June 14, 2022

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Work

Let’s talk about diversity, equality, and inclusion (DE&I) at work.

Nabih Haidar

Workplace DE&I has become a mainstay in candidate expectations, and can no longer be considered as a hiring trend best-practicing recruiters adopt.

Employers now understand that recruitment campaigns which pay attention to diversity and inclusion have a broader reach, thus allowing them to attract and retain a wider selection of talent. This shift in recruitment is accompanied by a shift in management, as diverse team entail inclusive interactions.

What makes DE&I more than just a hiring trend? What are the benefits and implications of a diverse, inclusive, and equal work environment? How do we get there? Let’s begin.

On Company Cultures

The steps that precede a DE&I workspace begin with the company’s culture. A company culture is the set of values and expectations that establish workplace interactions. A culture is the collection of characteristics that come to define the inner workings of a company.

A sense of workplace community is instrumental when implementing an environment that seeks to foster the well-being of its members. A supportive company culture exemplifies the positive traits of workplace belonging, which in turn results in engaged and motivated teams.

Company cultures are top-down, meaning that they are defined by leadership. Positive leadership understand the implications of their actions, as they set the tone for the rest of the workplace interactions.

For example; management that communicates openly promotes the rest of the teams to do the same, thus instilling a culture of positive communication. On the flip side, if management leans towards colder interactions, the rest of the teams will follow suit and act accordingly. In this regard, the way management carries itself often exemplifies the company culture for the rest of the organization.

In this regard, companies where management is itself diverse, equal, and inclusive thus inherently reflect this in their culture. Suppose we were observing a company from a far, a team of diverse managers and leaders would create the assumption of a workplace culture that places DE&I at its forefront, right?

Photo by cottonbro

We should mention however that diversity for the sake of is counterproductive, and DE&I work best when all aspects are covered. In other words, a diverse workplace without inclusivity will always be lacking, and could even backfire in terms of a negative employer brand. The same is true for all aspects of DE&I, in the sense that a culture is truly positive when all three elements are respected.

Now, does a company’s culture play a role in candidate attraction?

Short answer: Yes, quite substantially.

Longer answer:

A company with a positive culture will often find its talent acquisition strategies more successful, since teams are more likely to be engaged, supported, and valued. This is relevant because happy teams are attractive teams, especially when jobseekers are doing their pre-application due diligence.

Shifting candidate expectations now place DE&I workplaces at the forefront of their potential workplaces; nearly 77% of workers consider their compatibility with the company’s culture before applying. Candidates will often visit pages to read reviews on the job or the company, placing an emphasis on former and present employee testimonials to measure their own culture fit.

A positive culture is attractive to prospective employees since it indicates that they would be joining a welcoming space, one where they would be cared for and given the opportunity to thrive. A positive culture often makes teams feel in charge, competent, and secure; which ultimately leads to heightened productivity, output, and growth.

On Diversity

Diverse teams are comprised of members from different cultures, backgrounds, beliefs, ethnicities, and experiences amongst many other factors. Despite individual differences, members are united by a common company culture of belonging, and a shared vision of collective success.

Diverse workplace environments helps to learn from others, and lead its members to adopt an array of new perspectives. A variety of people entails a greater potential for growth, as team members are exposed to novel ways of thinking and acting.

Photo by fauxels

Conversely, a static or homogenous culture can stifle creativity and cognitive diversity due to an implicit pressure to conform. Teammates may fear being marginalized at work, causing them to act out of themselves, with the focus on conforming more than results.

Let’s have a little theoretical walkthrough.

An employee joins a team, and they prepare for their first day at the office. Naturally, any first day brings with it its fair share of worries and concerns, and a bit of an imposter syndrome, perhaps.

As they arrive to the office, they realize that they stick out. Perhaps they are dressed differently, perhaps they don’t have the same accent as others, or perhaps they look different from those around them. An initial sense of unease sets in, and they instantly feel out of place.

Continuing in their day-to-day, they are hesitant to interact with others, remaining quiet and reserved to themselves. On the fringes, the person does not feel comfortable with their surroundings, which ultimately impact their performances. They do not feel ‘free’ enough to perform to their best, and they approach work with a constant layer of worry added to each expectation.

