Five Tips for Building a Workplace that Includes Everyone

Every day our news outlets and social feeds are full of reports about strife over racial, religious and gender issues. Pair this with a polarized political climate, and it’s clear that the need for the acceptance — and celebration of our differences is vital. This applies to the workplace, too.

Embracing diversity in the workplace encompasses many things: gender, race, sexual orientation, physical ability, religion, age and neurodiversity, for instance. Today, business and HR leaders are either working to create a diverse and inclusive workplace or they should be.  

It’s not just the right thing to do; it’s good for business. McKinsey’s report Why Diversity Matters examines how diversity affects profitability and long-term valuation. Companies with the highest gender diversity among their executive management were 21% more likely to show better-than-normal profitability than competitors with the least gender variance in management. Similarly, companies with ethnic and cultural diversity outperform those without by 33%.

So how can we boost our efforts to be as inclusive as possible?

1. Educate your employees

Prejudice can influence each stage of the hiring process. For instance, one famous study found that resumes using the “white-sounding” names Emily and Greg received 50% more callbacks than resumes using the “African-American-sounding names” Lakisha and Jamal. Other research has explored the phenomenon of “resume whitening,” whereby minorities remove details that may reveal their race for fear of discrimination.

So it’s important to train new recruiters and hiring managers to recognize bias and then how to take action. There are lots of good courses available on Unconscious Bias and professional associations that can help you work to eliminate bias from your hiring process.  The key thing is to do your homework and choose the curriculum that is most meaningful to you and your company culture.

But remember: as you introduce this training, reassure your audience that this is not about judging them as individuals.  Bias, sadly, is just part of being human. We start to make a difference when we acknowledge it. Then, knowing what to look for, we can find  ways to correct it.

2. Make job postings gender neutral

Taking gendered language out of postings may help job seekers to see possibilities they may not have considered before and so diversify your talent pool.

The language of job postings can influence the kinds of applicants you attract. For instance, researchers at Duke University and the University of Waterloo found that ads for traditionally male-dominated professions — such as engineering and programming — also prominently featured words associated with male stereotypes, such as decisive and dominant.

This same study suggests that replacing stereotypically masculine wording with gender-neutral phrasing can lead to more gender parity among candidates. For instance, instead of talking about “dominance,” you might instead talk about “excellence in the market.”

Similarly, avoiding words traditionally associated with female stereotypes, such as responsible and together, can attract more men to jobs in traditionally female-dominated fields such as nursing.

At Indeed we phrase our job descriptions in such a way that they apply to anyone. For instance, when hiring for an engineer, we describe characteristics that apply to everyone: “You are someone who wants to see the impact of their work and make a difference every day.”  

Look for stereotypes and rethink them — then reword them. Tools such as this gender decoder or Textio can help to identify biased language in job postings and other communications.

3. Expand the search

If your company isn’t attracting a diverse set of applicants, encourage recruiters and managers to cast a wide net earlier in candidates’ job search.

Do they have good contacts with local colleges and alumni associations? Are they networking with professional association chapters and other groups that offer student memberships?

If your company can sponsor historically underrepresented groups in your area, you can expose many different people to careers they might not have considered in the past.

For instance, Indeed’s Inclusion Team has worked with our own employee-led Inclusion Resource Groups to support many community-based organizations, such as the National Society of Black Engineers, Built By Girls, OutYouth, Asian Family Support Services and many others.

So reach out — you’ll likely find there are many partners eager to cooperate with you!

4. Tell good stories

People love a good story, and good employee stories can do wonders to demonstrate your company’s inclusive and welcoming culture.

If you have a company news page, you could spotlight employee stories. Johnson & Johnson regularly share “personal stories” from employees that reinforce and celebrate the firm’s commitment to diversity. For instance, here’s an inspiring story about an employee who recently transitioned from female to male with the full support of the company.

Tech giant SAP is another good example. Its pioneering Autism at Work program started in 2013 and has provided opportunities to many people who historically have struggled to find acceptance in the workplace. Its news page not only highlights employee stories but also shines a spotlight on the annual conference that grew out of the program.

What stories do you have to share? It doesn’t have to be an article. It could be a video, a social campaign or a review shared on a third party website. Just make sure you get your stories out there.

Demonstrating your own inclusivity and diversity to a wide audience shows your commitment to providing opportunities. By doing so, you will attract candidates who live by these principles, too.

5. Build an inclusion team

If your company doesn’t already have one, consider adding an inclusion leader to head up your diversity and inclusion strategy.

This leader can advocate for inclusion inside your organization, spearhead partnerships with external organizations dedicated to advancing inclusion, set up speakers’ series and advance the formation of inclusion groups where members can collaborate and host outreach events. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

At Indeed, employees have formed groups including iPride, Women at Indeed and the Black Inclusion Group. These groups are themselves highly inclusive: any employee interested in supporting their aims and efforts can join. We also attend conferences and workshops with other companies that have similar groups.

On the national level, our Inclusion Team has formed partnered with organizations such as Disability:IN, an organization that focuses on the inclusion of people with disabilities; Anita Borg, which is focused on the advancement of women in technological roles; and Out & Equal, which advances LGBTQ equality in the workplace.

Wrapping up

Inclusion is not restricted to any one company, and the more that those of us working to create a more welcoming workplace team up to learn from one another, the better.  In this area of business, there should be no competition — only partnership.

So let’s all strive to create workplaces where the rich and incredible diversity of the human race is celebrated and all employees can be their true, authentic selves. Together, we can do it.

Paul Wolfe is SVP of Human Resources at Indeed.

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