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As conversations about systemic racism, unconscious bias, and discrimination push forward, many business leaders and HR professionals are examining their organizations. There’s been a trend towards more diversity and inclusion in the past few years, with many workplaces formally adopting programs designed to foster a more welcoming and diverse environment.

From the conversations happening right now, many may be realizing they must look more deeply at their policies to create the diverse, inclusive organizations they’ve been envisioning. If you’re asking what diversity and inclusion truly means for your organization, this guide is for you.

Determine Why It Matters

If you’re creating a “diverse and inclusive” organization because you’ve faced criticism from the public or you’ve run into issues around your hiring practices, you may need to examine your motives again.

There are plenty of reasons employers should want to work towards more diversity and inclusiveness. Diversity and inclusion provide new insights and ideas, which can offer a competitive advantage. You could attract a larger pool of talented workers, or you might be able to reach a new consumer demographic. Think about how the marketing team can craft messages that speak to the Black community or LGBTQ+ individuals or disabled folks.

Some organizations will want to build a more diverse and inclusive workplace because they feel it’s the right thing to do. They truly believe in equality, and they recognize the talents of all individuals.

Trying to build diversity simply because there’s a law against discrimination will prevent your organization from realizing all the benefits of truly being diverse and inclusive.

Set the Foundation

The next step is to review company policies. This includes training policies, as well as hiring policies. You should also examine how HR handles concerns about discrimination in the workplace. Is there a formal process? Can employees trust their voices will be heard and their concerns taken seriously?

Hiring practices often receive the most attention, but training also plays a large role in developing a diverse and inclusive environment. You may want to mandate racial sensitivity training for all new hires. It’s a good idea to have everyone in the organization undergo this training.

Removing unconscious bias can be difficult, in hiring and other processes. An example might be a performance review of two employees, one man and one woman. The woman is considered “bossy” and “demanding,” but the man is considered “confident” and “decisive.” Is this bias at work? It very well could be.

Determining neutral systems for reviewing performance can help mitigate biases. An example might be reviewing and scoring files without knowing the name or gender of the employee. You may already have interviewers reviewing job applications this way.

Engage Employees

Another key to creating a diverse and inclusive environment for your employees is engaging them in conversation. You should especially privilege the voices of those who are diverse in these discussions. Their input could provide valuable insights about what you’re doing well and where you have to improve. They may also be able to offer ideas for how to improve.

Where possible, promote diverse employees to positions of import. This means giving them roles where they have some clout and can implement real change. This may or may not be their job itself, but it could be on a committee or team. Resist the urge to place people on teams where they can’t effect real change or where they’ll be ignored. Tokenism might look like diversity, but it can frustrate employees.

Finally, ask employees what they need. Some employees will be open to learning and doing better, but they require resources and supports. Some employees might be willing to share their experiences and teach, while others may not want to be involved in these conversations, especially right now.

By discussing with employees what they need from you and their co-workers, everyone can work toward building a truly diverse and inclusive workplace, which will move you forward into the future.

Lisa Curic

Lisa brings almost 30 years of experience to her role as the executive vice president at GroupQuest Benefits Resources Inc. She has worked for several different insurance businesses and co-founded a group benefits MGA in 2006. Lisa’s dedication and hard work has played a significant role in growing GroupQuest from two to over 40 employees in less than 10 years, and in making it one of the largest group benefit MGAs in Canada. Outside of her busy work schedule, Lisa enjoys reading, travelling, working out, cooking, and spending time with her husband and two children.

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