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Diversity in the workplace: We hear a lot about it, but what exactly does it entail? The term gets thrown around a lot, but it’s often the case that companies think they have a diverse workplace when they really don’t.

Let’s take a closer look at what diversity in the workplace actually means:

Equal opportunity for every individual

Diversity in the workplace starts with the hiring process. How your company approaches recruitment has a direct effect on whether your company has a diverse and inclusive environment and employees that bring different viewpoints from various backgrounds.

Diverse hiring means that all individuals have an equal opportunity to secure employment at your company, no matter their background, country of origin, race, gender or age. Their viability for the job is based on their skills and suitability for the role, not anything else. That’s why it’s important that companies advertise their job postings on a variety of sites and platforms that reach different audiences. Creating equal opportunity in hiring is essential to hiring a diverse workforce. Not only is this just — it’s the law.

The elimination of unconscious biases

An organization can be dedicated to fostering a diverse workforce but still have biases that it isn’t even aware of. These biases could be deeply ingrained based on people’s upbringing, and could manifest in judgments based on where or whether people went to school, their economic status, their language or other qualities

Training can help employees take stock of their unconscious biases and learn strategies to discount them during the hiring process. These biases can be built into recruitment materials as well, and it’s important for hiring managers to be aware of this. For example, a study by ZipRecruiter found that 70 percent of job listings contained masculine words. Being more neutral in your wording in job postings, however, can lead to a larger pool of candidates: The study also found that job listings with gender-neutral phrases and wording received 42 percent more responses.

An inclusive environment

It’s not enough to hire diverse candidates – your company needs to foster an inclusive work culture that welcomes and embraces people of different values, backgrounds and belief systems.

Inclusivity and diversity go hand in hand. With a positive, nurturing environment, employees of all types can feel supported to succeed, thrive and be themselves. HR professionals, managers and company leadership need to spearhead efforts to create an inclusive environment. They should lead by example, communicate a consistent message and create tangible steps employees can take toward a more inclusive space.

Less focus on uniform corporate culture

There’s been much focus on work culture in recent years – companies tout ping pong tables, free lunches, nap stations and other perks as elements of a positive environment. A positive work culture is prized so highly that companies commonly assess candidates on whether they’ll fit in with the culture. While this sounds good in theory, having such an insistence on whether the candidate fits the work culture can prevent your company from bringing on talent that could be hugely beneficial for them. As HRZone noted, it’s common practice for companies today to have “cultural fit interviews,” but these can backfire because they can implicitly create a workforce that is very uniform and resistant to diverse backgrounds. Welcome different work ethics and social attitudes, and instead have employees bond over their commitment to helping the company fulfill its mission and practice its values.

Not being blinded by tradition

Diversity means a wealth of rich viewpoints, perspectives and opinions. While companies may have diverse hiring practices, the unique voices of their new employees may be squandered by a blind commitment to old ways of doing things. Workflows, best practices and company traditions should never be treated as permanent. Instead, company leadership in a truly diverse workforce are open to reviewing past ways of doing things and potentially even revising them or throwing them out in favor of newer, improved processes.

Diversity in the workplace is a hot topic, but so few companies know what it actually means in practice. The qualities above are the signs of a truly diverse workforce, and one that can help the organization and its people reach new heights of success and engagement.

How is your organization fostering a diverse workplace?

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