Creating and Maintaining a Diverse and Inclusive Workforce is Critical for Employers Today

By Beth Zoller, Legal Editor, XpertHR

While workforce diversity is not required by law, creating a diverse and inclusive workforce should be a goal for employers today as this may lead to increased productivity and improved communications and enable an employer to obtain top talent.

Moreover, diversity can provide an employer with different viewpoints and foster a culture of mutual respect, leading to a more efficient workforce and one that better reflects the diversity of customers and a global marketplace.

Further, fostering an inclusive culture in which diverse employees feel integrated, valued and respected for their differences is essential. In a diverse and inclusive workplace, all employees are focused on working together to their full potential and contributing equally towards the employer's success.

The US workplace has undergone a dramatic demographic shift in the last few decades and continues to become increasingly diverse. In fact, statistics show that by 2050 there will be no racial or ethnic majority in the US.

Today's employers strive for a diverse workforce for many reasons, including:

  • A sense of social responsibility and employing disadvantaged groups. While an employer knows that it must comply with the law, it may want to go the extra mile and make it known that it is open to and encourages minority employment and growth in the workplace.
  • A desire to attract the best talent possible. An employer may be able to do this by drawing on the widest pool of potential employees.
  • Legal compliance. Equal employment opportunity statutes and affirmative action laws require the fair treatment and employment of minority groups. A diverse workplace reduces the chance of discrimination and harassment claims and minimizes the financial and reputational costs associated with such claims.
  • Customer relationships. A desire to improve an employer's marketing, communications and relations with customers.
  • Adaptability. Creating a workplace that is adaptable to change in a fluctuating marketplace that is becoming increasingly diverse.
  • Improved morale. Diversity is a low cost way to improve the workplace and employee morale.
  • Corporate mission and philosophy. Certain diversity initiatives can demonstrate a corporate philosophy or mission. For example, a military contractor may have a - diversity initiative to hire disabled veterans.
  • Global marketplace. A global marketplace requires a workforce with multicultural capabilities and competencies.

An employer who fails to develop and maintain adverse and inclusive workplaces faces many risks, which may harm its business and reputation, including tension in the workplace, conflicts, lost productivity, and lawsuits for discrimination and harassment.

Below are some ways to improve and manage workplace diversity:

Hire a Diverse Workforce. Aim to build an inclusive workforce that attracts and retains talented people, encourages creativity and innovation and obtains commitment from employees.

Carefully Onboard and Manage Employees. Provide orientation to new hires with respect to job duties, responsibilities and expectations, but also to workplace culture and atmosphere. When onboarding and managing employees, encourage an open door environment where all employees feel comfortable and as if their voice matters.

Avoid Stereotypes. Avoiding stereotypes is an important part of building and maintaining a diverse and tolerant workforce as employees must treat each other with respect and overcome preconceived biases, judgments and stereotypes.

Implement Policies Fairly and Consistently. Polices must be implemented fairly and consistently and should not unintentionally discriminate against certain groups.

Respond to Complaints. Immediately respond to complaints about offensive jokes, comments and behavior and show that such inappropriate conduct is not tolerated. Address workplace conflicts before they escalate.

Build Relationships. Focus on building and encouraging relationships between different types of individuals and encourage employees to focus on their strengths and work to their potential.

While employers may face challenges and barriers to diversity, such as language and cultural barriers, resistance to change, increased conflicts, prejudice or perceived preferential treatment, it is best practice to attempt to create a diverse and inclusive workforce, as this will help an employer remain ahead of the game in an increasingly competitive and global marketplace.

To download a free guide to diversity and inclusion, visit XpertHR.