It is of paramount importance to ensure that your workplace reflects the increasingly diverse ethnic and cultural makeup of our society.
Recent socio-political events and social movements such as Black Lives Matter have arisen in response to unfair, unjust and sometimes illegal treatment of ethnic minorities in societies around the world. These events have shone a spotlight on the world of work, challenging organisations to level the playing field for all members of our society. Conscious and unconscious barriers exist, based on predetermined characteristics that bear no relevance as to how well someone can do their job. It’s clear that we must work together to remove these barriers.
Time and time again, it's been demonstrated that an ethnically diverse workforce adds a new level of understanding to an organisation in terms of innovation, adaptability, flexibility and problem solving. Research from the Boston Consulting Group has shown that those companies with an above-average diversity rate for their workforce have a 19% higher revenue than those that don’t. However, despite these proven benefits, corporate leaderships remain, as an article by Forbes states, “male, pale and stale”, and so there is clearly a long way to go before we can say that true meritocracy has been achieved.
The implementation of a diversity strategy is a daunting task for any organisation, and many find themselves at a loss as to how to make the best of such potential. So how exactly can we achieve a more ethnically diverse workplace, where ideas and opinions from all cultures are celebrated and valued?
How to Achieve a more Ethnically Inclusive Workplace
Communication is critical.
Diverse individuals need to know they and their differences are respected and valued. Because of the ethnically homogenous makeup of companies that has traditionally existed in our society, those from an ethnic minority may not speak up in meetings, idea sessions or when interacting in group settings. By actively seeking out ethnic minority employees and providing them with a platform to speak, leaders can make it known that ideas from all backgrounds and cultures are valid.
Training and education.
Management must ensure that all employees understand where each other is coming from in their interactions in order to avoid cultural misunderstandings or unconscious bias. It is possible that those from the BAME community have their ideas or opinions misinterpreted or badly implemented due to from their colleagues. Implementing a rigorous training and education programme, such as .
Implement a diversity policy and publicise it.
Whilst having a diversity policy is important, what’s also important is an organisation’s leadership setting themselves the challenge of improving and making it known publicly that they are doing so. This ensures a commitment to change to which they can be held to account by employees and shareholders alike. Make sure all employees understand how the diversity policy works and know everyone has the same chance to progress. Unless your diversity policy is backed up by strong cultural values, it will not help meet business goals no matter what quotas might appear to have been fulfilled.
Have an open-door culture and encourage people to come in.
Having an open-door policy and encouraging people to speak to management is hugely important, as is asking for feedback in other ways, such as quarterly surveys asking what can be improved. This will swiftly head off any issues that might arise by making your hierarchy less rigid. Adopting a culture of communication and openness will mean that new ideas are heard, and ethnically diverse voices are louder, meaning greater innovation and increased problem-solving abilities.
Work on your retention.
If a minority employee decides to leave, find out why and correct any missteps. Conducting thorough and in-depth exit interviews with ethnic minority employees (and indeed with all employees), will help you understand where you may have gone wrong and ensure that you don’t make the same mistakes in the future.
As Henry Ford once said, “if everyone is moving forward together then success takes care of itself”. This statement is especially applicable to cross-cultural collaboration efforts that can be implemented in the workplace as a means of generating ideas and driving innovation. When it comes to ideas, a homogenous workforce and leadership is unconsciously going to deviate towards what they see as needed within their own social group, and perhaps second-guess what another group might like, want or need in terms of products, services, and solutions. This could lead to your company missing the mark in terms of what your customers actually want. An ethnically diverse workforce that collaborates in free-fire ideas sessions is one potential solution to help resolve this issue.
Gather relevant data.
It might sound obvious to say, but if you don’t know your starting point, how can you measure improvement? It is important to gather lots of different data, including ethnic makeup of your company and how this changes over time, diversity percentages at board level and promotion rates for BAME candidates. Data from feedback you get can also be put to good use and can be used to help sculpt your diversity policy moving forward.
Above all, it is especially important for organisations to actually have these sorts of conversations in the first place. All too often we see companies skirting around the issue of diversifying their workplace or issuing another fluffy statement about what they plan on doing at some point in the future. An organisation should also not be afraid of the answers it might receive. Whatever language is used to describe diversity or equality, it is less important than asking the questions that need to be asked so that action can be taken