Managing Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace: Best Practices for HR

Building and strengthening diversity and inclusion in the workplace starts with the best practices for HR. Begin implementing change with advice from the HR experts.

HR Managers, Business Owners
Mar 2024

Many companies realise the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. But knowing its value is one thing — putting it into action is another. With the help of leading HR experts, this guide offers practical tips and insights for creating a fair workplace and implementing best practices for HR.

Human Resources Best Practice

Every organisation needs established HR best practices to manage operations effectively. Developing policies and procedures that align with your company's goals can benefit everything from the efficiency of daily operations to employee experience and, of course, diversity and inclusion. Some core elements of human resources best practice include hiring and onboarding processes, employee benefits and career development, as well as overall communications and workplace culture. In other words? Best practices for HR underpin everything.

What is Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace and What Does it Look Like?

Although diversity and inclusion in the workplace are often spoken about simultaneously, they refer to two different things. A diverse workplace is one where employees of differing ages, races, religions, nationalities, sexual orientations, genders and gender identities bring diverse viewpoints and perspectives to the company.

However, a diverse workplace doesn’t necessarily make it an inclusive one where people from all backgrounds feel welcome. Inclusivity is the key to maintaining (not just creating) workplace diversity. When both are prioritised, statistics show higher revenue rates, greater innovation and superior industry performance. 

While many executives are savvy about the benefits of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, employers also have a legal responsibility not to discriminate against employees. In Australia, it is unlawful to discriminate on the basis of a number of protected attributes, including age, disability, race, sex, intersex status, gender identity and sexual orientation in certain areas of public life, including education and employment. Employers must take all reasonable steps to prevent discrimination, harassment, victimisation or bullying.

Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace Examples and Steps

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace span across every part of the employee lifecycle. When looking to implement best practices for HR, there are many opportunities in which it can be prioritised and promoted, from recruitment through to leadership development. Some workplace examples and steps include:

Diverse Hiring Practices

It’s important to recognise that simply hiring diverse employees isn’t a ‘quick fix’ — but evaluating the hiring process is a good place to start. Consider how the company is represented when it comes to the language of the job description and promotional imagery (website, social media, etc.) and make adjustments where needed. Other examples include removing gendered pronouns from the application and interview process and broadening the organisations and channels where you choose to advertise roles.

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are voluntary, employee-led groups that promote a sense of belonging and support inclusivity within the workplace. They are usually led by employees who share similar identities, values, interests, perspectives, or goals. Historically, they have featured underrepresented groups such as women, BIPOC, LGBTQIA+ and those with disabilities; however, they have also evolved to include groups such as working parents and those living with mental health conditions. Establishing ERGs supported by the company allows employees to share experiences, information and resources in a safe space.

Diversity Training and Education

Teach and reinforce the importance of diversity and inclusivity in the workplace through ongoing education and consistent conversation. This can be done through small acts, such as acknowledging global news and bringing awareness to current events. It can also be highlighted through larger initiatives, such as revising the inclusivity language used on all products and communications (internal and external), followed by training programs to educate employees.

Diversity Metrics and Reporting

Like all company goals and targets, you won’t be able to measure success unless you’re tracking progress. Start with your recruitment tracking system and compare the demographic data of your applicants — are certain groups underrepresented? Or underpaid? Delve into the average tenure of underrepresented groups. Did they leave after only a short time? What reasons did they cite in the offboarding process? All this data is invaluable when it comes to building and maintaining an HR strategy to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace.

Inclusive Policies and Practices

Employees need to feel free to express themselves based on their unique perspectives. Policies and practices that promote one cultural norm while excluding others can make underrepresented employees feel unwelcome and unable to be their authentic selves. Examples of policies and practices that can hinder diversity and inclusion in the workplace include formal dress codes, strict time schedules and employee rankings, as well as celebrating certain cultural dates and events but not others. Human resources best practice should include examining such policies (and assumptions) to ensure they’re inclusive of all individuals.

Leadership Development Programs

It’s one thing to focus on hiring a diverse workforce — it’s another to nurture career progression and provide senior roles dedicated to the effort. A Harvard Business Review study found that 58% of companies have a DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) budget. Yet, only 9% of companies have a DEI leader at the same level as other executives. Providing peer-to-peer mentorship and leadership training for underrepresented groups can help increase the tenure of employees and strengthen diversity and inclusion at a more senior level.

Supplier Diversity Programs

When looking at best practices for HR, supplier diversity programs should also be on your radar. These programs turn attention to the providers outside your immediate organisation and focus on incorporating diverse-owned businesses, suppliers, and vendors into your company’s supply chain and business practices. The programs are a great way to go beyond internal-only efforts and deliver broader societal benefits by generating economic opportunities for disadvantaged communities. Supplier diversity programs are also a great way to ensure your company’s portrayal and commitment to diversity and inclusion aren’t perceived as tokenism.

Community Engagement and Outreach

Engaging in community initiatives is one of the best activities to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Provide employees with opportunities to involve themselves in community projects and outreach programs that align with your company goals — whether through company-run volunteer days or including volunteer leave as part of your workplace policies. Engaging in community initiatives can boost employee morale and engagement and strengthen a company’s reputation for diversity and inclusion.

Benefits of Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace can result in:

Fully embracing diversity and inclusion in the workplace requires a 360 strategy centring around the best practices for HR. Although it can require a lot of work, the effort and comprehensive commitment can be transformative to your company. Some of the top benefits of diversity and inclusion in the workplace include:

A high-performance and innovative working environment 

In a study by BCG, companies that reported above-average diversity on their management teams also reported innovation revenue that was 19% higher than that of companies with below-average leadership diversity. John Bersin's research also showed that inclusive companies are 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders in their market.

Improved company reputation and brand image

When you create a welcoming workforce where all individuals feel seen, heard and valued, word spreads. Strengthening diversity and inclusion in the workplace allows people to have a more positive experience and association with your company. This, in turn, can provide numerous benefits, from revenue to customer loyalty, market leadership and talent attraction. In fact, 67% of job seekers say a diverse workforce is important when considering job offers.

Reduced risk of discrimination and bias

Considering the majority of workplace investigations stem from discriminatory acts, a diverse and inclusive workplace is more likely to reduce the risk of such instances. It’s important to remember that superficial policies and language are insufficient. In order to see real change, true leadership commitment along with human resources best practices are key.

Increased employee engagement and retention

When employees perceive their organisation as committed to diversity and inclusion, the company benefits from higher employee engagement and retention. This is largely due to employees being able to be their authentic selves in the workplace without the exhaustion of hiding or masking core parts of their being.

The bottom line? When a workplace offers a genuinely diverse and inclusive environment, employees will thrive. By tailoring your strategy to suit your unique company and its people, you can create a workplace that provides equal opportunities for all, values differences and ensures everyone feels valued at work. If you need support when it comes to building a more inclusive work culture and implementing the best practices for HR, contact our HR consultants today.

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