What is Diversity in the Workplace? And What Can HR Do?


HR Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for HR pros

Friday, January 19, 2018

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace is more important than ever, and is an essential aspect of good people management.

Article 4 Minutes
What is Diversity in the Workplace? And What Can H

In creating an inclusive environment where each individual feels safe and valued, HR teams now have the opportunity to use workplace diversity as part of an effective strategy where organizations can meet their business objectives.

What is diversity in the workplace?

There’s no arguing that in today’s market, organizations must take clear steps to ensure that their workplaces are fair and inclusive, regardless of attributes including race, religion, age, gender and disability.

Simply looking at this concept from a moral standpoint, it goes without saying that as disparities in wealth and opportunity become increasingly apparent, businesses and HR teams must ensure that their people management strategies don’t cause any group to be disadvantaged or marginalized.

But the truth is that by embracing an inclusive workforce, businesses have so much more to gain. From a more diverse range of thoughts, to the ideas and processes that arise as a result of cultivating a staff base from a range of backgrounds and identities, organizations are primed to grow, learn, and ultimately become more sustainable.

Is diversity good for business?

In a nutshell, yes. We’ve established that diversity and inclusion aren’t just moral issues, but that organizations which opt for an all-encompassing workforce are more likely to succeed in the long term.

By building a team which includes a range of ethnicities, religions, genders and ages, organizations are giving themselves a huge competitive advantage over their marketplace, as they’re more likely to have a deeper understanding of a range of demographics and audiences. As today’s landscape becomes increasingly global, an inclusive and varied workforce allows organizations the opportunity to tap into new customer bases, products and services.

How does this impact HR functions?

HR has a crucial role to play when it comes to fostering an inclusive workforce; whether this is through monitoring and assessing the organization’s need for diversity, or by promoting an open and safe workplace culture where morale is high and each team member feels valued and able to thrive in their role.

Assuming that an organizations’ owner or senior management team has already taken steps to implement a diversity program, HR employees will find that they are able to work in sync to develop supporting opportunities. For example, HR should be the department within a business which advocates for diversity initiatives, helps to research and gather the necessary information to create a program, and then coordinates its implementation, from drafting policies and communicating with senior management.

Should the responsibility for diversity fall solely on HR?

For a workplace to be truly diverse and inclusive, a cohesive approach which is implemented business-wide is vital. It’s indisputable how important a diverse workforce is, and the benefits that a rich range of workers can bring, and this is why the responsibility for inclusiveness should not fall solely on HR.

While HR will undoubtedly play a leading role in generating ideas and initiatives, it’s important that the organization as a whole is on board, and that the idea of inclusion and diversity is weaved into what the business represents; if employees believe that these programs and initiatives are encouraged solely as a ‘HR program’, or that they are one-off occurrences, then this can have a negative effect, where credibility is damaged and morale plummets.

As we’ve already discussed, today’s business landscape is becoming increasingly international, and simply hiring within set boundaries could ultimately lead to a monotonous workforce, and have a detrimental effect on the business as a whole.

It’s more important than ever before that each individual’s experiences, background, choices and beliefs form part of a diverse, multi-cultural, open and safe working environment, where everyone can learn from one another, and where employees can use their collective differences and knowledge to drive their organization forward.

When it comes to staff wellbeing and happiness, employees who feel valued and supported by their HR and management teams throughout their career are more likely to excel and contribute effectively to their organization. Ultimately, the workplace is continuously evolving and while diversity within the workforce is now more likely to happen naturally over time, it’s important that HR plays a prominent role in developing these initiatives, and ensures that every employee benefits from an open and inclusive working environment.

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