Work becomes nothing more than a means of subsistence for this individual as they are unable to invest themselves in a company where they don’t fit. Instead of taking risks and aiming higher, they remain worried about their position and try to minimize all forms of friction.

This example serves to highlight the importance of a positive culture fit, and the role that diversity plays in making teammates comfortable at work.

On Inclusion

Inclusive workspaces follow the fundamental principle of belonging at work. All positive effects are firstly built on this principle, as this entails the company placing an inherent value on its members. Inclusive teams value the input and perspectives of all members, irrespective of rank or position titles.

Photo by fauxels

An inclusive environment ensures that its members:

  • Have a Voice: Team members who feel heard will want to participate more, as they feel like their opinions are valued in the general decision-making process. This also helps empower teams as they are given agency, and allows them to recognize themselves in the end-product.
  • Belong: We’ve already mentioned how belonging is the core principle of inclusive workplaces, as this establishes that a team’s members are respected enough to be seen as valuable contributors to the organization’s success, and they view this success as their own.
  • Feel Valued: Employees who feel their voice and uniqueness is valued will have a greater sense of professional self-worth and personal satisfaction. The more that employees participate, the more that they feel like they are a contributing member to the overall success ahead.
  • Learn and Develop: To include is to learn, and inclusive workplaces carry with them a great potential for learning and development. More people entail more perspectives, which in turn allows for a better development of professional skills with the addition of social skills as well. Moreover, employees who have access to learning and development opportunities know that their company is interested in their ideas, aspirations, and growth.
  • Collaborate: The old adage “Teamwork makes the dream work” is as true as a company makes it to be. Regardless of individual ranks or job statuses, a collaborative environment helps break down barriers and promote inclusion throughout the organization.
  • Have Access to Resources: This lets employees know that their organization is committed to their well-being and growth. These resources can include professional development, diversity and inclusion programs, as well as wellness resources for employees potentially struggling with mental health concerns.

On Equality

Workplace equality entails the fair treatment of people regardless of their gender, ethnicity, disability, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, and age; amongst other factors. An equal workplace ensures that people are accepted for their individual differences, and have equal access to opportunity, as well as equal pay.

Equality at the workplace helps eliminate discrimination, as it is about creating an inclusive space where employees feel safe and empowered. Inclusion is fundamentally based on participation and autonomy, to which equality is a prerequisite.

Despite the increase of attention towards workplace equality, it needs to be noted that gender-gaps in pay still exist across the world, and in North American job markets as well. For instance, a study by the Institut de la statistique du Québec highlighted how female professionals earned $2.83 less per hour than her male counterparts.

Gender inequality does not just apply to pay and wages. Inequality also extends to an employees’ careers progression potential.

For example, for every 100 men who became managers, only 85 women were promoted. This gap is even greater for POC women; 58 for black women and 71 for Latina women. This highlights the different aspects of workplace inequality, be it through compensation or the opportunities for career ascension.

Photo by RODNAE Productions

Inequality gaps exist beyond gender. POC tend to face hardships at work in their own regards, also relating to unequal pay and more difficult career progression.

POC born in Canada who have a university education earn an average of 87.4 cents for every dollar earned by their counterparts. It’s also worthy to note that black women will often have a more negative experience at work, they tend to be promoted less and are significantly underrepresented in leadership positions.

Inequality and discrimination in the workplace disproportionately affect women and POC, highlighting the existence of workplace inequality, and the different forms that discrimination can take.

Parting Thoughts

Equality goes beyond not discriminating against characteristics such as sexual orientation, gender, and ethnicity. Equality in the workplace is a commitment to self-reflection and change towards a positive environment.

It should be reiterated that implementing diverse hiring practices just for the sake of can potentially backfire. The authenticity of DE&I efforts require a proactive approach with perpetual adaptations to the company culture and day-to-day operations.

Implementing either aspect without the other carries with it the risk of exposing these efforts as merely following trends, instead of the want to enact a positive change within the organization.

We’ll end this on the note that happy teams come from a good culture, and a good culture is one of the best ways to turn employees into brand ambassadors. Moreover, a happy team is an attractive team, and positive workplaces will find their hiring needs met with more applicants and less hassle.

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