It’s one thing to recruit a talented and diverse workforce – which is an important first step to realising the cultural and financial benefits diversity brings to the workplace – but once diverse talent is recruited, what’s next? Unfortunately, answering that question is where many organisations fall short in amplifying the skills and different perspectives they bring to a business.
Numerous studies have shown a diverse workforce is a key competitive advantage that can drive increased employee engagement, better business performance and higher rates of innovation. Organisations with diverse management teams have 19% higher revenue, while racially and ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform industry norms. It’s also a critical consideration for prospective employees, with as many as 86% of job seekers saying diversity is an important factor when looking for a job.
However, we can’t just talk about diversity. To make it truly matter, we also need to talk about inclusion. Not all organisations that are diverse are also inclusive, and that is an important distinction to make. Without giving people a seat at the table and providing opportunities to amplify diverse voices, organisations cannot call themselves inclusive.
As the executive sponsor of MNF Group’s Diversity and Inclusion committee, I’ve seen first-hand the value diversity brings to an organisation and the transformational impact it can have on company culture when it is celebrated. With the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing travel restrictions continuing to significantly impact people born outside of Australia, unable to visit their families and support networks, ensuring these employees feel included and valued in the workplace is critical.
Read more: Let’s Talk: Diversity
Here’s how organisations can amplify their workforce and, in turn, create a more inclusive workplace for everyone.
Modelling inclusivity starts at the top
Leaders play a critical role in shaping and influencing the culture of an organisation. Beyond fundamental actions like recruiting diverse talent at all levels, leaders have a responsibility to ensure the workplace supports all employees. Too many organisations focus on people in terms of productivity and performance without realising the differing experiences and opinions they bring significantly impacts business performance.
A study from Harvard Business Review revealed only 36% of leaders saw their inclusive leadership capabilities the same way others did, while 32% of leaders overrated their capabilities. This suggests a disconnect between how leaders see their behaviour and how the wider organisation interprets it. Leaders set the cultural tone of an organisation. Without leaders modelling inclusive behaviour in their everyday actions – like challenging problematic behaviour when encountered, organisations are unlikely to see inclusivity resonate throughout the business.
Inclusion also comes from having diversity in leadership positions and from setting measurable goals and quotas. For example, increasing the number of women in senior management roles is important for achieving actionable change and holding organisations accountable for creating more diverse and inclusive workplaces.
Removing invisible barriers and creating change
Creating an inclusive workplace doesn’t happen by accident but takes deliberate energy and an ongoing commitment. One of the factors that can hinder an organisation’s progress is a lack of awareness and understanding of the experiences of employees from diverse backgrounds and how these differences can contribute to exclusion in the workplace.
Often people may not realise they are excluding others or are acting in an insensitive way. Regular training in areas such as cultural competence and unconscious bias can be a constructive way to educate employees about recognising behaviour that can make others feel excluded or uncomfortable. It can also be a great space for diverse voices to share their experiences, highlight the value of collaborating with differing points of view and encourage open dialogue between employees.
Formalised training programs should also be tailored to an organisation’s challenges and goals. As a technology company in a historically male-centric industry, MNF Group places particular importance on accelerating the advancement of more women into leadership positions through interactive programs that foster an environment where female talent can thrive. Teaching women strategies for overcoming barriers to career progression and practical tools for creating inclusive and diverse teams can, in turn, drive change for women on an individual level and a wider company and even industry level.
The value of confidence
When people feel valued, they feel more confident to speak up without fear of judgement or dismissal. Enabling employees to grow their confidence in their workplace is often overlooked by organisations, but it can be a powerful means to help diverse voices be heard.
While some people are naturally more confident than others, cultural and gender biases related to authority and power differences can prevent people from speaking up or taking on leadership positions. That’s why focusing on laying the foundations and equipping employees from diverse and minority backgrounds with the strategies and tools to confidently express themselves in the workplace is so critical.
I’ve seen what a difference it can make on an individual and organisational level throughout my career in the technology and telecommunications industries when companies invest in nurturing their employees’ talent and potential. I’ve witnessed many women grow in confidence after participating in learning programs, including those at MNF Group. Evidence-based programs do have a long-lasting impact and can lead people from diverse backgrounds to seek out and seize career development opportunities and further outlets to amplify their voices they never thought possible.
Diversity in the workplace is increasingly critical to business success. Celebrating and amplifying diversity can deliver real and positive change, but it requires continuous commitment, starting at the top. An inclusive workplace that gives diverse voices opportunities to be heard and enact change can transform company culture, attract, and retain the best talent and ultimately create better outcomes for people, society and the bottom line.