5 strategies for managing diversity in the workplace

Last updated:
June 30, 2021
March 30, 2023
min read
Adrie Smith
managing diversity in the workplace
Table of contents

With Pride month underway, many of us can’t help but feel a little excited and hopeful by the increasing levels of openness and inclusivity.

Whether you’re actively participating in the celebrations or on the sidelines watching, Pride events send an important message to many communities: we should celebrate and embrace diversity as it makes us stronger, together.

It’s no surprise that many employers take this message to heart and begin to assess their organization, teams, and prospective hires- searching specifically for diversity in the workplace.

Benefits of having diversity in the workplace

Diversity hiring is nothing new for recruiters, talent managers, HR managers, or hiring managers. The benefits of having diversity in the workplace are clear, but some of the top perks include:

  • a broader range of skill sets and experiences in teams;
  • greater capacity for innovation;
  • increased language and cultural awareness;
  • more extensive candidate talent pools;
  • an improved company reputation;
  • and improved candidate experience through inclusivity.

It should come as no surprise that 35% of hiring managers report increased attention to diversity and inclusion within their recruitment processes. Seeing as 50% of employees want their workplace to do more to increase diversity in the workplace, employers need to create an action plan and implement diversity strategies for their company.

Managing diversity in the workplace can be a tricky task. Despite the high-priority status of diversity, many HR and recruitment professionals struggle to operationalize commitments, attract relevant candidates, and, ultimately, make diverse hires.

The core to this disconnect often rests at multiple stages of the recruitment process or talent acquisition model.

So, to avoid falling into this trap, we’ll arm you with questions that will critically assess your recruitment process. These questions will also identify one recruitment strategy that offers a people-based but tech-assisted solution that helps many companies fully embrace diversity and inclusion.

Strategies for managing diversity in the workplace

Managing diversity in the workplace initially comes from your hiring process.

Many hiring parties are committed to diversity but struggle to understand what diversity means for their company.

There are, of course, general trends when it comes to diversity in the workplace. There are groups of people who will add to the diversity of a team or groups who should experience greater inclusion within your company.

But the truth is: diversity, in practice, varies from company to company, team to team.  There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ diversity recruitment strategy.

This makes creating a recruitment strategy for diversity particularly challenging.

That said, there are methods you can implement to make sure you’re hiring diversely and inclusively.

How do you manage diversity in the workplace?

While a large section of creating a diverse and inclusive work culture comes from your hiring style, there are also diversity strategies you should be implementing for your current employees.

Learn from the companies who have got it right

As with any new learning material, it becomes easier to understand when we see it in practice. You could read hundreds of books about managing diversity in the workplace, but until you know how the words transpire into real life, it can be challenging to implement.

So, learn from the companies that are committed and devoted to diversity in the workplace. Don’t be afraid to contact education providers, too, who can deliver workshops to the company and educate them on how to harvest a culture that promotes diversity rather than hides from it.

It starts from the top

If the leadership team isn’t modeling and promoting diversity from the beginning, it’ll be impossible for this quality to drip down into every employee.

Leadership needs to have a very clear understanding of what diversity means for their company, and how it’s reflected in the organization’s behavior, attitude, and outlook.

Diverse grouping

When working in groups, encourage your employees to work in diverse teams.

By spending time with people who aren’t identical in morals, religion, race, gender, or other factors, team members will get to know each other on a human level, rather than maintaining an opinion based on preconceived notions.

Documentation needs to highlight diversity

That includes your code of conduct, creating and sharing a mandatory non-discrimination policy, factoring it into your compensation and benefits policy, and highlighting it within the employee’s working terms and conditions.

You’ll find that employees will have a massive amount of respect once diversity is acknowledged through writing. Policies and official documents convey a deep level of commitment to your company’s ethos, so including diversity will prove to the company that it’s one of your priorities.

Have zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind

While some people may make jokes about ethnicity, race, gender, sexuality, or any other factor, there is a zero-tolerance for them in today’s society.

This needs to be represented within the workplace to avoid any slurs, bullying, or discrimination.

