The Complete Business (and Human) Case [+ Examples]
When Sonia Thompson got the promotion she’d been dreaming of she was overjoyed—until she saw the paycheck.
But it wasn’t until she spoke to another Black woman who was also underpaid that she realized it was because of who she was.
“Why Black women are underpaid, I'm not sure. But I can tell you the impact is real. It makes you angry. It makes you feel undervalued. It makes you question your abilities,” says Sonia, consultant, speaker, and CEO of Thompson Media Group. “Women on the whole… earn an average of 80 cents on the dollar for the same job as men… But black women earn just 61 cents on the dollar for the same job as men.”
Unfortunately, Sonia’s story is just one drop in an ocean of workplace inequality—but the tide is set to change.
As Black Lives Matter hits the headlines and companies around the country start to take accountability for change, the call for workplace diversity is getting louder. In fact, 78% of talent professionals and hiring managers say that diversity is now the top trend impacting how they hire.
This ultimate ebook will help you understand the full business case for workplace diversity, how to create (and enhance) a diverse company culture and—most importantly—how to keep your diversity and inclusion plans actionable, practical and human.
What is diversity in the workplace, really?
“An inclusive workplace is when openness prevails, and people are empowered to be their authentic (and unique!) selves all the time.” —Ethan Salathiel, Bound Coaching & Behavioural Change
Technically, diversity in the workplace is when a company’s workforce includes a variety of people from different backgrounds. That can include people of different genders, races, religions, ages, ethnicities, sexual orientations, cultural backgrounds, languages and abilities, and more.
But a diverse workplace is about more than just inviting people from different backgrounds to the table—it’s about generating a culture of belonging.
As Gregory Lewis, Content Marketing Manager at LinkedIn puts it: “Diversity is like being invited to a party, inclusion is being asked to dance, and belonging is dancing like no one’s watching.”💃🏽💃
But as a people professional charged with walking the line between hard business results and “soft” human-first hiring initiatives, how can you make sure everyone’s invited to bring their own unique rhythm to the workplace?
First, you need to know your numbers.
Workplace diversity: The numbers behind the need
From “not enough diverse applicants” to “hiring for culture fit”, nearly any objection to hiring diverse candidates can be nipped in the bud once you know your numbers.
Here’s just a handful of the top stats revealing why diversity in the workplace just make sense:
- At 44% minority, millennials are the most diverse generation yet—and they make up over a third of the current workforce.
- Gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform their competitors, and ethnically-diverse companies are 35% more likely to do the same.
- 67% of job seekers said a diverse workforce is important when considering job offers.
- 87% of global businesses agree D&I is an organizational priority.
The math is simple:
An increasingly diverse workforce + the positive impacts of diversity = A business no-brainer.
But let’s be clear. Workplace diversity isn’t just about the astounding productivity benefits it can deliver for your business. It’s also the right thing to do from a purely common sense perspective.
Let’s take a closer look at the top benefits of diversity at work.
10 undeniable benefits of workplace diversity
- Increased innovation: New employees = new ideas. In fact, inclusive companies are 1.7X more likely to be innovation leaders. 👌🏽
- Better decision-making: Diverse teams make better business decisions 87% of the time according to research by decision-making platform Cloverpop.
- Increased employee engagement: Remember the feeling of being picked last for a sport? That’s the feeling you want to avoid giving any of your employees. The more included they feel, the more engaged they’ll be.
- Higher creativity: Contact with different cultures is proven to increase creativity—that means more innovation and creative solutions to your biggest business problems.
- Faster problem-solving: Diverse skills and mindsets allow teams to approach problems from multiple angles—meaning diverse teams reach decisions faster.
- Increased profits: Companies with inclusive talent practices generate up to 30% higher revenue per employee.
- Better company resilience: With unprecedented global events shaking up local economies, resilience is key to future success—and diverse teams are 1.8X more likely to be able to cope with change.
- Reduced employee turnover: Poor diversity policies lead to employees moving on. In fact, 72% of managers surveyed by Deloitte would consider leaving their job for a more inclusive company.
- Improved company reputation: Millennials have a strong sense of individual responsibility (even more so post-Covid-19)—in fact, 75% would take a pay cut to work at a socially-responsible company. That means brands who stand up to the social-responsibility test are much more likely to be sought after by millennial workers.
- Better hiring results: Workplace diversity = more awesome candidates. According to a PWC study, over 80% of participants said diversity, equality and inclusion policies were an important factor when deciding where to work.
How to uplevel workplace diversity in 5 simple steps
Step #1. Know your ‘why’
As mentioned, the business case for workplace diversity is about more than just numbers—it’s about building a human-first company that works for everyone.
In other words, employers need to be clear about why they care beyond business.
Katie Augsburger, HR pro and advocate for a more compassionate workplace, explained how to figure out your ‘why’ in an interview with the 2050 Trailblazers podcast. For her, there are two simple (yet crucial) steps:
- Know where you’re coming from: “A lot of organizations will focus on [D&I] because of a moment within their organization in which this was highlighted. So, somebody notified the company of harassment or somebody said something inappropriate in a meeting… and these reactionary moments give us a very different result than an organization who is doing it because of an intentional focus… so be mindful of which place you’re coming from and what kind of energy you’re bringing into the practice.”
