring process? There’s a crazy amount of information on this topic, but here are four of the most common points.
- Educate your hiring managers about bias. Give them opportunities to learn how to identify their own and other’s prejudices.
- Review your job description. Consider how you can eliminate adjectives that are associated with one gender, ethnicity, or body type.
- Standardize, standardize, standardize! Make sure you’re approaching each interview with the same set of questions and expectations.
- Consider using blind recruitment strategies. Try removing identifying characteristics from the hiring process such as names, age, education, etc.
- Internal assessment. Constantly ask questions to stay on top of your game.
- Are my employees trained to identify their own biases?
- Do we require qualifications that might not be necessary?
- Is our ideal candidate defined? If so, what are the qualities that might be based on bias?
Leading with inclusivity is a constant learning process and not a one-and-done check on your to-do list. Prioritizing diversity within your hiring process takes regular evaluation and improvement.
Take a look at your company: how many people in leadership positions are the same sex and ethnicity? Hiring and promoting based on sex or ethnicity is obviously unethical. But the demographics of your leadership team could give valuable insight into your promoting and hiring practices. Take pains to make sure that people with the same titles are paid the same amount. Take a critical eye to your company hierarchy.
Make your moves
When you’re evaluating where you can improve, the best thing you can do is be honest with yourself and your employees. Understand you can never learn too much. Set an example as a leader who is always willing and devoted to nurturing a diverse and accessible workplace. The better you become at it, the higher the potential of your workforce will become. Your culture will thrive with varying experiences, strengths, and points of view, and your company will follow.