Ensure you have a solid policy in place o handle this, proving that discrimination will not be tolerated within your organization. This makes your employees feel safe, respected and accepted. Those three feelings will promote diversity in the workplace.

How to hire diverse staff

It’s important to ask what kind of people would be a diverse hire for your company.

Are there patterns in the type of people you hire? Do you notice that some departments share obvious characteristics in personality, gender, or ethnicity? Are there skills or fundamental experiences missing from your teams?

Once you can gather company-wide trends, you might be able to begin to identify what individual diversity hires might look like for your organization. This will help you make an actionable recruitment strategy to encourage diversity in the workplace.

Diverse hires are not limited to gender or race but extend to sexuality, socioeconomic status, disability, age, culture, language, among other factors when it comes to background. Despite their personal nature, these experiences, skills, and identities play crucial roles in a person’s professional success.

If you’re struggling to champion diversity in the workplace through recruitment, go back to basics. It’s likely that you’re finding it challenging to understand what diversity looks like for your company.

Until you can visualize what a truly diverse team – and company, at a higher level – looks like within your specific organization, you’ll struggle to recruit diversely.

Once you’ve clarified what diversity in the workplace means for your company,  you will be better equipped to identify areas in your recruitment process that may be failing to attract and retain candidates who fit your diversity hire bill.

Related articles: how to embrace and support neurodiversity in the workplace

Assessing your recruitment process

Incorporating diversity into your recruitment process requires careful planning and consideration.

Start with a full assessment of your recruitment process by dividing all activities into two categories: attract and retain.

Are you attracting the candidates you would like to see from a diversity standpoint? And if you are getting diverse applicants, are you able to keep them in your recruitment pipeline, or do they drop out? Approach these questions with your ideal diversity hire in mind.

Here is a short overview of the most common points in the recruitment process that may be leaking, disqualifying, or discouraging diverse applicants.

Diversity in the workplace process

How do you include diversity in job descriptions? (Attract)

Job descriptions are often a candidate’s first introduction to your organization. There’s currently a lot of guidance out there about how to write the perfect job description, so make sure you have a critical look at the content of your job descriptions. Are you writing your adverts with inclusivity in mind?

When trying to include diversity in a job description, watch out for:

  • Gender-specific words
  • Requirements that are nice-to-haves becoming must-haves
  • Corporate jargon
  • Phrases that refer to appearance. (For example, requiring a ‘strong’ employee should be rewritten to ‘should be able to carry equipment weighing up to X kg.’)
  • Be careful with the number of years of experience you demand. Check out this Reddit thread where the public makes light of a job description written by IBM, who asked for a total of 12+ years of experience, despite the role at IMB being only six years old at the time.

You may want to consider explicitly stating your commitment to diversity in the workplace. Add a comprehensive overview of the benefits packages available, whether that’s remote work options or parental leave.

Advertising channels (Attract)

Different sorts of candidates look in different kinds of places for new opportunities.

If you’re seeking to reach your ideal diversity candidates, make sure you’re contacting them on the medium they prefer, whether that’s specialist job boards or social media.

Failure to reach out across channels may mean you lose out on attracting a wide range of candidates.

Employer branding (Attract)

72% of recruitment professionals agree that employer branding plays a massive role in actively attracting candidates.

Not only does mastering your employer branding result in attracting candidates, but it plays the long game, ensuring you can promote and manage diversity in the workplace.

Those responsible for actively recruiting with diversity in mind should make sure that their employer branding reflects this. Let your candidates know that you actively celebrate diversity in the workplace and support inclusivity.

Candidates will check out your company online before (or shortly after) applying for a position. Make sure what they see is positive and represents a brand that embraces diversity and inclusion.

You may want to start with a full audit on any external review sites, like Glassdoor, where candidates and former employees leave their feedback. Candidates who read negative reviews regarding your processes, managers, or company culture will steer clear of your opportunities.

Consider your careers site as another opportunity to showcase your employer brand and attract diverse talent.

In short, consistently ask yourself: are you highlighting inclusivity and a brand diverse candidates would like to join?

