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Building A Diverse Workforce

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by Michelle Stedman, Vice President of Operations and Talent Management Strategist at BirdDogHR

There’s no better way to reflect the world we live through your company in than by ensuring that you employ a diverse range of staff. Whether it’s through nationality, religious beliefs, disability, or sexual preference, having a diverse workforce pays dividends for both company morale and employee retention. Nobody wants to feel like the odd person out in a sea of homogeneity – and a homogenous workforce can broadcast some uncomfortable truths, even unintentionally.

Think about this tone-deaf tweet from Huffington Post, or this Instagram post from Speaker of the House Paul Ryan – although the posts have the intent of showing an enjoyable workplace, they served more to demonstrate the lack of people of color hired by both Capitol Hill interns program, and the Huffington Post’s editor division. Diversity in the workplace needs to be intersectional, and HR and recruiting divisions must always be culturally sensitive. Lacking diversity can cause legal ramifications, but also a company’s reputation could take a hit, and employees themselves will feel far less engaged if they don’t feel properly represented in their place of work.

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A diverse workforce has been shown to increase profits, and many successful companies have made it a priority to ensure that everyone feels welcome. If hiring for diversity hasn’t been on your radar yet, it’s your responsibility to bring people of all backgrounds into the fold.

Here’s why it’s important, and how to do it:

The Importance – and Priority – of Staff Diversity.

For many hiring managers, the emphasis is on finding the most qualified and talented candidates to fill roles at a company. Even if the field is large, HR and talent departments are tasked with narrowing their search down to only the best. The problem that can rise here is that sometimes in the pursuit of excellence, there isn’t enough focus being put on looking at diversity. Building a staff that includes people of multiple origins and cultures means that no one person feels left out (or singled out), as well as creating a rich workforce that puts an emphasis on acceptance.

Think about your company and what kind of business it does, and who it primarily does business with. Is your staff adequately representative of the demographic you’re serving? If the answer is no, then how are you certain you’re serving your demographic in the ways that they truly need? It’s this diverse range of background and viewpoints that make multicultural hires so important. You can’t fake someone else’s life experience for the sake of the bottom line; transparency and authenticity always come out on top, for good reason.

Unfortunately, statistics show that many companies have a long way to go to make diversity a priority. There are a number of ways that workplaces aren’t making the grade when it comes to diversity hiring, including the fact that 41% of managers claim to be “too busy” to implement diversity initiatives. There are also some pretty stark findings, such as the fact that 57% of employees “think their companies should be more diverse” and 40% of people think there’s a standard against hiring women (considering the fact that so few CEOs are women, this could be a very correct assumption).

Federal contractors in particular need to keep diversity a priority, given that there are laws in place in order to ensure that no one is discriminated against when it comes to hiring processes. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), in their own words, “is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.” Federal contractors need to document their recruitment outreach and hiring processes in order to have proof that they’re adhering to the EEOC’s guidelines. These federal laws also stretch across most employers with more than 15 employees, most labor unions, and employment agencies, so it’s vital that all hiring managers comply with these anti-discrimination guidelines.

The Best Ways to Hire for Diversity.

Now that you’re aware of the importance of a diverse workplace from both a social and a legal standpoint, it’s important that you create a company culture that’s accepting of all diversities. The first step is to get out of the mindset that hiring for diversity is purely about legal obligation, or doing so just to check off the “diversity” box for your company. Instead, hiring a diverse workforce is a necessity because it brings together people of all backgrounds and cultures, which can in turn provide education, inspiration, and unique points of view.

It can start right at the beginning with the job postings your company puts online. Specifically noting that your company values diverse hiring and openly welcomes people of all nationalities, disabilities, and gender identities to apply can be a small thing with huge results. It also pays to work your company’s focus on diversity into its core values or motto, as it makes it clear that the company celebrates difference and will not tolerate discrimination. This too ought to be highlighted in your company’s mission statement across all job postings.

If you’re having a hard time finding diverse candidates in your region, there are some techniques you can use, such as employee referrals (especially if the company has moved to a region with less diversity), speaking to local institutions like colleges and cultural centers, and even looking into websites that specifically promote diversity in job candidates. Now that the internet allows for a wider job-search reach, there should be no excuses for missing out on multiculturalism in your workplace.

Training and education can go a long way in improving or repairing a workplace that hasn’t yet prioritized diversity. In order to retain employees, you need to give them the vision of a solid career path, and this can be daunting if the cultural acceptance and resources aren’t there. Instead, personnel need to be given the training required to help with any cultural differences or roadblocks that could prevent employees from moving forward. Putting together a network for socializing and communication can also help staff feel like they’re part of the team, which cuts down on both isolation and turnover.

Finally, transparency is key. Make sure your employees know that they’re not there to fill a quota – instead, they were chosen because they were the best. It just so happens that a diverse workforce is the best overall, especially when everyone is contributing their own unique skills.

Make It Multicultural.

Although it may not be intentional, overlooking diversity initiatives at the workplace can be disastrous – not only because outright discrimination is against federal law, but also because it can create a hostile or isolated atmosphere. Society is already so unstable when it comes to understanding our differences – don’t let this sort of volatility creep into the office environment. It’s time to celebrate multiculturalism and what makes us unique, especially in the workplace.

How diverse is your current place of employment? Do you think it could be better? Tell us in the comments.

 

michelle stedman

Michelle Stedman, Vice President of Operations and Talent Management Strategist, joined the BirdDogHR team in 2012 and leads the Professional Services, Product Development and Customer Care teams. Michelle’s multifaceted background in corporate recruiting and agency staffing gives her a unique perspective into developing professional services that help BirdDogHR customers achieve talent management success. A published author and frequent presenter, Michelle speaks to AGC of America and SHRM audiences across the country.