Career Development

Guide to Workplace Diversity: Meaning, Benefits and Tips

October 21, 2021

In the workplace, people of many backgrounds collaborate together to accomplish shared objectives. Having a diverse workforce provides many potential benefits to companies, staff and customers because it reflects a range of experiences from multiple communities. If you're a manager or in an HR role, learning what diversity means and knowing how to create an affirming environment for a diverse range of people can help you create a productive and positive workplace. In this article, we explain the meaning of workforce diversity, discuss the importance of promoting diversity in the workplace and share tips for improving it in your work environment.

Workforce diversity meaning

Workforce diversity has multiple layers. It means that an organisation has staff from a variety of backgrounds and demographics and that the company strives to advocate for their staff through inclusive policies. Workforce diversity can refer to many aspects of a professional's identity, including gender, ethnicity, generation, education level and language. Diverse businesses ensure that everyone in their workforce has equal consideration and opportunities for contribution to the organisation. They strive to incorporate fair compensation and promotion opportunities into their policies to encourage individuals from all backgrounds to engage in their work and feel confident in their roles.

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Why is workplace diversity important?

Workplace diversity is important because it upholds respect for company staff regardless of their identity. It also acknowledges the value that is added by people who have different backgrounds and experiences. Prioritising diversity at work ensures that qualified individuals receive fair opportunities for advancement. Organisations with diverse staff are also likely to have many perspectives, which can lead to productive discussions and innovative developments within the company. Some of the key benefits of diversity in the workforce are:

  • Improving morale: Prioritising diversity can help people on your team feel that the organisation values and accepts them, which can improve morale and engagement.
  • Expanding opportunities: Workplace diversity is important because it provides fair opportunities to people who may not have previously had access to success in certain industries or roles.
  • Attracting talent: When a company has a reputation for appreciating diversity and offering fair opportunities for people of all backgrounds, it may attract a wider range of talented candidates from different backgrounds.
  • Providing better products: People from different backgrounds can advocate for their own unique perspective, which can result in providing better services and products to customers who share their backgrounds.
  • Aligning with consumer values: Many people see diversity and inclusion as important social values and may want to support companies that prioritise diversity in their policies.

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Understanding diversity vs. equality

Equality and diversity are similar terms and it's important to understand the distinction between them. Having equality at work involves ensuring that everyone receives fair treatment. This includes:

  • equal opportunities for promotion
  • equitable pay for equivalent positions and experience
  • reasonable accommodations for physical disabilities
  • the right to a workplace free from discrimination

Diversity emphasises the value of having people with different backgrounds and attributes in the workforce. Diversity includes equality because appreciating and valuing someone's differences naturally involves treating them equitably and with respect.

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How to improve diversity in the workplace

Here are some steps you can take to improve diversity in the workplace:

1. Review the current diversity culture

To successfully improve diversity in the workforce, it's important to understand the current company culture. Having a basic understanding of company policies regarding diversity, as well as staff opinions and statistics about company demographics can help you develop a customised diversity and inclusion plan. Many organisations already have data about their staff demographics, such as the gender ratio on their overall staff and the gender ratio of their executive team. Collect as much data as you can to evaluate the current level of diversity.

Along with gathering existing statistics, consider creating a survey and asking staff members how they feel about the company's current policies on diversity. Having a combination of numerical data and anecdotal feedback can provide you with a well-rounded view of the company culture.

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2. Develop focus groups

When updating company policies or developing a diversity and inclusion plan, form focus groups or a diversity task force to assist with strategic development. Many companies have focus groups which include staff as well as community members who are active in diversity initiatives to provide several perspectives. Asking team members to participate in policy planning ensures that people have the opportunity to create meaningful change in their environment. It also allows the people who are most impacted by diversity and inclusion policies to share their opinions and experiences.

It's important to engage focus groups during all steps of the strategic development and implementation process. Schedule several meetings and ask for ongoing support throughout policy changes to handle any unexpected issues. Prioritising diverse voices when developing policies about diversity can ensure that you develop systems that genuinely address the goals you want to achieve.

3. Hire diverse leadership

If you want to improve the diversity of your overall staff, hire a diverse leadership team. A diverse leadership team can use their perspectives and ideas to develop a thoughtful diversity and inclusion strategy using their own experiences in the workforce. Prioritising diversity in all aspects of your hiring process, including on the executive level, shows that diversity is a core value for the company.

Having people with a variety of backgrounds as managers and executives indicates to the rest of the team members that they can achieve top-level positions within the company. This can inspire people to be more committed and motivated to grow in the business or look for mentorship opportunities. It also shows that leaders within the company can relate to aspects of their own identity and may be more willing and able to advocate for their needs as staff members.

4. Set goals for improvement

When striving to increase diversity on your team, set clear goals for why and how you want to be more diverse. Establishing these objectives can give you metrics to track your progress and allow you to adjust your strategy as needed. For example, you may want to improve your survey ratings for how your team members perceive the diversity culture on your team as a way to boost morale.

Decide on a time frame for your goals, such as over the next three years. Develop a plan to achieve specific goals, such as changing policies to demonstrate your commitment to your team or hosting specific events to engage the staff with topics related to diversity. Establishing actionable goals allows you to be mindful and specific with your improvements.

5. Create mentorship opportunities

One way to improve diversity in the workplace is to design mentorship opportunities that emphasise different aspects of a diverse workforce. For example, there are many mentorship programs that focus on helping women in technology or STEM to overcome some of the barriers in that field. Creating multiple mentorship programs where people of similar identities can share their experiences with one another is a great way to promote community on your team while also giving people the opportunity to develop professionally.

6. Prioritise accessibility

Having an accessible workplace is key to true diversity. Being able to provide reasonable accommodations for staff members who have disabilities is essential, but prioritising accessibility and making it a part of the workplace culture can attract an even more diverse range of individuals to your team. For example, having flexible work hours or work from home options can make an organisation much more accessible to parents and people with disabilities, which adds diversity and acceptance to the workplace.

7. Educate your team

Educating your team about diversity ensures that improvements to policies becomes a standard part of the workplace culture. Host training sessions on different topics related to diversity and inclusion to ensure that everyone understands why diversity is important and how to behave in an acceptable way at work. You can educate your team through formal training or by sharing thoughtful passages from books and having discussions. Being proactive and teaching team members about diversity establishes clear expectations about appropriate workplace behaviour and makes it easier to hold everyone accountable for creating a positive environment.


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