- Know where you’re headed: “You need to be very clear about the why and the what. Why are you doing this? Why do you care about diversity, equity and inclusion? Organizations sometimes just say ‘we care!’ but what are you trying to achieve by saying that?... So [be] very intentional about this journey. This journey may open up information about your organization, so… be really clear about what you’re willing to do and not to do.”
Key takeaway: To create a solid business-wide focus on workplace diversity, be clear about why you care and what you hope to achieve. ✨
Step #2. Run an inclusion audit on your internal processes
Even if you’ve never directly focused on workplace diversity, chances are some of your processes will already be inclusive.
Take a look at each business area and ask yourself:
- Which areas are clearly inclusive?
- Where are our diversity pitfalls?
- How do our hiring processes measure up when it comes to diversity?
- What processes could we implement that will have a business-wide effect?
- Do we fully understand the workplace experiences of our diverse employees?
Whatever you do, don’t assume. For a truly inclusive process, it’s important to get your employees involved in answering these questions.
Gianluca Binelli, Managing Director at Booster Box Digital says, “Keep an open mind and keep learning by asking feedback. Asking anonymous feedback empowers people to share more on what they would like to see changing in the workplace… Keeping our workplace inclusive isn’t just a checklist enforced via committee, it’s a continuous journey to learn and improve.”
Key takeaway: Work with your employees to truly understand areas for D&I improvement. 🔎
Step #3. Hire a diverse team
Great workplace diversity starts with a great hiring process.
From sourcing to onboarding, each recruitment stage needs to reflect the diversity you want for your company. The candidate experience should be the same for every person, no matter what their background is.
Here are a few pointers to get you started on building a totally inclusive recruitment process (for a total hiring overhaul, check out our free inclusive recruitment mini-course):
- Start with how you source: Get familiar with diversity-focused job boards and make sure to use inclusive language in all your job ads.
- Deliver on data-driven processes: “Put together a data-driven marketing-focused process that determines the attraction factors for each major diversity segment,” suggests Dr. John Sullivan, Corporate Speaker, Advisor, and Professor of Management at San Francisco State.
- Reinforce with rewards: “Reward executives, recruiters and managers heavily for reaching diversity goals… Emphasize employee referrals and give an added bonus for diversity hiring,” adds John.
- Rock your retention program: “Add a diversity retention program that targets top diverse talent before they begin thinking about leaving.”
Key takeaway: Improve your hiring processes to boost diversity throughout your biz. 💯
Step #4. Build empathy into your work culture
Empathy is at the heart of a diverse workplace.
But although 96% of employees believe it’s important for employers to be empathetic, a whopping 92% think the trait is undervalued.
“Exercise empathy—you may not know exactly what your colleagues are going through, but you may be able to identify with the emotions they are feeling. Let that be a starting point for your journey of empathy and dialogue with your fellow human beings regardless of background, differences or similarities.”
Does your company need an empathy boost? Here are a couple of pointers to get you started:
- Provide the right training: Empathy training helps companies incorporate and develop empathy and emotional awareness along with other must-have interpersonal skills.
- Listen actively: Empower employees and show you care by asking questions and acting on the answers.
- Nurture employee skills: The road to empathy involves listening, support and understanding. Show employees you care by asking them what they need, offering training and support, and applauding great work.
Key takeaway: Build an empathetic workforce through training and support. 🤝🏼
Step #5. Prioritize dialogue
Workplace diversity is all about human connection and respect—and communication plays a key role in achieving that.
Andy Crebar, CEO at SaplingHR agrees.
“Tackling issues of inclusion often means having courageous and potentially uncomfortable conversations,” he says. “It’s critical to create a safe space (an Inclusion Council, a non-recorded open-mic storytelling session, etc.) to encourage dialogue, offer supportive resources, and work through the discomfort towards long term unity.”
“[Businesses can] build on great trainings—such as ‘unconscious bias’ and ‘active bystander’ awareness—by role playing in as many conversations as possible and refreshing it in team meetings on a regular basis,” he explains. “[You can also include] a 10-min dedicated slot at the end of every weekly/monthly team meeting for an inclusion pulse, to check the cultural state of play and run some useful activities to keep engagement up. The everyday conversations should evolve, and leaders set the tone from the top.”
Key takeaway: Build conversation into the everyday by creating safe spaces for employees to speak and be heard. Encourage conversational roleplay between colleagues. 🗣️
The human case for workplace diversity
Boosting workplace diversity benefits everyone.
But for workers like Sonia—who feel the impact of inequality everyday—workplace diversity is more than a ‘nice-to-have’: it’s a necessity.
And it’s up to employers to make it happen. From implementing training to focusing on diverse hiring, there are countless steps you can take to immediately start doing better.
As Sonia puts it, “This was my story. But it doesn't have to be for others. Encourage and teach others... Create safe spaces for open conversations... And let us not accept no for an answer when we see someone being treated unfairly.”
Ready to lead the charge on inclusive hiring?
Join the thousands of companies already hiring with Breezy HR.