While diversity in the workplace has a lot of benefits, when managed poorly, it can lead to employees from diverse backgrounds feeling undervalued and unwelcome. A survey conducted by the Harvard Business Review found that when employees did not feel valued or thought they did not belong in the workplace, they had lower workplace satisfaction, found less meaning in their work, and had one foot out of the door.
Every individual seeks to feel valued and welcome in their workplace. This becomes even more important for individuals who come from different religions, ethnicities, abilities, and so on. That said, organisations haven’t quite mastered the art of building an inclusive workplace.
When people feel undervalued and unwelcome because of their identity they can suffer from a condition known as ‘identity threat’, a situation in which they perceive that one or more of their social identities are under attack. This may lead to performance decrements, antisocial behaviour and general unhappiness.
Here are six measures to ensure that the people associated with your organization feel valued.
Valuing people from diverse backgrounds starts with recruitment. A recruitment strategy where diversity is a priority sends out the message that individuals from diverse backgrounds are recognised, needed and welcomed into the organization’s workforce.
Organizations that truly value a diverse workforce train their recruiters and talent managers on the needs and value proposition of different demographics, partner with organizations associated who are in-sync with the same values and offer corporate citizenship opportunities to diverse international talent. They may also engage with candidates from diverse backgrounds through college recruitment programs and mentoring systems.
Engaging and retaining employees from diverse backgrounds is as important as recruiting them. One of the biggest misconceptions is that diversity and inclusivity are synonymous, but that could not be more further from the truth. An organization can be diverse without being inclusive, and diversity without inclusivity is a sure-shot way of sending out a message that people from diverse backgrounds are not truly valued.
Why is this so? Without inclusive policies, it can be difficult to create a sense of belonging for people from diverse backgrounds. It can make leveraging diverse talent pools and incorporating various perspectives not just difficult but also fruitless. When individuals are not heard and their inputs not considered, it is only natural that they don’t feel valued.
This is not to say that all-inclusive policies are effective in making people feel valued. Research has shown that inclusion initiatives may also fail or not be adequate because it does not necessarily lead to a sense of belonging. Efforts must be placed on inclusion that fosters belonging.
Individuals from diverse backgrounds feel valued when their hiring is within the scope of the business strategy and mission and is aligned with the organization’s objectives. When diversity policies follow a one-size-fits-all approach, individuals from diverse backgrounds may feel like token hires brought on to provide the appearance of diversity in the workforce. Diversity initiatives follow a one-size-fits-all approach when they:
i) Are a copy of another organization’s diversity initiatives, whose objectives are starkly different.
ii) Duplicate what works for one kind of diversity for other diversities.
When your diversity initiatives are aligned with your organization’s objectives, individuals are able to contribute effectively and have their value recognized.
Effective communication and engagement between various employees in a diverse workplace can pose a challenge. Having authentic communication in a diverse workplace can take longer than what it would take in a workplace composed of people from similar backgrounds. However, the time invested in doing this can reap significant rewards and can make people from diverse backgrounds feel seen, heard and valued.
Groups demographically different from one another communicate differently. This can make it difficult to understand one another and communicate without misunderstandings. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that minority groups do not always feel free to express themselves in fear of repercussions or being judged. Listening and processing information before responding become essential skills in ensuring that people from diverse backgrounds are heard and their contributions are valued. This, in turn, makes individuals feel valued.
Organizations must therefore focus on developing effective communication systems, training their employees to be effective listeners and empower diverse individuals to speak up and contribute to ongoing conversations.
To ensure that individuals do not stay silent in the fear of repercussions, organization’s can use anonymous communication mechanisms for them to express their concerns and ideas. In smaller workplaces where anonymity may become a concern, organizations can employ more hands-on approaches to opening lines of communication such as one-on-one conversations with managers.
The introduction of diversity initiatives in a workplace does not automatically ensure that employees no longer hold on to pre-existing biases. When the workforce becomes from diverse, individuals from not-privileged backgrounds may face discrimination in pay, promotion and termination decisions.
A non-discrimination policy goes far in making people from diverse backgrounds feel secure and valued. Such policies must place strict sanctions against individuals who engage in discrimination of any kind or treat fellow employees unequally. Such a policy must be backed by strong and effective grievance redressal mechanisms through which employees can challenge pay, promotion, and termination decisions.
Effective redressal of discrimination in important decisions can make people from diverse backgrounds develop a sense of psychological safety. However, if they see that the grievance system isn’t warding off bad behaviour in their organization, they may become less likely to speak up, and may even think about moving to another organization.
None of the above-mentioned measures can be successful if an organization’s leadership is not committed to making their employees feel valued. People from diverse backgrounds feel like they belong when they see that the organization’s leadership is committed to diversity and inclusivity.
The success of diversity initiatives itself depends on the degree of involvement and commitment of the top brass. Leaders who are actively involved in implementing diversity and inclusivity measures in their organization create a culture that embraces diversity, and can make employees from diverse backgrounds feel immensely valued.
These are only six steps to begin with. The road to accomplishing inclusion in your company can be a long and arduous one and Ungender’s here to help. Our SaaS solution – Conduct – will make implementing inclusive policies easier. To know more, click here.
About The Author: Karan Arora is a final year law student with a keen interest in labour laws and labour compliance.
Ungender Insights is the product of our learning from advisory work at Ungender. Our team specializes in advising workplaces on workplace diversity and inclusion. Write to us at email@example.com to understand how we can partner with your organization to build a more inclusive workplace.