Diversity in the workplace continues to become a point of importance for companies of all types as the world continues to evolve socially. A workplace that fails to uphold the inclusion of, and consideration for, others is one that has fallen behind modern trends. It could also be a place of discomfort for many employees. A diverse environment takes a concerted effort by all members of any team and the results can positively impact the effectiveness of a business. If succeeding in business is a puzzle, then utilizing different shaped pieces to solve that puzzle is ideal as no good puzzle is made up of identical pieces. When it comes to the influence diversity can have on business Julie Sweet, the CEO of Accenture, put it best, “We believe our diversity makes us stronger, smarter, and more innovative, helping us better serve the needs of our clients, our people, and our communities.”
As a company expands and introduces new faces to the ranks, it is necessary to inform them of the company’s efforts towards an inclusive workplace. How do you communicate your diversity initiatives to new employees? We spoke with 10 executives to discover their opinion on this subject.
Burner, is an app which allows for anonymous telecommunication through a second phone number. It’s Brand Strategist and Marketing director, Summer Romasco, strongly believes that intentionally recruiting diverse employees is a show of diversity.
“If a potential hire is sitting in your lobby waiting for an interview and sees a handful of people who appear similar, it won’t go unnoticed. The same can be said about those who interview said potential hire. Those of different backgrounds will bring different perspectives to the table and that should not be overlooked. Creativity goes a long way and diversity is a sure fire way to spark this.”
Praise the differences
Chris Cronin is a co-founding partner of Kitanica, they specialize in comfortable and highly durable clothing. He advises managers to applaud the differences when they emerge within the workplace in order to highlight them and include them.
“One of the quickest ways to include any employee, new or old, is to directly encourage them. This is especially true when dealing with matters of diversity as the varied people on your team may not always feel included. Honoring culture or religion is a path every manager should take. Don’t hold back in this area and be vocal when praising all of the differences. Efforts like this will serve to cultivate comradery within a group. Remember, a multitude of identical employees won’t get you very far.”
Creating a diverse workplace is not the sole responsibility of the boss or HR team. Every member, no matter their position, has a level of responsibility in this matter. For this reason, it is important to ensure that everyone contributes to this endeavor while simultaneously having a voice. Rahul Khatri, the co-founder and CXO of Stoggles, an eyewear company focused on style and safety, suggests as much.
“Some people are simply not as passionate or considerate of diversity as others. Attitudes like this will likely bring an element of exclusion to your team. Meetings spotlighting diversity may seem like a routine HR initiative but they can be so much more. Give space and time for every member of your team to contribute or question on matters of diversity. Often that lack of interest comes from a lack of understanding. And with the goal of diversity being understanding, exercises like this will only further the initiative.”
Diversity as an asset
Disco is a health and wellness brand dealing with premium skincare products for men. Their founder, Benjamin Smith, proposes that diversity in the workplace should be widely discussed, as an initiative but especially so as a strength.
“So many companies and people discuss diversity as this societal goal we should all be striving for. That’s wonderful and I fully believe these people are correct. However, I also believe that diversity is so much more than this, especially in business. Just as a successful football team is made up of a variety of players each with their own strong suits and backgrounds, so is a successful business. When discussing diversity with employees, frame it as an asset to the team because that’s what it is.”
Jeff Henretig is the founder and CEO of Apothecanna, a company featuring plant medicine via organic essential oils. He considers one of the most effective ways of communicating diversity within the workplace to be the act of listening and observing.
“A lack of pertinent information is a lack of understanding. Take the time to hear your employees personal stories, experiences and beliefs. Take notice of how they conduct themselves and interact with others. Who a person is has a direct impact on how your workplace operates. Conversations and interactions like this will expose some differences but that is the goal here. The knowledge of these differences will allow all parties to not only gain trust but also work together to achieve success.”
The reality of a multicultural workplace is that it will encounter speed bumps and issues that need to be sorted through. This is a wonderful opportunity to gain understanding and promote growth from within. Chris Hetherington, the founder and CEO of Peels, an innovative company which produces CBD from oranges, advises this.
“No workplace is free from difficulty. What separates the average workplace from the best of them is their ability to work through these things. Some bosses may choose a place of neutrality or even to ignore an issue. I can’t stress this enough – employees will take notice of this. Being direct and taking a head on approach to diversity issues or misunderstandings is the best road forward. If a person feels personally slighted, they’ll likely feel excluded as well.”
Offer education and guidance
Oliver’s Apparel is a clothing brand offering versatile and thoughtful activewear. Their founder and CEO, David Wolfe, suggests providing education geared towards diversity not only informs the employees on the matter but also demonstrates a company’s value of the subject.
“Diversity training can be offered at any point in an employee’s tenure and can prove beneficial in a symbiotic manner. For the employee, they’re exposed to new knowledge regarding the culture, behavior or beliefs of employees of various backgrounds. Meanwhile, the promotion of internal diversity by the company exhibits the appreciation of the diversity itself. With these two things working in unison, diversity takes a priority.”
Promote personal voice
Derin Oyekan is the co-founder of Reel Paper, a company specializing in tree free 100% bamboo paper products. He believes that companies should intentionally promote and allow everyone within the organization to speak on and demonstrate their background and personal beliefs.
“Getting people to share about themselves may not always be the easiest thing to accomplish but it can prove incredibly fruitful. Often, people believe they should leave their personal lives at the door of the office which contributes to this lack of sharing. However, discovering what defines a person and makes them tick is key to promoting diversity within your company. It could be something as simple as taking an employee to lunch or asking them to bring in a cultural snack one day.”
Employees as singular people
Managers will frequently make decisions based around the view of their employees as a group. This is a wise tactic as they are in fact a team but it’s also sensible to view each person as an individual and treat them accordingly. Fred Gerantabee, the CEO of Readers.com, an online retailer of reading glasses, suggests as much.
“Employees of diverse walks of life will have contrasting needs and wants. While there are group choices to be made across the board, some things can be dealt with individually depending who you’re dealing with. For example, some employees of differing religions will make specific requests about time management while younger employees may prefer a specific channel of communication. Being accommodating, within professional reasons, is an excellent way to demonstrate a company’s value of diversity.”
Choose words carefully
Maxine Swim is a women’s swimwear brand. Their VP of Ecommerce, Karim Hachem, advises anyone communicating, verbally or digitally, on behalf of the company to be wise and calculated about the vocabulary they select.
“The wrong word, or a poor choice of words, can create a hurtful situation or simply a misunderstanding. Those of various generations, cultures, or religions can take separate meanings from a message or even take offense. It could be helpful to have multiple people proofread important emails or hear that announcement you’re going to make so that it can be inclusive of all employees.”
Including and understanding everyone for who they are in a professional setting is fundamental to any diversity initiative regardless of the methodology. Going above and beyond the bare minimum is certain to bring growth and teamwork to a workplace. Carin Taylor, the chief diversity officer at Workday, spoke on this, “Diversity and inclusion is less about a program, and more about helping people become comfortable enough to have a dialog about their experiences—including times when we have felt like an outsider.”