Diversity and inclusivity have clear benefits for your business and your employees. They are also high on potential employees' priority list, affecting your ability to attract the best talent and encourage top employees to pursue a long-term career with your company. However, there can be challenges associated with making your business more diverse and inclusive.
These are 5 common obstacles many businesses must overcome to experience the rewards of a more inclusive workplace:
Companies aiming to change their workplace culture tend to focus on creating new policies and training for employees. Still, it is the managers and team leaders who drive company culture. Managers influence organizational culture through their everyday observations and interactions with employees and understand their team members' daily experiences at work. It is difficult to sustain change without the whole team on board with the goals and how to achieve them.
One of the challenges when approaching diversity and inclusion is that they don't always mean the same thing to everyone in your business. These are mostly a matter of the obvious issues such as fair hiring and promoting practices to benefit from the best talent. Others approach diversity and inclusion with a broader definition that businesses will benefit from, including a more comprehensive range of ideas, perspectives, and ways of working in their decisions and strategy. For example, when a 2018 Deloitte survey asked employees to define their concept of diversity, only 17% of Millenials and 24% of Generation Z mention demographic differences such as age, gender, or religion.
Because of this range of perspectives, your employees need a clear understanding of your company's goals and approach and why they are the right choice for your business.
Many companies focus on their recruiting practices without considering the other factors that determine people's ability to succeed and thrive at work. Fair hiring practices are an obvious requirement for diversity but not a complete answer.
There are many aspects of company culture, working practices, and values that can unintentionally place obstacles to long-term success in front of certain groups. Companies that reward and encourage significant overtime can exclude many groups from the opportunity to get ahead, such as single parents, for whom unexpected schedule changes might be a significant disruption.
The tools and equipment you provide to employees also play a part in inclusivity. For example, how customizable are the user interfaces your employees use every day? People with impaired vision or conditions like dyslexia may not be able to work as effectively as their colleagues without options to change factors like font scale and color scheme.
Leveling the playing field means paying attention to the details, highlighting the importance of ensuring every perspective is heard. Easily fixed issues like these can have a significant impact on employees. Without feedback systems to raise concerns and representatives to consider potential obstacles proactively, they can go unnoticed or unaddressed.
Feedback is vital for more than just reporting non-inclusive tools and working practices. Employee diversity and inclusivity surveys provide valuable information on how successful your efforts are and how to make improvements in your employees' eyes. This can help answer important questions that will shape your approach, such as:
While demographic information is an integral part of putting survey responses into context, if employees have any concern that this information could identify them, they may be less willing to raise concerns or suggest changes.
Another challenge of gathering employee feedback is that your feedback systems may simply go unused by employees. Making surveys and feedback tools more accessible can help get more involvement from workers. For example, introducing text message surveys and issue reporting ensures workers can tell you what they think easily and privately.
More than half of all employees feel they don't get enough support from their employer with mental health issues. Nearly 60% of employees experienced mental health challenges in 2019, yet nearly the same percentage said nothing to their employer about it. In many cases, mental health problems are hidden from employers out of concern it would impact their future at the business. Providing better access to support and counseling doesn't make a difference if there is a stigma attached to using these resources.
More flexible working arrangements are a vital factor in supporting employees in this area. Employees need to feel able to discuss changes. They need to be happy and manage any issues that are affecting them at work. This could mean creating facilities for people to work in quieter, more private spaces, offering more choice to work from home, or creating offline time to help tackle unhealthy habits like smartphone addiction. Just as businesses invest in office space and furniture that ensures employees' physical comfort, their mental wellbeing should be accommodated to the same extent.
Addressing these issues enables all of your employees to thrive at work. As a result, your business benefits from its best output and can attract top talent from all backgrounds. Doing this means getting everyone on board with clear goals and providing the means to raise issues and suggest alternatives.