Workplace Diversity and Inclusion

Dec 14, 2021

Workplace diversity has been a top priority for many years. Increased diversity within an organization has proven to yield many positive results (beyond simply being the right thing to do). Financial success, more clients, and better innovation are all benefits of a diverse workforce. Additionally, Forbes says that “If your company supports a diverse, inclusive environment, you’re more likely to have happy employees and an engaged company, which yields better customer service and a stronger brand.”

According to the American Staffing Association, “Diversity once referred to visible characteristics like gender, race, or age, but now many companies are defining diversity more broadly to also include beliefs, skills and talents, life experiences, thought processes, and working styles.” This difference between inherent diversity (demographics like race, sex, and age) and acquired diversity (education, values, skills, etc.) is important to remember when it comes time to work on inclusion.

Diversity has been on the radar for years; many companies are doing well in an overall regard for expanding their talent pool. The focus is now on inclusion: making sure diverse workers are included and able to contribute to the workplace.

So what does improved inclusion look like? A discussion on inclusion cannot be had without addressing privilege. ASA Staffing World presenter Nika White defines privilege as “the absence of barriers and presence of unearned advantages.” This privilege often presents us with an unconscious bias against people or situations that we are not familiar with. By using the phrase “tell me more,” we can understand the perspectives of others who do not share our privilege.

We must consider the underlying factors in our workplace and ask ourselves if there are groups that cannot take part as it stands. For example, the 2020 coronavirus pandemic brought with it a heavy reliance on remote work. It helps everyone when the company provides laptops, extra monitors, portable phone systems, and the like. But this all assumes that employees have the space within their homes for an office setup as well as basic access to fast Internet service. What happens if a candidate does not have these resources? They may inevitably be left out of the workforce if we cannot adapt and make changes to accommodate their circumstances.

We must also adapt our job postings when planning for a more diverse workforce. Consider the impact of a long commute. Sourcing candidates from farther out can mean you are reaching diverse communities. There are often public transportation options to assist these populations. But long commute times can exclude caregivers who must work around their childcare or elder care resources. For this reason, women often look for keywords like “flexible schedule” in job postings. They feel that they will have a better chance to thrive in such a position with an understanding company.

And then there are the untapped talent pools that have knowledgeable, capable individuals who may need extra accommodations. An example of this would be individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). One in 68 Americans is on the autism spectrum. Many autistic adults have significant skills that could benefit many jobs and industries. Yet some studies have shown that at least 80 percent of people with ASD are unemployed. To combat this issue, Employment Enterprises has partnered with George Mason University’s Mason Autism Support Initiative program. Through this partnership, we are able to source top talent who may otherwise slip through the cracks of traditional recruiting methods.

Employment Enterprises also mentors small businesses through our Corp-to-Corp Program. We educate these entities on the best way to work with major companies, from procurement to invoicing. This way we can assist companies that may be underrepresented in the marketplace and help them become key players in the business world.

At the 2020 NBIC Unity Week Conference, top companies spoke about how their diverse suppliers bring cost savings, decrease wait time, and improve efficiencies. Employment Enterprises experiences these benefits as well when we internally utilize diverse suppliers. On the other side of the coin, we are a diverse supplier to our clients because we are a small, woman-owned business. We had the honor to participate in a focus group for one of our Fortune 500 clients to present best practices for supplier diversity.

The bottom line to improving inclusion of diverse workers and businesses is open communication. By seeking to understand others with different limitations, experiences, and knowledge, we can reshape the workplace to reflect the diversity that we know exists in our world. This benefits not only the workplace but also the world as a whole.

Recommended reading: How to Be an Inclusive Leader: Your Role in Creating Cultures of Belonging Where Everyone Can Thrive by Jennifer Brown; Building an Inclusive Organization: Leveraging the Power of a Diverse Workforce by Stephen Frost and Raafi-Karim Alidina

Written by: Sarah Perlman

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