February is Black History Month, making it an ideal time to explore, promote and reevaluate diversity in our workplaces.
Greater diversity has been noted to drive better financial performance for companies, and our 2019 State of Workplace Empathy Study found that a significant majority of CEOs, HR professionals, and employees believe companies would be more empathetic with increased diversity in leadership.
Yet, in our 2019 study only 58% of employees said that corporate America as a whole values diversity & inclusion initiatives, suggesting there is work to be done to make workplaces more reflective of, and more welcoming to, our increasingly diverse society. We asked our Chief Engagement Officer, Marcy Klipfel, about the value of workplace diversity and steps organizations can take to support it:
As Americans honor Black History Month this February, what should employers keep in mind about crafting recruitment and retention strategies that are meaningful to Black employees?
First of all, in the spirit of full transparency, I don’t want to assume what is meaningful to Black employees as a white person. It’s important to recognize where you may have knowledge gaps and to understand recruitment and retention strategies that are meaningful to Black employees, employers should ask directly and, maybe more importantly, listen. This is where an empathetic approach can be applied—learn about the experiences of your organization’s employees. Generational characteristics drive those strategies as well, so employers must also be mindful of age diversity when crafting recruitment and retention approaches that speak to a diverse workplace population.
Diversity encompasses many aspects of demographics—what does workplace diversity mean in today’s labor market?
Diversity today goes even beyond race and gender; it’s diversity in backgrounds, thoughts and experiences. This is where empathy comes into play again—leaders and human resource professionals need to spend time truly understanding where there may be a lack of diversity in their organization and why. How can you address those issues? Where are they stemming from? From a legal standpoint and as a way of holding companies and leaders accountable, tracking metrics around diversity is certainly important. However, it really goes much farther than that and is about every employee, regardless of level in the organization, embracing an inclusive workplace culture.
I believe the overwhelming majority of people want to do the right thing and conduct themselves in an inclusive manner. However, it’s important to recognize that everyone is shaped by their upbringing and prior experiences. The danger is in unconscious bias where people aren’t necessarily even aware of the bias they have. That’s why it’s important to foster an environment where employees are encouraged, even trained, to bring unconscious bias to the surface so they can recognize it and be aware of it. That is the first step to breaking down barriers to a truly inclusive environment.
Why is it important for employers to create not only a diverse but also an inclusive workplace environment?
It’s important for many reasons, particularly to attract and retain employees in this tight labor market. And, studies show that companies who operate inclusive workplace environments perform better than those that don’t. We’ve seen in our State of Workplace Empathy Study that employees will sacrifice money to work in more empathetic organizations, so fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace where employees feel welcome and can bring their true selves to work is non-negotiable.
What steps can HR implement to better account for non-traditional backgrounds and different career paths when recruiting?
Use diverse websites, agencies, and partners to source candidates. Leverage your current employee base for referrals. Charge every employee with fostering an inclusive workforce and encourage them to refer candidates who will bring diversity to your organization.
How can employers craft benefits packages that support a diverse workforce?
The answer is through empathy! Employers can start by asking their employees what benefits are meaningful to them. Also explore data you may have from Annual Enrollment to learn more about what your employees value—what offerings are most used? Least used? What types of questions are they asking? Understanding your employees’ feelings and experiences will help your organization to develop a benefits package that meets their needs.