How do you ask diversity and inclusion in an interview? (Retain)

Interviews are a core piece of the recruitment process. They are an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your company culture and manage candidates’ expectations of the role.

But we are aware that hiring managers, and people in general, are biased.

It’s essential to identify the level and type of bias that may be impacting your interview process. Be honest and open with your recruiting team to work on mitigating bias.

Structured interviews are an effective way of tackling common biases within your recruitment team.

Work towards creating a skill-based question set for every role.

With less room to elaborate on personal similarities, hiring managers will have less room to make decisions based on gut feel. Almost as an added bonus,  the process of agreeing on standardized questions makes interviews more organized and less likely to fall prey to rushed decisions based on instinct.

Remember, too, that the interview process allows your candidate to ask you questions. Employees that value diversity and inclusion will want to know whether you are a diverse company, and they’re aware that asking any company this will result in a ‘yes,’ even if that’s far from the truth.

So, they’ll ask you questions to help them gauge your level of commitment to managing diversity in the workplace.

GlassDoor posted an article for interviewees, giving them ten interview questions to evaluate whether a company is genuinely inclusive. Study these questions and prepare answers in advance. Just as you’re interviewing them, they’re also interviewing you.

Candidate experience (Retain)

The candidate experience is broad, as it applies to every point of contact a candidate may have with a company throughout the recruitment process.

We know that no recruitment process is set in stone and should be constantly optimized to attract and retain the best talent possible. Why not optimize it to build a more diverse and inclusive team?

Start with looking critically at email communication, feedback loops, and meetings with hiring managers. This will help you identify any dropout points for select minorities or diversity groups. Utilize your applicant tracking system’s (ATS) reports function to determine any areas in the candidate experience that may be generating dropouts.

Use the data to evaluate the progression or lack thereof, and strategize around your findings.

Collaborative hiring & tech

We, as people, are biased.

And that’s a painful truth.

Even when hiring parties understand the importance of workplace diversity, it’s tough (if not impossible) to get rid of underlying, subconscious bias.

However, people are also at the core of great hiring decisions and building strong, diverse teams. Especially when these choices and initiatives are taken on together.

The benefits of collaborative hiring

Collaborative hiring is a great recruitment strategy to incorporate when seeking to promote diversity in the workplace. Given your team understands your intended diversity and inclusion initiatives, there are many benefits collaborative hiring can bring your company, including:

  • Generating positive company culture,
  • Improving new hire retention,
  • Promoting brand ambassadorship,
  • Saving money,
  • And, importantly, mitigating unconscious bias.
Benefits of diversity in the workplace

By including more team members in the recruitment process, prospective hires will not only get a better feel for your company, but decision-makers will also be less likely to make hires or reject candidates based on intuition.

How to use tech to hire a diverse team

Tech should also support this people-based approach to hiring for the best and most diverse candidates.

Make sure your ATS provides a comprehensive overview of the recruitment process and allows your team to be direct users.

This oversight should help team members involved in the recruitment process (from the potential colleague to the manager) to add feedback and view others’ thoughts and interactions with the candidates.  Multiple sources of feedback and more eyes on the recruitment process reduce the impact of unconscious bias dramatically.

provide feedback in this collaborative hiring function in ATS

Recruitee's collaborative hiring function where you can add notes and feedback on candidates seamlessly

Also, reporting can be a sharp tool in helping you understand which teams are performing best when it comes to collaborative and diversity hiring. Make sure you enable customized reports based on hiring goals to achieve true diversity in the workplace.

Managing diversity in the workplace - the takeaway

Working towards diversity and inclusion will be a major priority for recruitment professionals in our diverse society.

Make sure you enable the best qualities in your recruitment team – the ability to connect and strategically build teams – while eliminating the challenges of unconscious bias that may have worked their way into your recruitment process.

The benefits of cultivating a diverse company with a clear culture of inclusion are invaluable to the workplace. This is why it’s crucial to implement strategies that feed your organization’s definition of ‘diversity and create action plans that help you get there.

Related article: Reaffirming diversity and inclusion hiring efforts post-Covid

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