Diversity And Inclusion: A Beginner’s Guide For HR Professionals

Josh Bersin called diversity and inclusion one of the hottest topics of 2019.

He has said that it is “not an HR program, but a business strategy. It is true that the “needle is driven by HR”; however, it is not enough for it to be solely an HR program.

With Salesforce’s pledge to achieve workplace equality through its recent appointment of their first Chief Equality Officer and diversity initiatives at more than 75% of Fortune 1000 companies, his prediction is coming true. The issue stems from the fact that 70% of companies believe they are effective at attracting and retaining diverse employees, yet only 11% actually understand what it is.

Companies that embrace diversity and inclusion in all aspects of their business statistically outperform their peers.
– Josh Bersin

To help you achieve this competitive advantage, I’ve created this beginner’s guide for HR on definitions, best practices, and strategies for workplace diversity and inclusion. Keep reading to find out more.

What is workplace diversity?

Workplace diversity is understanding, accepting, and valuing differences between people including those:

  • of different races, ethnicities, genders, ages, religions, disabilities, and sexual orientations
  • with differences in education, personalities, skill sets, experiences, and knowledge bases

Interestingly, research by Deloitte finds that diversity is perceived differently by generations. Millennials view workplace diversity as the combining of different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives, and they believe taking advantage of these differences is what leads to innovation. 

Gen Xers and Boomers, on the other hand, view workplace diversity as equal and fair representation regardless of demographics without necessarily considering diversity’s relationship with business results. Diversity and inclusion are more than buzzwords, and need to be taken seriously and understood in the workplace.

What is inclusion?

Inclusion is a collaborative, supportive, and respectful environment that increases the participation and contribution of all employees.

What is diversity and inclusion?

Diversity and inclusion is a company’s mission, strategies, and practices to support a diverse workplace and leverage the effects of diversity to achieve a competitive business advantage.

Diversity and inclusion priorities

A survey by Forbes Insights of more than 300 senior executives – 32% who were in HR or talent management – found their companies’ diversity and inclusion priorities include:

  • 65% said recruitment of diverse employees
  • 44% said retention of diverse talent
  • 35% said ensuring diversity in the workplace
  • 29% said developing a robust pipeline of diverse talent
  • 28% said managing cross-generational issues

Forbes Insights survey of diversity and inclusion programs

65% of senior executives believe the responsibility for implementing diversity and inclusion programs falls on HR, while 45% say it’s the responsibility of senior leaders within a business unit or division.

56% of the companies surveyed strongly agree that diversity helps drive innovation. It’s clear that they believe this innovation advantage is achieved through their ability to attract and recruit diverse talent.

Diversity and inclusion best practices

A survey of 330 HR executives by Professor Roberson found that diversity and inclusion best practices include:

  • fair treatment
  • equal access to opportunity
  • teamwork and collaboration
  • a focus on innovation and creativity
  • organizational flexibility, responsiveness, and agility
  • conflict resolution processes that are collaborative
  • evidence of leadership’s commitment to diversity (e.g., appointing a Chief Diversity / Equality Officer)
  • representation of diversity at all levels of the organization
  • representation of diversity among internal and external stakeholders
  • diversity education and training

The interesting thing to note is that employees perceive their company as diverse and inclusive based on practices that aren’t even directly related to diversity such as a focus on innovation and creativity.

Instead, these best practices are ones that are desired by everyone in the workplace.

Diversity and inclusion strategies

Some of the key strategies of Bersin by Deloitte’s diversity and Inclusion framework include:

  • Creating a focus and strategy at the CEO/COO/CHRO level
  • Assigning a top executive the responsibility for leading and sponsoring the diversity and inclusion program
  • Creating behavioral standards and holding leaders accountable for results
  • Training people at all levels on topics like unconscious bias
  • Integrating diversity and inclusion strategies in recruitment, performance management, leadership assessment, and training
  • Creating employee networks (e.g, employee resource groups, community outreach groups)
  • Creating an externally visible scorecard to measure progress including metrics for recruiting, promotion rates, compensation levels, turnover, participation in ERGs, and supplier diversity
Diversity and Inclusion is a top-to-bottom business strategy – not just an HR program.
– Josh Bersin

Diversity and inclusion success metrics

The Forbes Insights survey found that 60% of companies have metrics in place to measure the success of their diversity and inclusion efforts.

If we couldn’t measure the impact of our diversity and inclusion efforts and programs, it would be a hard sell among company executives.
– Huey Wilson, SVP HR & Diversity Board Member, Mattel

The most popular success metrics are:

  • 77% said employee productivity
  • 67% said employee morale
  • 58% said employee turnover

Senior executives are being held accountable for their diversity and inclusion programs performance through:

  • 66% said performance reviews
  • 51% said bonuses
  • 48% said business/department reviews
  • 42% said salary increases
  • 41% said promotions

The takeaways

  1. Diversity and inclusion is a company’s mission, strategies, and practices to support a diverse workplace and leverage the effects of diversity to achieve a competitive business advantage.
  2. The top diversity and inclusion priority is recruitment of diverse employees.
  3. Approximately 50% of diversity and inclusion best practices are not directly related to diversity per se but are practices desired by everyone such as fair treatment and organizational flexibility.
  4. To be successful, diversity and inclusion has to be a top-to-bottom business strategy and not just an HR program. However, 65% of senior executives believe it’s HR’s responsibility to implement diversity and inclusion programs.
  5. The majority of companies measure the success of their diversity and inclusion efforts with metrics such as employee productivity and turnover.

Workplace diversity and inclusion are top of mind these days and will only grow in importance as companies continue to invest in their diversity and inclusion programs.

If you’re able to implement at least a few of the best diversity hiring practices and strategies outlined here, you’ll be giving yourself one of today’s biggest competitive advantages.

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Olivia Folick

Digital Marketing Manager at Ideal
Olivia is a Bachelor of Commerce graduate from the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University with a deep passion for marketing, fashion, sports, and analytics. Recently moving from Vancouver to Toronto, Olivia has left the tree-hugging west-coast culture to explore new career opportunities within AI and technology.