Strategies for managing diversity in the workplace: a guide
Tiwonge Chipeta is a Diversity and Inclusion consultant for EW Group, who has worked across all sectors in four continents in building rapport with diverse cultures.
According to census figures, in 2011, 14% of the UK population came from an ethnic minority background with only 44.9% of Londoners identifying as White British. In late 2019, 3.65 million non-UK-born people were employed in the UK, meaning that today, British companies are more likely than ever to be made up of staff born and raised outside the country.
For leaders and managers, these figures represent a crucial lesson: you cannot ignore the diverse nature of the UK workforce, and the fact that many workplaces are a fusion of a multitude of different personal and professional cultures.
To embrace these – as well as all genders, sexualities, abilities, and all the other things that make us – the answer is typically the design and development of a diversity and inclusion strategy.
What is a diversity strategy?
A diversity strategy allows you to make your business more open and welcoming to all: staff and customers alike. Diversity strategies have many aims; to increase the number and seniority of ethnic minority staff within your business, make your workplace environment and culture friendly to all, and/or ensure your business is meeting its legal obligations, for example.
Diversity strategies support you in offering the workplace benefits of diversity and inclusion, whilst accessing the business case for D&I – more perspectives, greater employee wellbeing, increased innovation, a larger talent pool, better customer understanding, improved problem solving, and enhanced business performance.
These benefits are clear and proven, but to unlock these advantages and both welcome and champion all employees, what specific strategies can you use to manage diversity in your workplace?
Your approach to recruitment is one of the most significant drivers of (or impediments to) workplace diversity. If your managers or recruiters make decisions based on bias, or your business is not appealing to diverse candidates, your workforce and leadership will become homogenous over time, likely compounding the issue.
We have identified seven key strategies to make your recruitment diverse and inclusive – view the seven strategies in full.
- Write inclusive job descriptions
- Widen your applicant search to include diverse groups and talent pools
- Inclusively design your application process
- Make shortlisting fair
- Allow for reasonable adjustments at interview
- Prepare for an inclusive interview
- Run an inclusive interview with the right tone, asking the right questions
Also see EW Group’s Five employee retention strategies for diverse workforces.
Staff members may have different understandings and expectations when it comes to time management, work-life balance, workplace socialising and all the other activities that typically make up our day-to-day working lives.
As such, it is important for managers to try to understand employee perceptions of work, and make sure they understand what the expectations of the organisation are. This extends to employee development – staff should develop clear objectives alongside their managers and agree what will happen if they achieve them.
Enabling an open dialogue will create a level playing field for all staff, reducing any sense of confusion or resentment, and making sure that everyone can work effectively, together.
Closely related to day-to-day management and the need to promote transparency are developing clear, standardised and regularly updated policies, which are crucial to managing diversity in the workplace.
Documentation – By setting out policies and rules in a document such as an employee handbook, all staff can be made aware of your business’ code of conduct, as well as the diversity policies regarding non-discrimination, remuneration, flexible working, and conditions of employment. When hiring, be sure to list your business’ diversity policy in the job specification too. Policies and guidelines – for instance, around reasonable adjustments and menopause at work – are also important tools for your managers to provide the best possible support to their teams.
Legal requirements – All UK businesses are required by law to protect individual rights and promote equality, diversity, and inclusion. These requirements are set out in the Equality Act 2010 – view our guide to learn more.
Zero-tolerance policies – One of the most immediate, effective strategies to manage diversity in the workplace is to introduce a zero-tolerance policy against harassment, bullying, and discrimination. This ensures that any such allegations are taken seriously and investigated. Learn more in EW Group’s guide.
Culture and environment
How you cultivate your workplace culture and environment is key to managing diversity at the workplace and ensuring that employees of all backgrounds and cultures feel welcome and play a valuable part within your organisation.
- Improve communication – You must promote transparency and dialogue between yourself and your staff. This might mean keeping employees abreast of changes and priorities within the company, but importantly, policies, work expectations, and processes. Provide plenty of clear information and encourage staff to share their thoughts and experiences, and you will be able to overcome cultural barriers and guarantee every member of staff is on the same, productive page.
- Celebrate individuality – Diverse teams are exactly that. As such, it is important that you treat your staff as the diverse group of individuals they are – without unduly focusing in on their backgrounds.
- Encourage diverse teams – While it may not be possible to establish all teams as visibly diverse, diversity is multi-faceted. Try to encourage team members to work in non-homogenous groups. This can improve cultural understanding among team members, as well as unlock the benefits of workplace diversity.
- Training your staff to welcome diversity – Unconscious bias, diversity, or inclusive culture training are all excellent ways of breaking down and understanding established inequalities and negative perceptions of diversity within your organisation. At EW Group, our training is designed to be sensitive to all participants; a way for individuals to constructively comprehend their own prejudices, better understand the views and backgrounds of others, and use this knowledge practically in everyday work.
These are some of the most common strategies used to manage diversity in the workplace, but every business is different. That’s why the EW Group employs a tailored approach to diversity strategy development that accounts for your business’ particular make-up and objectives. Contact our team of experts today to learn more.