How to Promote Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace: Best Practices

According to job market surveys, 62% of candidates said they would turn down offers from companies that don’t value workplace diversity. Among Gen Z job seekers, diversity and inclusion is even more of a dealbreaker. For companies who want to attract the best talent, having a diverse workforce is no longer a vague goal; it’s becoming a competitive advantage.

The benefits of an inclusive workforce are broad. After all, diverse companies tend to be more innovative and able to financially outperform the competition, building products and services that resonate with a larger customer or client base. Additionally, companies with strong diversity and inclusion programs are in a better position to recruit top talent.

If you need to know how to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace, here are some best practices to get your company closer to the mark.

1. Use Inclusive Job Postings to Attract a Wider Pool of Candidates

If HR teams and hiring managers aren’t careful about the words used to describe a role or a desired applicant, candidates may be turned off before they get past the first few lines. While there are plenty of augmented writing tools and apps to help you detect unintentionally biased writing, the key is to steer clear of gender-coded words, like “aggressive” or “rock-star” and ageistic terms like “digital native.”

After checking for biased words, you should also consider removing requirements that aren’t essential. One internal report from Hewlett Packard identified an interesting gender disparity in the application process — women typically only apply to a job if they meet 100% of the requirements whereas men typically apply if they meet 60%. As you look at how to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace, one easy step is to remove unnecessary items from job descriptions, or clearly identify them as preferred, but not required.

Another step is to include reasonable accommodation language in your job postings, so candidates know that they can request interview accommodations such as extended interview time, assistive technology like the use of a screen-reader and braille keyboard or captioning services, and sign language interpreter services.

Finally, as you work to make your job descriptions more inclusive, make them engaging as well. Take a more conversational tone and use second-person pronouns where appropriate so candidates feel that you’re speaking to them as individuals.

2. Create Blind Applications

Blind applications remove all personal and demographic information so hiring managers can assess candidates solely based on ability. A blind application will remove anything that could cause bias like the person’s name, address, school, and graduation dates.

It can be easy to tell someone’s gender and sometimes race or ethnicity from their name and to learn about someone’s socioeconomic background from their address. Obscuring graduation dates helps to eliminate age bias and removing the school can take away the temptation to hire from “top-tier” schools.

The origins of blind hiring stem from symphony orchestras auditions in the 1970s when orchestras began holding auditions behind curtains so judges could only make decisions based on performance. The orchestras were predominantly white men, and the hope was that this method would increase diversity. It did. Researchers at Harvard and Princeton took note and made a formal study based on blind auditions, finding that 25% to 46% more women were hired as a result. Since then, similar studies have looked at the impact that obscuring race and gender has on applications. They found that it makes a notable difference.

3. Mitigate Bias at the Interview Stage

Once a candidate gets to the interview stage, there is an increased likelihood that the interviewer is likely to favor a candidate who is similar to them. This phenomenon is known as affinity bias.

Fortunately, interviewers can mitigate affinity bias by making the interview process more standardized. In a structured interview, all candidates are asked the same questions in the same order and are compared on the same scale, which is determined in advance based on the needs for the role. Instead of veering off into a tangent and discussing a shared hometown or college, the interview stays on message. Structured interviews are more objective and research has shown that they are up to twice as effective at predicting job performance which, of course, is the end goal.

Even with structured interviews in place, there is still a possibility that the interviewer will make a snap decision and then spend the rest of the interview identifying reasons that support the snap judgment call. Researchers call this confirmation bias and studies have shown that hiring managers are prone to this — one study found that nearly 60% of interviewers made a decision within the first 15 minutes.

One way to mitigate this is for HR leaders to present a diverse hiring panel and to make an effort to have candidates interviewed by people who are similar to them, while controlling for affinity bias. Another benefit? The candidate will feel more comfortable and welcomed.

4. Show Workplace Diversity in Your Employer Branding

Organizations that want to know how to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace can start with their employer branding. Include information about your company’s diversity and inclusion work on the website, career site, press and marketing messaging, at industry events, and on social media.

Prospective candidates will be reviewing your social media, website, and online reviews to find out more about your work culture, so be sure to highlight the ways that you’re making diversity a priority. It’s just as important for recruiters, HR, and hiring managers to discuss diversity in their communication with candidates, and to be willing to answer questions transparently. If you need to make improvements in workplace diversity, be prepared to discuss your approach with candidates.

5. Focus on the Leadership Level

As you look at how to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace, you can’t ignore the top. The leadership team sets the strategy and values of the company so it’s essential to demonstrate workplace diversity at the executive and c-suite level. Companies have been making great strides in diversifying leadership, by taking steps such as:

  • Tying leadership compensation to diversity metrics.
  • Requiring that at least one person from an underrepresented background and one woman is considered for each leadership position.
  • Setting specific leadership hiring goals and metrics.
  • Considering internal candidates for roles so people see that there is a path for career advancement.

Today’s candidates value transparency – and they want to know that the company they’re considering values workplace diversity. Show candidates what you stand for by knowing how to tell your employer branding story.

Need More Tips on How to Promote Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace?

Diversity is at the heart of any confident organization, but fostering greater diversity in your organization sometimes requires shifts in thinking and approaches. As you develop your workforce diversity strategy, you need to know what actually works — and we can help. Our Diversity Hiring Guide has free workforce resources for your company, including the latest survey data and expert takeaways to take your workforce where it needs to go.