Countless companies pride themselves on being inclusive, loving, and the pinnacle of diversity in the community. What if they were wrong? More than ever, companies are offering social goods as a part of their campaign for reaching millennials and retaining them in the workplace. However, this step towards social change is not swaying millennial employees.
Spending a few dollars to support a local homeless shelter or supplying gifts for a nearby children’s hospital does not equal diversity. It equals a good photo op.
Look, there’s nothing wrong with building a presence within your community or helping local organizations through donations or volunteer work. But, that can’t be the only form of diversity that your company presents.
If companies want to be known as diversified and inclusive, then they must first understand that ideation is not the same as implementation. It’s easy to gather around the boardroom and scheme up the latest strategy; however, it’s a bit more difficult to bring it to fruition.
If we want to create spaces of diversity, inclusion, and equality, then we have to be willing to tear down some of our own assumptions; starting with the idea of exemption.
According to an article on CBS News, “Black people account for about 12% of the U.S. population, but occupy only 3.2% of the senior leadership roles at large companies in the U.S. and just 0.8% of all Fortune 500 CEO positions.”
Welcome to the reality of most organizations–a reality that must be changed.
Diversity must be more than our own assumptions. Let’s start by dismantling some of our beliefs. Here are 7 questions you should ask if you want to walk towards progress.
1. Does your company represent your audience?
According to a recent article by NBC News, “Today’s millennials–young adults ages 18 to 33 – are the most racially diverse generation in U.S. history. About 43 percent are non-white.” This is imperative to understand. This means that the majority of your audience, team, client-base, is non-Caucasian. Does this reality impact your team? Absolutely!
These numbers should not just reflect your customer base. They should characterize your company’s board members, executive leaders, marketing team, and ideation strategists.
In order for your business to survive, you need to understand where it is dying. This can only happen when you bring in voices that are unlike your own. If you want your company to reach millennials and Generation Z, then you must be willing to invite all to voice their perspective from the pulpit, so to speak.
We’ve all heard the famous African Proverb that says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Well, it takes a vast array of cultures, languages, ages, creeds, and races to influence the trajectory of a business.
Millennials or Generation Z are multicultural, multilingual, and multifaceted, and value environments where differences are celebrated and affirmed. These generations will not invest in your company if you don’t support these globalized values.
2. Does your company represent diversified beliefs?
According to Pew Research, “Four in ten millennials now say they are religiously unaffiliated”. Assistant Rabbi Danny Moss observes, “The way most millennials are engaging with religion is changing for a variety of reasons. But the main reason, he says, is their distrust of religious institutions.” Why does this matter? How does this apply to business success?
Millennials have been unaffiliated for years, but that doesn’t mean that they have left all forms of spirituality. Their inclination toward spirituality is not simply tied to their religious expression, but also their workplace expectation.
They expect companies to have the same passion for coexistence and environments where all religions feel welcomed.
So, how do companies meet this need for spiritual inclusion within the workplace? Here are some ideas:
- Meditation rooms
- Yoga retreats
- An interfaith community group
- Silent retreats
There are countless ways that companies can create space for diversity in belief. They just need to be creative and create environments where people feel valued for who they are and how they find personal meaning.
3. Does your company make gender equity a priority?
Younger generations grew up in the 3rd and 4th wave of feminism. This is imperative to understand.
Gender equity is also much more than the binary labels of “men” and “women”. The 3rd wave of feminism introduced the fight for equality for LGBTQIA+ and the 4th wave took that same stance on social media.
This means that companies have to educate themselves and their teams on LGBTQIA+ rights, take the time to learn their employees’ gender pronouns and address personal and professional biases to create spaces of inclusion.
4. Does your company have measures in place to combat racism?
Racism is one of the most pertinent issues that our nation faces. It also happens to be a big issue within the workplace.
At its core, racism is a form of discrimination. Discrimination affects team morale, productivity, and ultimately hinders business success.
So how can you combat racism in the workplace? It’s important to create an environment in which people can feel safe and accepted. Here are some steps that businesses can take:
- Provide anti-racism training to all team members
- Promote diversity in leadership roles
- Encourage open dialogue within teams
- Offer resources, such as paid training and seminars, to help team members recognize and address their own unconscious biases
- Provide opportunities for employees to hear from people of different races and backgrounds
These steps will create a more inclusive workplace culture in which all can feel seen, appreciated, and valued.
5. Does your company make an effort to understand different abilities?
Having a workplace that is inclusive of people with disabilities and understanding of the nuances that come with different abilities is essential for any successful business. Here are some tips on how to create a more understanding environment:
- Provide education about disabilities and different abilities
- Offer reasonable accommodations
- Create accessible workspaces
- Allow flexibility in working arrangements
- Make sure that there’s a good understanding of the disability laws in your state
- Research ways you can help make accommodations
- Promote a culture of inclusion and respect
By taking time to understand different abilities, you can create an inclusive environment where everyone is respected and appreciated.
6. Is your company open to discussions about mental health?
Mental health is still very much a taboo subject in our society. Despite the fact that 1 in 5 adults has a mental health condition, there is still a stigma that prevents people from talking openly about it.
As an employer, part of creating an inclusive workplace means being open to discussing mental health conditions and offering resources to help employees manage their symptoms. Here are some tips on how to do this:
- Provide resources such as mental health days, counseling services, and access to therapy
- Encourage open dialogue about mental health in the workplace
- Educate employees on warning signs of mental health conditions
Be understanding of any needs that an employee may have related to their condition
By providing support for those who are struggling with mental health issues, you can create a safe and understanding workplace.
7. Does your company have a zero-tolerance policy for harassment/discrimination?
Harassment and discrimination are serious issues that can have a negative impact on morale, productivity, and employee well-being. It’s important to make sure that all employees feel safe both in the workplace and online.
Creating a zero-tolerance policy for harassment/discrimination is one of the best ways to ensure that your business is creating an equitable environment. Here are some tips on how to create an effective policy:
- Define what constitutes harassment and discrimination
- Provide a safe space for employees to report incidents
- Create an anonymous reporting system
- Make sure that all reports are handled quickly and professionally
- Ensure that everyone is treated equally and with respect
By creating a zero-tolerance policy for harassment/discrimination, you can create a workplace culture in which everyone feels safe and valued.
Creating an inclusive and safe workplace is essential for any successful business. By taking steps to recognize and address unconscious biases, understand different abilities, support mental health conditions, and create a zero-tolerance policy towards harassment/discrimination you can create an environment in which everyone feels accepted and respected. Taking the time to research how your company can become more diverse will help foster a positive work culture where all are invited to LEAN IN, learn, and listen.