Managing diversity in the workplace can be a tall order. As an HR professional or company director, orchestrating seamless collaboration between people of different ages, genders, languages, race-ethnicities and sexual orientations from different communities and socioeconomic backgrounds can be the workplace equivalent of attempting Julia Child's Pâté de Canard en Croûte, or this super complicated (yet epically delicious) recipe for black mole sauce that has 27 ingredients. Yup, 27.
The thing is, every step and ingredient that form part of these very complicated recipes are there for a reason. In the end, it all comes together to make something so delicious that people are willing to spend five hours or more in the kitchen at a time when we have UberEats and ready meals from Woolworths. There is method in the madness, and it shows once these meals are on the plate.
The same goes for the intricate process of managing a diverse workforce. Multifaceted talent pools can be tough to manage, but drawing on the talent and insight of people that view life from completely different angles is a complete and utter gamechanger on the innovation front. It keeps businesses and workforces lithe, nimble, and ready to adapt to ever-changing market forces.
As such, we thought we’d share 5 tips on effectively managing diversity in the workplace:
1. Weave diversity and inclusion into your hiring process
The most important step you can take is to stop thinking about diversity as a novel buzzword and something you can 'stick onto' your organisation for a few brownie points. Building a diverse and inclusive workplace is something that you have to work on every day, much in the same way your employees have to hustle to bring in the sales and leads. Accept that it takes time and start by auditing your hiring processes to ensure that you are considering a wide variety of candidates for every position. In South Africa, this process is already a part of almost every business mandate, so we're lucky in that respect.
PRO TIP: It can help to create an interview committee that consists of people of different ages, genders, races and backgrounds, so each candidate is given a fair appraisal by means of a balanced scoring system.
2. Upgrade your talent pipelines
Speaking of the interview process, you can also smooth the way for more balanced diversity by addressing your talent pipeline, i.e. the places you find your job candidates. It’s all good and well to pop a job advertisement on BizCommunity and wait for the applications to roll in, but if you’re serious about finding good candidates from all over the spectrum, it helps to be proactive about nurturing the right kind of talent pipeline.
For instance, you could choose to align yourself with universities, colleges and other tertiary education facilities that take diversity seriously. This way you can gain access to excellent candidates who have already been a part of a diverse study environment and will be ready to step into a work environment that promotes the same values.
3. Get the top dogs on board with diversity goals
It's very important that you have the upper echelons of your company on board with your diversity goals. Be very sure that you have total buy-in from all leaders and managers before you do anything else. Employees look to the leaders within your enterprise for guidance, so it's important that they lead by example, i.e. are walking, talking examples of the actions and behaviours you want to promote among your workforce. After all, if you don't set the tone from the top down, you can't expect your employees to follow suit.
4. Address policies to nip systemic inequality in the bud
Be aware that certain existing policies within your company may be promoting systemic inequality and to audit these regularly. For instance, are you sure that your family leave policy is equally inclusive of nuclear families, blended families, employees with adopted children, as well as LGBTQ parents?
You may also want to consider the creation of remote work possibilities for employees who may not enjoy the same access to convenient transport, or have a disability that makes it more difficult for them to travel.
5. Promote a culture of kindness and empathy
Accept that you are going to make mistakes and that there will be plenty of hiccups, hurdles and roadblocks along the way. The best thing you can do is admit to any mistakes you make and encourage others to do the same.
Change your mindset from strong-arming your employees into a certain set of behaviours, to finding and unlocking the potential for kindness and empathy within them. Tailor leadership philosophies to meet these needs and take care to foster an atmosphere of forgiveness and acceptance throughout the business.
Following these guidelines in a diverse company work environment will pave the way for smoother employee interaction, improved problem solving, supercharged employee engagement and a whole lot of additional good things.
If you're looking to take steps toward bringing your entire workforce into the fold, take a look at our innovative employee engagement platform. This tool has been developed to revitalise company culture from the inside out. In fact, we’re so sure it will make it easier to manage diversity in the workplace we’re going to let you try it free of charge. Simply click the button below to get started.